Slightly more than two months ago, I pledged to readers of this page to revisit a subject which had been broached by the man who was then heir to the British crown, Charles Prince of Wales.
In that article I described my experiences at the Commonwealth Meeting of Heads of Government which had just taken part in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, specifically on what Prince Charles had said at the opening ceremony.
I quoted exactly what he had said in part of his speech, which he made as a personal representative of the then Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth ll. I quoted him saying, and I repeat it today:“The roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history.
‘‘I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.
‘‘If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find ways, new ways, to acknowledge our own past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”
These are extremely weighty words spoken by the personal representative of the British monarch. I picked out a few notions from that statement.
First, I identified a painful history: the prince’s ‘personal sorrow’; the ‘suffering of so many’; and his quest to continue seeking to better understand “slavery’s enduring impact”.
Further, I gleaned Charles’ desire to forge a “common future that benefits all our citizens,” and that this would have to pass through finding “new ways” to acknowledge his country’s historical sins.
It was clear to me as I sat in that meeting at the magnificent Kigali Convention Centre that Charles was at least thinking of taking a giant step toward owning up for Britain’ s heinous crimes against humanity across the world, and ready to make amends for those misdeeds by “making whole” peoples who were hurt by Albion’s perfidy.
I do not believe I have ever heard anything quite so close to what I am suggesting, and maybe it is just a figment of my errant imagination.
Still, I am in no doubt that this is exactly what he said, and the length of the statement suggests its was deliberate and considered. There is no reason to suppose it was in any way unintended.
That is why I think we of the parties that were made to enter into that “contemporary association” with the Brits have a rare opportunity to seek ways to forge a new future that benefits all our citizens, ” which goes through finding “ways, new ways” to acknowledge the past.
With this statement, Charles seemed to be saying that Britons will have to accept their guilt in the rape, robbery, massacres, despoliation and dehumanisation of the peoples in the countries they enslaved and kidnapped and those they completely uprooted and separated from their places, peoples and cultures.
The prince was talking about the enduring impact of slavery, whose significance goes beyond the forceful extraction of human beings to far-off places, but includes the spiritual rape and destruction of the soul.
It is everywhere. If it be the Mandinka slaves taken from west Africa, or the so-called Red Indians of the Americas or the real Indians of the Raj, or the Zulus and Ndebele in southern Africa, or the Irish people right next to them.
It is a seamless narrative of barbarous destruction of whole peoples for the sake of the material profits that such nefarious activities brought in.
When he said these words in July, Charles was only Prince of Wales, but, as luck would have it he is now King Charles lll.
Whereas then all he could have done was to whisper in his mum’s ear, now he is his own sovereign, and could fashion his monarchy in a way that would be so different than his mother’s.
We are now in a situation, not to call Charles’ bluff, but to echo his call to revisit our past, and to right all the wrongs we can right with a view to crafting an international community we can all be proud of, courtesy of sincere apologies and adequate compensation, if such a thing is even possible.
But this would require the Brits to accompany us in unlearning their —and our—history to and to set records straight.
Certain names that we were given as great heroes — one can cite Walter Raleigh or Francis Drake — were nothing but buccaneers sent to plunder on behalf of the monarchy. And so were others, too many of them.
So now, let us help Charles lll to “deepen my understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.”
I should come back to this subject often.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]