The demise and funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II have rightly supplied a lot event for exploring the usually ignored, brutal historical past of British colonialism – the story of the nation’s murderous subjugation and plunder of populations the world over and the royal household’s position in it.
It was gratifying to see so many individuals refuse to be railroaded into mourning the passing of maybe probably the most seen image of that historical past. Nonetheless, I couldn’t assist however discover a big divide.
Whereas their topics appeared eager to spotlight previous British crimes, the present-day rulers of former UK colonies had been much less enthusiastic. In reality, nearly unanimously, they joined in memorialising Elizabeth II, flying flags at half mast, extolling her virtues as an emblem of dedication to obligation and even flying to London by the dozen to attend the funeral.
It’s attention-grabbing that amid all of the exhumation of the previous, there was so little dialogue on how that historical past is enjoying out within the current. For right here’s the reality: At the same time as we condemn the British and European exploitation of what they thought of their colonial possessions, many people proceed to stay our lives surrounded by reminders of their time right here, many years after “independence”.
Per week earlier than the queen’s demise, Kenya’s Supreme Courtroom had begun listening to challenges to the declared results of the August 9 presidential election, which had delivered victory to William Ruto. The robes and wigs that the attorneys and judges bedecked themselves in in addition to the archaic method of handle – My Lords and My Women – are all traditions borrowed from Mom England.
For a lot of former colonies, political independence didn’t actually imply decolonisation. As political scientist and anthropologist Partha Chatterjee put it in an interview printed in Nermeen Shaikh’s guide, The Current as Historical past: Crucial Views on World Energy, “lots of the postcolonial state kinds … replicated fairly consciously the types of the fashionable state within the West”.
After all, there have been exceptions resembling Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso who understood decolonisation as a revolutionary, experimental course of centred on the mental liberation of extraordinary individuals, who can be chargeable for their very own empowerment.
Nonetheless, students like Mahmood Mamdani have argued that post-independence leaders, particularly in Africa, centered on deracialisation – undoing white domination via Africanisation and nationalisation – quite than decolonisation. “All over the place, decolonisation started with deracialisation,” he as soon as famous.
Sadly, as soon as native elites secured for themselves the privileges, sources and alternatives previously reserved for white individuals, they by no means sought deeper decolonisation. Deracialisation with out decolonisation in flip left so-called impartial nationwide governments susceptible to affect and stress from international pursuits, as a result of their umbilical cords to colonial-era techniques and practices had by no means been snapped.
In reality, many liberators did find yourself just like the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm – retaining or recreating the exact same colonial buildings that they had as soon as railed towards. In Kenya, for instance, as associated by former Legal professional Normal Githu Muigai in a 1992 paper, the try and impose a liberal structure on the authoritarian colonial administrative construction at independence failed, with the previous adapting to the latter quite than the opposite approach round.
Extra not too long ago, Ruto and his former boss and predecessor as president, Uhuru Kenyatta, have since 2013 been tasked with imposing a brand new structure, promulgated in 2010, on the prevailing authoritarian colonial state, however to a big extent have backtracked on that.
In a throwback to what his father, the primary post-independence president, Jomo Kenyatta, did to the brand new structure on the time of independence, Uhuru in his second and last time period even tried to introduce amendments meant to weaken constraints on corruption. These amendments, ultimately blocked by the nation’s prime court docket, centered on enabling power-sharing governing preparations by multiplying the variety of accessible state positions – president, deputy presidents, prime minister, deputy prime ministers and the official chief of the opposition – that might be distributed amongst companions. After all, this could have revived the related alternatives to loot the exchequer that had existed previous to 2010.
The proof is due to this fact clear: Even this newest technology of rulers, which has inherited colonial states comparatively intact, sees former European masters as its political kin.
The passing of Elizabeth II gives a possibility to do far more than debate the previous. It must also provoke a protracted overdue self-examination that acknowledges our personal position in preserving the colonial heritage we inherited from Europe, and to reboot the undertaking of decolonisation that was aborted at independence.
The concept behind such a dialog is to not recreate the pre-colonial previous. As Chatterjee famous, it’s a dialogue “about whether or not a unique modernity is feasible”. It’s a debate that will profit even Western nations that appear to have hassle defining themselves exterior frameworks created by imperialism that had positioned them on the prime of the pile.
After all, we wouldn’t be ranging from scratch. Many thinkers and writers working exterior Western frameworks, from Frantz Fanon to Ngugi wa Thiong’o, have laid the groundwork for the monumental undertaking of cleansing up the political, social, financial and cultural mess left behind by the likes of Elizabeth II.
Nonetheless, to do that, we should not solely keep in mind the previous, however should additionally confront its presence within the current. And meaning coping with our personal post-independence failure to beginning “a unique modernity”.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.