A Speech by His Majesty The King at the State Banquet, Kenya
Published 31 October 2023
We both take considerable pride in renewing the ties between the United Kingdom and Kenya, a country that has long held such special meaning for my family.
Mabibi na Mabwana, Hamjambo!
[Ladies and Gentlemen, greetings!]
[how are you?]
Ni furaha yangu kuwa na nyinyi jioni ya leo.
[It is my great privilege to be with you this evening.]
I cannot tell you what a great pleasure it is for my wife and I to be back in Kenya once again. I am enormously grateful to you Mr. President, Madam First Lady, for your most generous invitation to make this State Visit. The tremendous hospitality you have shown us and the wonderfully warm welcome that you and the people of Kenya have extended to us, have touched me deeply.
If I may say so, it is particularly special to be able to return to this extraordinary country in the sixtieth year of your independence. Today, Mr. President, you and I stood by the mighty Mugumo tree, which marks the spot where, almost sixty years ago, the Kenyan flag was first raised. It seemed to me that the tree is thriving – strong and deeply-rooted, just as this great Republic and her people continue to thrive.
It means a great deal to my wife and myself that, in our Coronation year, our first State Visit to a Commonwealth country should bring us here to Kenya. We both take considerable pride in renewing the ties between the United Kingdom and Kenya, a country that has long held such special meaning for my family.
Najiskia kama niko nyumbani
[Today, I don’t feel like a visitor]
It is well known, I think, that my dear Mother, The late Queen, had a particular affection for Kenya and the Kenyan people. She arrived here in nineteen fifty-two a Princess, but left as Queen. It is extremely moving to read her diary from that visit, in which she wrote that she did not want to miss a moment of Kenya’s extraordinary landscapes. I really cannot thank you enough for the support Kenya gave her through that difficult time.
Ten years later, my Father, The late Duke of Edinburgh, attended the celebrations of Kenya’s independence. To mark the occasion, Her late Majesty wrote to President Jomo Kenyatta to convey her sincere hope that, with God’s guidance, Kenya would prosper and that her people would have peace and contentment in full measure.
Nearly fifty years later it was here, in sight of Mount Kenya, that my son, The Prince of Wales, proposed to his wife, now my beloved daughter-in-law... For my part, I recall, as if it were yesterday, my first visit to Kenya in nineteen seventy-one, with my sister, The Princess Royal. I was, it is fair to say, somewhat younger then... and I can well remember the meeting I had with President Jomo Kenyatta, a towering statesman who inspired such great admiration, affection and respect.
On subsequent visits here I was most fortunate to be able to spend some time with Kenyan conservationists, from whose profound knowledge of their environment I learned so much. Among them was the late, great environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, someone whom I greatly admired, and loved. I am very much looking forward to spending a little time with her daughter this week and to planting a tree in her mother’s memory. As Wangari Maathai said: “When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope. We also secure the future for our children.” This is a sentiment that, as avid dendrophiles – lovers of trees – I know, Mr. President, that you and I share. Indeed, having been planting trees for most of my life, I thought I was doing rather well, but your ambition to plant fifteen billion trees makes me look rather more critically at my own efforts!
Ladies and gentlemen, my own, and my family’s, special connections to Kenya, are but one example of the myriad links between our two countries. The British people hold a deep affection for Kenya and visit in their tens and even hundreds of thousands every year. By the same token, I am delighted and proud that so many Kenyans choose to live, work and study in the United Kingdom. Before travelling here, my wife and I held a reception in London to celebrate the invaluable contribution of Kenyans and British Kenyans to almost every field of British life, from the arts to medicine to academia. I was as touched by their affection for the United Kingdom as I was immensely grateful for what each of them brings to my country.
It is the intimacy of our shared history that has brought our people together. However, we must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship.
The wrongdoings of the past are a cause of the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret. There were abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans as they waged, as you said at the United Nations, a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty – and for that, there can be no excuse. In coming back to Kenya, it matters greatly to me that I should deepen my own understanding of these wrongs, and that I meet some of those whose lives and communities were so grievously affected.
None of this can change the past. But by addressing our history with honesty and openness we can, perhaps, demonstrate the strength of our friendship today. And, in so doing, we can, I hope, continue to build an ever-closer bond for the years ahead.
As Jomo Kenyatta said, “Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”
Mr. President, in returning to Kenya I have been struck by the many ways in which our countries’ relationship is now closer than ever. It is a modern partnership of equals, facing today’s challenges, and looking to the many opportunities that, together, we can seize. Whether by using the King’s Cross regeneration as a model for the Nairobi Railway City, or by learning from Kenya how the Blue Economy can really work for local communities, all of you here this evening, and across our countries, deserve our gratitude for your ceaseless work to realize our joint ambitions.
Our people’s security is of paramount concern. It is fitting then that Kenya’s first Marine Commando Unit was established earlier this year, trained by British Royal Marines. I also look forward to visiting Kariokor War Graves Cemetery, where I will honour Kenyans and other Africans who died in Two World Wars. We must ensure all are granted the remembrance befitting their service.
Kenya’s efforts to address the existential challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss are remarkable. From generating over ninety per cent of your electricity from renewable sources, to ambitious reforestation and restoration programmes, to hosting the first Africa Climate Summit here, in Nairobi, last month, Kenya is offering extraordinary leadership. The Nairobi Declaration brings together different peoples whose co-operation will be essential to solve some of the serious environmental and ecological challenges not only facing us in the future, but facing us here and now. And it is, if I may say so, absolutely vital that your and Africa’s voice continues to be heard, including at COP 28 and beyond. Because, Mr. President, there is much we can all learn from Kenya’s example, so that the natural world we treasure, and which ultimately is our only sustainer, can be preserved and, above all, greatly enhanced and restored for the benefit of our grandchildren and the generations that follow them.
Those next generations are, themselves, taking remarkable strides to secure their own future. I have long believed in the extraordinary potential of our young people, and left my meeting with young Kenyan entrepreneurs today inspired by their accomplishments. It gives me great pride, therefore, that The Prince’s Trust which I established very nearly fifty years ago to support young people, is now operating in Kenya – and that, in 2021, Ekalale Susan from Turkana County became the first Kenyan winner of the Trust’s Global Award for her entrepreneurial efforts to help lift her family out of poverty.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, my mother, Her late Majesty, cared deeply that Kenya chose to be a member of the Commonwealth and was always grateful that Kenya has played an essential role in this family of nations, to which she devoted so much of her life. On this, my first State visit to a Commonwealth country, I wish to reaffirm my own pledge to support the Commonwealth’s bold vision for action and the values upon which it rests – that one third of the world’s population, united by peace, justice, tolerance and mutual respect, should commit to protecting our environment and the most vulnerable in our societies.
To this endeavour, Kenya makes a profound difference. It is here, in Nairobi, for instance, that Kenya hosts the only United Nations headquarters in the Commonwealth, indeed in Africa and the Southern hemisphere.
In this, as in so much else, Kenya is helping to shape our world and forge our future. The extraordinary ingenuity of the Kenyan people fuels these endeavours – your environmentalists and your entrepreneurs; your religious leaders, artists, scholars, soldiers and athletes; your elders and your youth.
And so, Mr. President, if I may, I would like to propose a toast to you and to the people of Kenya. It is upon the enduring connection between our people that our partnership rests. It is on their enterprise, imagination and fortitude that our common hopes depend. Together, we are stronger. Together, our future is more secure. And together, as your national anthem says, “May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty.”
[Unity is Strength.]
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