This Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II died. For several decades, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth has forged strong ties with Africa.
On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was "only" a princess. She knows Africa well, a continent on which she has been traveling since February 1947. Her first African stay takes place in Rhodesia and South Africa.
But in 1952, she was then in Kenya. It is in this British colony that she will learn of the death of her father, the day after the death of George VI. Her husband, Prince Philip, is then in the gardens of the luxurious Treetops hotel. He announces to his wife that she is now Queen of England, but also – and this makes sense in Kenya – of the Commonwealth.
It will take two years, and the month of April 1954, for Elizabeth II, enthroned queen, to return to Africa again. It is in Libya that the queen will make her first official trip, to meet King Idris there.
At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, independence shook Africa. Four years after Ghana became independent, Elizabeth II went there, for what will remain as her first post-independence state visit. There, she will meet President Kwame Nkrumah.
Condemnation of South African apartheid
After a memorable trip to Zambia, for the 5th Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, where South African apartheid was vigorously condemned, in 1979, she did not set foot in South Africa again until 1995. The country has then ended with segregation and Mandela took power. In front of the South African President, she will deliver a speech in Port Elizabeth, full of optimism, to encourage South African youth to rebuild their nation. A far cry from his father's support for the Afrikaner regime. And despite accusations of racism after the discovery of documents prohibiting "coloured immigrants and foreigners" from occupying administrative positions at the Palace in the 1960s.
Africa and Elizabeth II is therefore a story of love, but also of interests. Because if it has forged sometimes close relations with African heads of state, it is also for an obvious geopolitical reason. In the early 1960s, she wanted to reduce the influence of the Soviet Union in Africa. In the midst of the Cold War, she then tried several leaders to ally with Moscow, like the President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. The latter wanted to leave the Commonwealth.
Amin Dada and verbal contests
In any case, the death of the Queen of England falls at a symbolic moment for Africa. Because the Commonwealth has, in recent years, expanded with the arrival in particular of Rwanda, but also more recently of Gabon and Togo, two former French colonies which expressed the wish to turn to the former British power.
Finally, what would the story of Elizabeth II be if we did not mention her strained relations with Amin Dada? The self-proclaimed 'King of Scotland' and 'Conqueror of the British Empire' enjoyed teasing the Queen. The dictator, fascinated by the United Kingdom and by Elizabeth II, had invited the latter to Uganda to allow him to "meet a real man". Before praising the “revolutionary movements which fight (its) imperialist oppression”. In 1973, Amin Dada had even proposed to organize a peace conference on Ireland… in Kampala. Then had offered the queen money to allow her to “save her crown”.