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Colonialism Reparations: The Royal Excursion Through Africa

The excitement of watching the Duke and Duchess of Sussex travel across Africa via their well-updated Instagram page is undeniable. The interracial couple brought joy to people all over the world as the concept of a black woman stepping into the role of a British royal invigorated many with the excitement of changing narratives. The details of Royal family history can be awe-inspiring as they are romanticised through embroidered costume and feature film however the plethora of realisations attached to the Royals is inescapable as echoes through African soil.

Kicking off their Africa leg in Cape Town, South Africa, prince Harry and princess Meghan engaged with local communities concerning AIDs, self-defence classes for girls, upcoming female entrepreneurs and shared local experiences at historical sites. There is no obvious manner to fault the positive contribution of these activities however as Africans it is worth considering the relations between these individuals and the family that they originate from.

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👋🏻 South Africa 🇿🇦 • After months of planning, Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived in South Africa today for their official Royal Tour of Southern Africa – focusing on community, grassroots leadership, women’s and girls’ rights, mental health, HIV/AIDS and the environment. Their first stop was to the incredible Justice Desk Project which works to make women and children safer in Nyanga. It’s an issue of vital importance in South Africa and across the globe, their Royal Highnesses wanted to learn first-hand about the issues people face and the work being done on the ground. One of the workshops Their Royal Highnesses saw was the Mbokodo project which provides self-defense classes and female empowerment workshops to young girls who are overcoming major traumas. This project's powerful motto is "wathint' abafazi wathint' imbokodo" which means "you strike a woman; you strike a rock" • “And just on one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of The Royal Family, I want you to know that for me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.” – The Duchess of Sussex • @TheJusticeDesk Project is supported by the @Queens_Commonwealth_Trust and works with community leaders in Nyanga, with the firm belief that if you can change the mindset of a community, you can change the mindset of a country. #SussexRoyalTour #RoyalVisitSouthAfrica • Photo ©️PA images / SussexRoyal – video SussexRoyal

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It is well worth considering that many of the challenges facing people of colour in Africa is an extended legacy of the colonial histories of each country. The socio-economic fabric of pre-colonised spaces is only in the beginning stages of being reconstituted with many issues still being overcome. Millions of South Africans being in poverty stricken situations can be attributed to the proletarianisation of many locals as settlers arrived, this legacy continues today. The creation of a low-income class became racialised and the disadvantages of a poor education still hinder many today.

The above example presents the strange relationship that has been established between the British and the pre-colonised spaces that have somehow remained a satellite city of theirs. Focusing on the present moment of rebuilding all that was lost sounds wonderful however it is too easy to put well-intentioned Royal visits against the backdrop of a country’s imperfections when they are ongoing and the result of deliberate alien infiltration.

A process of reconfiguring the injustices of the past with the reparations of the present is both difficult and comforting. The action required to use the resources that the Royals have for this purpose, is acknowledging that it is neccessary and confronting that responsibility. The Royals cannot be held solely responsible for what an extension of their family has done, but excercising that same power to aid African initiatives is a great response to the current situation.

Katie Barker reflects on the current impact of the extractive process carried on during colonialism ranging from the establishment of railroads to the export of valuable minerals out of Africa. Referencing Pan-Africanist academic Walter Rodney’s 1972 text How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Barker makes substantial connections between the physical impacts of colonialism and its historical occurences. The permanence of these structures in many African societal spaces hails an ongoing response.

Perhaps to many the permeating of African spaces by British Royals in 2019 requires more digesting than local government actively undoing the challenges facing its people. However, it cannot be denied that however somewhat misplaced an external Royal presence may be, there are many positive initiatives that can be established for Africa’s benefit. An example being the rehabilitation of landmines in Dirico, Angola – an intitiative supported by Princess Diana as well as Prince Harry.

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Following in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana, this morning The Duke of Sussex visited a de-mining site in Dirico, Angola, to raise awareness of the danger and prevalence of landmines that still exists today. The Duke joined @thehalotrust in their work to help clear the area to enable safe access for the local community. • “If an international ban on mines can be secured it means, looking far ahead, that the world may be a safer place for this generation's grandchildren.” – Princess Diana, 1997 Today in Angola The Duke of Sussex will retrace his mother’s steps to see the legacy of her work and how her connection with this community helped make the elimination of landmines a reality. In 1997 Diana Princess of Wales visited Huambo to bring global attention to the crisis of landmines and the people whose lives were being destroyed. Two decades later, the area has transformed from desolate and unhabitable to lively and vibrant, with colleges, schools and small businesses. The Duke is humbled to be visiting a place and a community that was so special to his mother, and to recognise her tireless mission as an advocate for all those she felt needed her voice the most, even if the issue was not universally popular. Princess Diana’s visit helped change the course of history, and directly led to the Convention against Anti-Personal Landmines, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. Today, with the support of @thehalotrust, Angola now has a stated aim under the Treaty to be clear of known mines by 2025. Despite great progress, 60 million people worldwide still live in fear of landmines every day. During his visit today, The Duke will walk along the street which was once the minefield where his mother was famously pictured. #RoyalVisitAfrica #RoyalVisitAngola Photo©️PA

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