By EVELYNE MUSAMBI and EMMANUEL IGUNZA
NAIROBI - King Charles III is in Kenya for his first state visit to a Commonwealth country as monarch. He will acknowledge the “painful aspects” of the countries’ shared history while underscoring his commitment to an organization that’s been central to Britain’s global power since World War II.
The four-day visit is full of symbolism. Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, learned that she had become the U.K. monarch while visiting a game preserve in the East African nation, at the time a British colony, in 1952.
The king and Queen Camilla touched down in the capital, Nairobi, late Monday and were given a ceremonial welcome Tuesday by Kenyan President William Ruto at State House. Charles later planted an African fern tree seedling in its lawn.
The royal couple also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at gardens named Uhuru, which is Swahili for freedom. The king and Ruto laid wreaths, then proceeded to the site of the declaration of Kenya’s independence in 1963.
Comments by the king and Kenya’s president were not immediately made available.
Kenya is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its independence this year. It and Britain have enjoyed a close and sometimes challenging relationship after the prolonged struggle against colonial rule, sometimes known as the Mau Mau Rebellion, in which thousands of Kenyans died.
Colonial authorities resorted to executions and detention without trial as they tried to put down the insurrection, and thousands of Kenyans said they were beaten and sexually assaulted by agents of the administration.
The British High Commission said Charles would “meet veterans and give his blessing to efforts by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to ensure Kenyans and Africans who supported British efforts in the World Wars are properly commemorated.”
The king also plans to visit Nairobi National Park and meet with environmental activist Wanjira Mathai, the daughter of late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, as he emphasizes his commitment to environmental protection.
The royal family has long ties to Africa. In 1947, the future queen pledged lifelong service to Britain and the Commonwealth during a speech from South Africa on her 21st birthday. Five years later, she and her late husband Prince Philip were visiting Aberdare National Park in Kenya when they learned that her father had died and she had become queen.