Lord Baden Powell will remain a hero to the Kenyan Chapter of the Scouts Association even though he has been accused of racism by Black Lives Matter protesters in Britain, resulting to the removal of his statue in Dorset.
Mr. Antony Gitonga, the International Commissioner at the Kenya Scouts Movement said that he could “only speak of the rich values that Mr Powell taught us through the scouting movement”, and that they would continue honouring the memories of the movement’s founder.
Baden Powell’s statue is located at Poole Quay, Dorset and has appeared on a website detailing monuments being targeted by anti-racism protesters. Powell founded the Scouts movement in 1910 upon moving to Nyeri after his retirement from the British Army, where he was a lieutenant specializing in reconnaissance and scouting.
He relocated to Nyeri town permanently three years prior to his death in 1941 and was buried there. His wife Olivia Powell is buried next to him.
Protests arose over an African- American, George Floyd’s death in Police custody in Minneapolis on May 25th.
Due to the protests, Powell as well as other historical figures have had their pasts re-examined. Although he was a founder of one of the world’s largest youth movement, with over 50 million followers, he is accused of racism, homophobia and being an ardent follower of Adolf Hitler.
Authorities have accorded his statue 24 hour security watch, as British media said it was next in line in a wave of destruction that targets statues of historical figures that are believed to have aided in the suppression of black people.
“We know that local people feel proud of Lord Baden-Powell’s and the Scout movement’s links with Poole, and that some people feel that we would be giving in to the protesters by temporarily removing the statue,” Gitonga said
Baden Powell’s history is rich in the the education system and in Nyeri where he lived. His story has been retold to students over the years and his grave continues to attract local and international tourists. The burial and respect accorded to him and other colonial soldiers, demonstrate the high regard accorded to the white settlers, even in death.
Although Powell and his wife’s and other colonial soldiers have their graves well kept, thousands of Kenyan freedom fighters who were massacred during the colonial times lie in unmarked graves across the Nyeri County. The Kenya Scouts Movement has urged UNESCO to declare Powell’s grave a World Heritage Site.
The Nyeri War Cemetery has 368 graves, where Commonwealth soldiers who died in World War I, and war casualties who succumbed at the British military hospital or at the one used by Italian prisoners of war, were buried.
At the site lie neat rows of headstones all arranged according to nationality. The grass is perfectly trimmed and the fence and beautiful flowers are a sight to behold. You would be forgiven for mistaking it for a picnic site.
The Mau Mau mass grave lies barely 500 metres away. These host hundreds of Kenya fighters who were executed by the British Colonialists. The cemetery is unmarked and the Kiawara slum keeps encroaching on the site. Other graves have also been discovered in Tetu, Mukurweini, Kieni and Othaya.
Historian Anthony Maina described the situation “a big shame to Kenya”.
“History will judge us harshly because we failed to honour those who fought for our freedom.” He said.
The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum after Floyd’s death, starting from the US and gradually spreading to other parts of the world. Protesters in Bristol, UK, this week dumped the statue of Edward Colson, a 17th century slave trader into the sea.
Authorities also thwarted a planned demolition of British war-time Premier Winston Churchill’s statue in Prague, Czech Republic. His statue had already been sprayed with red graffiti reading “Byl rasista” (“He was racist”) and “Black Lives Matter”. The graffiti was removed using a high-pressure washer.
Baden Powell’s statue was reported to be among a hit list of the Protesters’ target, but local residents and members of the Scouts Association rushed to protect and guard it against demolition.
Councillor Mark Howell, deputy leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, described Baden-Powell’s statue as “much-loved” and said it had been at risk of damage or destruction.