Coinciding anti-racist protests sweeping the world, the clamor is growing in Africa to rename Lake Victoria which lies in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Known as Africa’s pride, the largest tropical lake with a surface area of 59,947 square kilometers (23,146 square miles) was named after Queen Victoria by the British explorer John Hanning Speke in 1850.
“Lake Victoria is our pride as Africans. It has the name the British have chosen. We want it back,” said Victor Onyango, a businessman from Kenya, who lives on the shores of the lake.
There is already an online petition where Kenyan, Ugandan, and Tanzanian citizens are urging their governments to shed the colonial legacy by renaming the lake.
The lake is the source of the Nile River and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world after Lake Superior in North America.
Among the various ethnic groups that live around the lake, it goes by indigenous names such as Nalubaale, Nyanza, Ukerewe, and Lolwe.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, renowned Kenyan scholar and former director of the anti-corruption commission said it was nonsensical to call the lake as Victoria.
“I do not doubt in my mind that all these colonial names should be changed. If you look at the history of many African countries the very first thing that they did was to change the colonial names,” he said.
Among the notable names that were changed in the African continent over the years include Salisbury, which became Harare and Lourenço Marque which was renamed as Maputo.
“I am wondering why we did not change the name of Lake Victoria. Queen Victoria was one of the leading supporters of slavery and I hope that the African community will take a decisive move to have that lake renamed,” said Lumumba.
Disrespect for Africans
He said that Africans are torturing themselves by living with the disreputable historical landmarks and figures which have never been part and parcel of their plight.
“I do not doubt in my mind that Lake Victoria should be renamed, Victoria falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya should be renamed. You cannot continue to give dignity to these colonialists. Even Egerton University should be renamed, “he added.
The Kenyan scholar said the protests all over the world following the murder of George Floyd in the US is an outpouring of the pent-up anger suppressed over many years.
“My problem with African countries is that we have not been sufficiently angry at racism and colonization in comparison to the anger of the Jews against holocaust. We should be talking about reparations for slavery and even for the neo-colonial project, “said the professor.
Lumumba noted that the Black Lives Matter protests in the US have opened up the opportunity for Africans to examine the very substratum of colonial history.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma told a conference in 2017 that he wished the East African leaders could restore the name of Lake Victoria to its indigenous name.
In 2019 a proposal was moved by Tanzania’s representative Abdullah Makame in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to change the name of the lake. But it was rejected after failing to garner majority support.
The motion was supported by Gabriel Alaak Garang Dining South Sudanese EALA representative. He said changing the name to its indigenous one would be the beginning of changing and liberating African minds.
Many, however, feared that the lake which is a lifeline for various African countries will become a source of conflict if the name was changed.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, many people living on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya supported the idea of reviving the indigenous name for the lake.
“I am sure we will not fight over a name. We can take any name that comes from Kenya, Uganda, or Tanzania. Anything is better than having the names of the people who tortured us because of the color of our skin,” said Martin Otieno a fisherman, who had just finished his task in the lake.