African leaders bussed to Queen Elizabeth’s burial, safe for US President Joe Biden and other few western leaders.
To attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday, world leaders—including African leaders—had to leave their official vehicles in West London and take a shared bus to Westminster Abbey.
Apart from US President Joe Biden, who came at the burial in his armored 7-ton Cadillac, the “Beast,” Politico claims that the leaders had to share a bus to go from an undisclosed location 1.3 kilometers away to the Abbey.
According to reports, Emmanuel Macron of France, Isaac Herzog of Israel, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Emperor Naruhito of Japan also received exemptions.
Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China did not show up, and it is improbable that they would have taken a bus to the funeral.
Photos doing rounds on social media of Ruto with hisTanzania’s counterpart Samia Suluhu and several other dignitaries of African descent has elicited sharp reactions on social media with some Kenyans expressing displeasure with the supposed indignity of their communal travel and claims of subtle racism ahead of Monday’s historic ceremony.
According to Politico, the dispute began to simmer over the weekend after the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) circulated a travel protocol to foreign embassies requesting their dignitaries to be as flexible as possible and, essentially, take the shared bus.
According to reports, the request was met with diplomatic opposition from a number of foreign leaders who asked for special permission to forego the proposed “park and ride” scheme.
The two-tier system was particularly unpopular with diplomats headquartered in London, who demanded that their own heads of state receive the same respect as Biden.
“I am trying to have ours exempted from the bus,” one U.K.-based ambassador admitted, “but not having much luck so far,” a diplomat told Politico.
The outlet added that for some who put in requests for exemption, the possible identity of their fellow passengers upon the shared VIP coaches, old age and security reasons, as well as the unspoken dignity of the offices they hold, was of major concern.
“Our president is happy to go by bus if told so, but he’s over 80, so if there’s a way to avoid it, we will try,” another diplomat was quoted as saying.
Another added: “FCDO told us not to have many expectations, not to be too ambitious, and expect different problems. The logistical challenge is huge … They’re trying to convince us to take the buses, saying it’s much easier to manage everything.”
According to The Times, fears of gridlock on the roads around the Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace necessitated the move to deploy buses.
The dignitaries, totalling over 2,000, mostly from across the Commonwealth of Nations, were instructed that their maximum allocation of seats was restricted to the head of state or their representative plus partner.