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The Queen to express regret over loss of life on all sides in Boer War

CONTINUING THE trend of confronting Britain's imperial past, the Queen is expected to express her regrets tomorrow for the loss of life on all sides - British, Afrikaner and black - during the Boer War, which began 100 years ago.

As she did yesterday in Ghana, the first stop in a journey whose last leg is in Mozambique, the Queen will also stress in South Africa the importance of democracy, a free media and an independent judiciary, for securing economic development.

Her speech to the Ghanaian parliament was unexpectedly political, with a reference to next year's elections that brought cheers from the opposition while President Jerry Rawlings, who led two coups and has been in elected office for two terms, looked on. "The people of this country have been in the forefront of the renaissance in Africa of democratic values," the Queen said. "Next year, your president, who has led you through the implemented changes, will reach the end of his second term. His successor is to be chosen freely and fairly by the people of Ghana and this election will itself demonstrate the political change and freedom which Ghana now enjoys.

"An open society of free media, a truly independent judiciary and and a democratically chosen, accountable executive provides the condition under which the equality of opportunity, initiative and a stable society can flourish," the Queen said.

Her remarks on the Boer War, as near to an apology as the monarch can venture, are likely to come in her speech at a state banquet on the first day of her visit to South Africa, before she presides at the 54-nation Commonwealth summit in Durban. She and the Duke of Edinburgh will also visit Spion Kop, near Ladysmith, where the British suffered 1,100 casualties and the Boers more than 300 on 23 and 24 January 1900.

The Queen's action will resemble regret she expressed for the 1919 Amritsar massacre during her visit to India two years ago - overshadowed by controversy over Kashmir and criticism of the "third-rate power" Britain by Delhi even before she had left Indian soil.

The Queen's South Africa trip is the the first since a fully democratic South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994, and she is likely to receive an enthusiastic welcome

But among Afrikaners resentment still lingers at a war in which 7,000 Boers died in combat and nearly 28,000, mostly women and children, perished while held in concentration camps, a tactic devised by the British. In addition, 20,000 black people who worked for the Boers died in the camps. Last year the League of Boer Prisoners of War, representing prisoners' descendants, with 12,000 members, formally demanded an apology from the monarch for what happened.