Swahili to become East Africa’s official language

By Godfrey Olukya

Posted on October 25, 2013 12:31

Swahili is set to become the official language for the East African Community (EAC) and the Uganda government has since ordered that all citizens must learn the language.

The EAC is made up of five countries, namely Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

South Sudan’s application to join the community is still being considered by member states.

Swahili is already an official language in Tanzania and Kenya where it is spoken by the majority of the population.

there is a challenge of language barrier between out traders with their counterparts and consumers from other east African countries

It is also widely spoken in Rwanda and Burundi but very few speak the language in Uganda.

Ugandans claim Swahili was used by harsh colonial officials as well as by former dictators, hence their dislike of the language.

Uganda has experienced some of Africa’s harshest military dictatorships whose ruthless soldiers were trained in Swahili.

However, the latest directive that the language should be vigorously used has shown that President Yoweri Museveni’s government’s determination to popularise the language.

The government has instructed all relevant agencies to renew efforts to promote, teach and use Swahili and make it an alternative national language in in the East African country.

Acting Information minister Barbra Nekesa said the rigorous introduction of the Swahili language was aimed at easing the country’s engagements with people from other states under the EAC.

The language is also spoken in Africa’s largest state, Democratic Republic of Congo.

”Swahili will help Ugandan traders to easily communicate with traders from other parts of east Africa,” Nkesa said.

“Currently there is a challenge of language barrier between out traders with their counterparts and consumers from other east African countries.”

She said the government had always encouraged Ugandans to use Swahili but the efforts had not borne fruit because of the negativity caused by dicator Idi Amin’s regime whose security forces used the language.

Swahili is a mixture of Arabic and local languages of east African coastal tribes.

The language developed before Africa’s colonial era, when Arab traders camped on east African coasts and interacted with local people.

In Tanzania and Kenya the language is taught in schools. In Uganda it has been on the school curriculum but very few schools have been teaching it.

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