By Nangayi Guyson
Kampala, Uganda– As the East African community make steps towards strengthening its one bloc of major fives countries, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, Swahili is set to become a permanent and mandatory official language for the intergovernmental organization.
But what will Swahili as an official language mean for EAC and what actual effect will it have on Uganda where is still unpopular?
The EAC believes that the implement and reintroduction of Swahili, a Bantu language, as East Africa’s lingua franca and an official language will strengthen regional and international interaction for political, economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and technological development of East Africa.
The three Republics of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have since enjoyed close regional, educational, scientific, technological, social, economic, cultural and linguistic ties for their mutual benefit and want the other newly integrated countries like Rwanda, Burundi and possibly South Sudan whose application is still pending to also enjoy the same in order to boost the Community.
Swahili as an Inter-territorial Language existed between 1930 and 1964 in the three universities of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi in Kenya and Makerere in Uganda with desire to cooperate and continue to informally interact and formally seek mechanisms to re-establish a framework for formal cooperation despite the 1977 breakup of the East African Community.
Since the revival of the Community through the signing of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community in 1999 presented the Partner States with an opportunity and a framework for realizing the interest and the desire to cooperate in the cultural and linguistic fields. Further more, the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community Article 137 provided that Kiswahili shall be the lingua franca of the Community and efforts to make the language popular among the member countries have been taken as the major priorities.
Though, Swahili is a second language spoken by tens of millions in the African Great Lakes countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Congo (DRC), where it is an official or national language, The Language has remained unpopular in Uganda and the majority doesn’t speak it, it’s only popular in Ugandan districts bordering Tanzania, Kenya and DRC where its used for Business and easy interaction.
Ugandan government has continually argued the re-introduction of Swahili in all schools across the country starting from nursery but this is not yet made easy. Mid this year, MPs on parliament’s education committee were against government’s proposal to introduce Kiswahili as a language to be taught without trained instructors alongside other subjects in primary schools saying untrained instructors would produce half-baked pupils unable to compete to the international standards. Many argued that the introduction Kiswahili in primary schools will consume more time and pile a huge workload on pupils.
Soroti Woman MP Angelline Osegge told the media that the Uganda is going to face a lot of problems with teaching the language in schools since the Country has no professional Swahili teachers who can analyzing their expertise around the literary subject. She advised that the government should have made Swahili as a compulsory subject in schools from grade one to high school and in all public and private universities early as it was in Tanzania and Kenya.
The research carried out by the media discovered that many people in the Country mainly in central Uganda where the majority is Buganda doesn’t like to speak or learn to speak the language due to its bad history. Many in Central say the Language was used by brutal regimes of former Ugandan dictators, such as Idi Amin, who trained his ruthless soldiers in Swahili and brutalized the region and the whole country.
Namukasa Magdalene, now 87 who was born and grow up in the heart of Uganda’s Capital remembers the dark days of Uganda where all soldiers and Criminals used the language to kill and intimidate people. She says the people who killed her lovely Son came speaking Swahili during Dictator Amin’s Regime, “I don’t want to hear someone speaking that language, and it reminds me at about my son” she said as she cried her deceased son.
Not only, Namukasa Magdalene but many people in Buganda Kingdom region believe that the introduction Swahili would kill Customs and Cultures of the Kingdom. Kawesa Johnson, said “Swahili as language will take many years to be spoken by the majority in Buganda because people here always want to embrace and promote their Customs and Cultures, it hard to find a prominent Muganda speaking foreign Languages while at home”
However, the speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Rt. Hon. Margaret N. Zziwa, told the media that “it’s a mandate for every East African Country to learn and implement Swahili as their second official language in their countries, we have become one person and it will be good for us to have one language which all of us understand better.”
Asked about what Uganda will do to embrace its people to learn the language, She said, “we know Uganda still have problems with speaking the language but the government is doing much to implement Swahili, our President Yoweri Museveni, now wants to popularize Swahili in the country and make it an alternative national language, Ugandan schools will teach Swahili right from nursery level up to university or tertiary level” said Speaker Margaret N. Zziwa.
Uganda’s acting Information Minister, Barbara Nekesa, said “the introduction of Swahili will allow Ugandans to better-communicate with people all over the East African Community. What we ask Ugandans to do is learn the learn the language to be able to communicate with their counterparts from East African countries and other African Countries speaking it to interact in all sorts of life”.
The Swahili language, or Kiswahili as it is commonly known among African population is a Bantu Language spoken by various communities inhabiting the African Great Lakes region, that including Kenya, Tanzania , Rwanda, Uganda Burundi , Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo . The total number of Swahili speakers is believed to be more than 140 million and it is one of the official Languages of the African Union.