EDITORIAL: Kiswahili key to regional integration

It is official; Kiswahili (or Swahili) is one of Rwanda’s four official languages after Kinyarwanda, English and French. It was inevitable that it would be included among the country’s recognised languages since it is also the official language of both the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU).

It is official; Kiswahili (or Swahili) is one of Rwanda’s four official languages after Kinyarwanda, English and French.

It was inevitable that it would be included among the country’s recognised languages since it is also the official language of both the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU).

It took long for Africa to recognise Kiswahili despite it being spoken by a tenth of the continent’s population in more than ten countries; all the way from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Indian Ocean islands of Comoros and Mayotte.

The colonial vestiges have been haunting the continent for decades, manifested by the fact that French, English, Portuguese and Arabic were hitherto the African organisation’s official languages.

In fact, apart from Portuguese to a lesser extent, the other languages have been the source of divisions, with sections identifying themselves as either Francophone or Anglophone.

Right now in Cameroon, a country that is divided along the two languages, English speakers are complaining that French is encroaching on their territory.

It is a shame that colonial languages play a big part when it comes to choosing leadership positions in continental organisations. Until when?

While it might be quasi impossible to shed off the influence of those foreign languages, it is time Africa embraced its roots and adopted languages that unite rather that divide them.

Rwanda knows that Kiswahili is the key to a seamless regional integration, the common denominator for the close to the 300 languages spoken in the EAC.

That is why it has been incorporated in the education syllabus so that the language barrier in the region is eliminated. It might take time to take root in rural areas, but every journey begins with one step.

 

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