In Rwanda, we speak Kinyarwanda; in Burundi, they speak Kirundi; in Eastern Congo and Southern Uganda, they speak Kinyarwanda and related dialects like Gikiga. In Western Tanzania, they speak a language similar to Kinyarwanda and Kirundi.
Overall, we are a community of 35 million speakers of Ururimi, “a language”, coined for Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and associated dialects.
Ururimi is the largest native tongue used in East Africa. By comparison, Swahili, a native language for a small coastal community in Tanzania and Kenya, is used as a second language by as many as 60 million people.
However, it is just a second language and most East Africans prefer their own native languages, be it Kikuyu, Luo, Luganda, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi, etc. and associated dialects.
A number of initiatives are already putting “Ururimi” on the map, even though they do not call it Ururimi yet: Radio Broadcasting from BBC, Radio Burundi, Radio Rwanda let people use freely Kinyarwanda/Kirundi on air; Kinyarwanda computing project has been renamed Ururimi computing project and will include words borrowed from both Kinyarwanda and Kirundi creating a richer glossary of technical computing terms for Ururimi.
We would welcome the creation of Ururimi Language Academy with linguists from various communities that use Ururimi as their mother tongue.
Ururimi came to our attention after listening to BBC in Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and after interviewing the people at E-Tools who are working on Kinyarwanda computing project.
For Kirundi’s sake, they do not see any reason to duplicate the difficult work they have been doing translating Computing systems to Kinyarwanda. Instead they are opting to use a common glossary that borrows from the two “languages”, essentially considering Kinyarwanda and Kirundi as one language, Ururimi.
There are a number of advantages to support and strengthen the use of Ururimi:
unifying our community spread in many countries and transforming Ururimi into an official language of communication and commerce within our large community; volume savings on text books in Ururimi; a wider market for Ururimi books and newspapers; a quicker economic and political integration of our Ururimi community within the larger East African community; giving our community a dynamic role in the creation of an East African political union.
You might ask the question: why not just encouraging the entire community to use one variation of Ururimi, the Kinyarwanda?
The simple answer is that is a chauvinistic way of looking at the World and it would surely bring conflicts between Barundi and Banyarwanda, an undesirable outcome; in addition, Kirundi has wonderful words that are not commonly used in Kinyarwanda and Kinyarwanda has marvelous words and proverbs that are not commonly used in Kirundi; Ururimi would bring a richer and more expressive language we can all be proud of. A practical question is: how can we promote Ururimi to set off? Our Ministry of Culture (MIJESPOC) and Burundi’s Ministry of Culture should get together and map out a roadmap to Ururimi language union, create an Ururimi Academy with top notch academics like Professor Gamaliel Mbonimana and simply make it happen. We would, of course, encourage involving our cousins from DRC, Southern Uganda and Western Tanzania.
Ururimi language carries a number of other economic opportunities: it is a vehicle for our shared culture of music, dances, philosophy of life, arts, our own many ways of doing things, etc. and this is of course the basis for an effective cultural tourism in our region.
There may be some political difficulties involving Uganda, DRC and Tanzania: by seeing Rwanda and Burundi flexing their language muscle, these countries may be tempted to marginalise further members of our Ururimi community and fear the creation, at their expense.
However, there shouldn’t be any drawback. I encourage all members of the Ururimi community Barundi, Banyarwanda, Tanzanians, Ugandans, Congolese, members of the Barundi and Rwandan Diaspora to speak up for or against Ururimi.
If you think of any reason that makes Ururimi an undesirable opportunity, do not hesitate to forward your opinion.