Thursday April 10 2014

Kiswahili is important for integration

By Frank Kweronda

Kiswahili has been fronted as the language of identity within the East African Community. The Swahili language or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various communities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kiswahili is one of the few African languages spoken worldwide and it is one of the fastest-growing languages in the world as well as the official language of the East African Community. In Uganda, however, Kiswahili is not widely spoken but this has to change given the East African integration process. It is good that the government recognises the importance of Kiswahili as an important aspect of integration that can foster unity.

In that regard, the government has come up with plans for the development and teaching of Kiswahili so that Ugandans can easily fit in other East African countries where Kiswahili is the commonly used spoken. This is a positive step given that Kiswahili is the official language in Tanzania and Kenya; it is also used as a medium of communication in major urban centres in mainly Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

We should promote Kiswahili, right from schools so that Ugandans can acquire at least the basic knowledge of the language. Nobody can underestimate the role of Kiswahili in Uganda as well as in the EAC. Ugandans need to explore the opportunities that come with integration and Kiswahili is a major tool.
One of the ways in which Kiswahili establishes and reinforces unity among the diverse ethnic groups of East Africa is through cross border trade. There is a high volume of trade between border groups in East Africa and transaction is largely conducted in Kiswahili.

East African people have had joint political ventures. Some of the political activities go back to colonial times when they jointly agitated for independence as members of the Pan African movements but also as East Africans who spoke the same language - Kiswahili. Even after independence, there is a lot of link politically. Ugandan leaders attend national celebrations in Kenya and Tanzania and vice versa.

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. We need to come out of this cultural bondage and learn Kiswahili!