The East African Federation (EAF) sounds good but the realization of the objectives for which it was formed is still a dream.
My general understanding of the purpose of the EAF is to make us ‘one-people’ in the aspects of what we do, such as establishing a common market, free movement of goods and services, resources and adopting a uniform currency.
Although it has been said that we have historical, linguistic and cultural similarities, there is no common language spoken and/or understood by more than 80 per cent of the population of the 5-member states.
In May 2009, I traveled to Nairobi for the first time, without a guide, I needed a lot of assistance to get services like transport, accommodation and food.
I was afraid of identifying myself as Ugandan for fear of being clobbered as one of the claimants of Mijingo Island. On the other hand, I could not pretend to be Kenyan because I did not speak Swahili or any native language.
I had been to Rwanda a few times before. And although Rwanda is a beautiful place with welcoming people,it is hard to return the pleasantries because of language barrier. This is a clear demonstration that lack of a common language for communication poses as a big barrier to the building of the EAF. I can imagine how EA Legislators struggle while perfoming their duties since every country they travel to, has a different national language.
Tanzania and Kenya, which are similar to Uganda in terms of diverse cultures, already have Swahili as their national language; whereas, the homogeneous culture of Rwanda and Burundi enables them to communicate easily in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, the national languages of the respective countries.
This leaves Uganda as the only country without an implemented national language, usually requiring a translator for a Ugandan who wishes to communicate with another from a different region in the country.
In my opinion, Swahili would be the ideal language for East Africans; first, because two countries (Tanzania and Kenya) already use it as their national language.
Secondly, the ease with which it can be learnt, bcause it bears common phrases with many local languages in East Africa.