Rwanda Adopts Law Making Kiswahili Official Language

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By Daniel Sabiiti

Members of Parliament in session.

Kiswahili is the lingua franca of 100 million people in Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and other parts of Southeast Africa—Rwanda parliament passed a bill to have Swahili as an official language.

Swahili will officially be added to Kinyarwanda, French and English which are currently the official languages in the country.

“Swahili will be given more emphasis more than ever in budget support sensitization and teaching curriculums” Rwanda minister of sports and culture told parliament today while presenting a bill proposal.

While Swahili has been used by some Rwandans in an unofficial way, culture minister now believes that say it would make the regional bloc more accessible to ordinary citizens.

Rwanda is a signatory to the amended East African Treaty which requires all member states to put in places measures to disseminate the language in the region, and analysts contend that making Swahili one of the official languages of the community is one way to deepen the integration process.

Rwandan parliament voted for the bill to be passed, but issues of budget, dissemination and preservation of Kinyarwanda- as a mother tongue were serious concerns among law makers.

“We support the idea of using Swahili but we need to be cautious not to lose touch of own language which has already been diluted due to exposure to other languages” MP Edouard Bamporiki pointed out.

Without revealing how much it will cost, and how many Rwandans use Swahili the culture minister said that Rwandans already have been exposed to the language since Rwanda joined the EAC community.

“This will be a process; we are now working on a presidential order which will comprise specific details and a road map on how this is going to be made possible” Minister Uwacu said.

Recently, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) passed a resolution to make Swahili the second official language, which means it’ll be integrated into all meetings, correspondences and discussions happening in the region.

“Other EAC countries have Swahili language commissions but we will decide on that later or add this responsibility to the existing commissions to ensure it is implemented as needed” the minister said.

This January, the EAC parliament followed suite passing an amendment which requires all lawmakers in the house to use Swahili as the official language on the floor despite meeting challenge from Ugandan lawmakers.

It is estimated that about 100 million people in EAC speak Swahili, which is widely used in the region as a business and trade language with strong background in Tanzania.

Swahili is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the East African Community and the Great Lakes region. According to the wikipedia, the closely related Comorian language, (Shikomor), also spoken in Mayote Island (Shimaore) is closely related to Kiswahili.

 

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