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Kiswahili Set to Be Official Language of East African Community

September 05, 2016 at 11:30 am | History

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

September 05, 2016 at 11:30 am | History

Presidents of the five countries that form the East African Community. Ventures Africa

Very soon, Kiswahili will be the second official language of the East African Community (EAC) and the Great Lakes Region after the regional parliament passed a resolution to make it a reality, according to The Citizen.

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) last week passed a bill that permits Swahili to be integrated into all meetings, correspondences and discussions happening in the region.

It has been my long desire, dream and ambition to promote Kiswahili as one of the official languages of the EAC, Ms. ShyRose Bhanji, a member of the EALA from Tanzania, told The Citizen.

The Tanzanian legislature had tabled a motion in the house last week seeking to amend the treaty that established the East African Community with the aim of making Swahili one of the official languages of the EAC after English.

The EALA members unanimously upheld the motion arguing that the adoption of Swahili as an official language will facilitate communication among the people of the region.

They said the elevation of the Kiswahili language was long overdue.

Embracing Kiswahili language is also bound to increase the participation of the people of EA in the affairs of the community as well as promote African culture, another Tanzanian legislature, Mr. Zein Abubakar, in the EALA said.

East Africa’s Lingua Franca     

Kiswahili, which is the first language of the Swahili people, has already been adopted in schools within the EAC with the hope of encouraging educational inventions and to impart confidence in students.

It has also been the official language of the African Union (AU) since 2004.

Although Kiswahili was initially associated with the slave trade since buyers from Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf used it to facilitate their trade in the hinterland of east Africa, it is now considered the lingua franca of the region.

Basically, the Swahili language is of Bantu origin and has borrowed words from other local dialects like Arabic. The word “Swahili” was first coined by Arab visitors to the East African coast to mean “the coast”.

Currently, Swahili is the national language in Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar. It is also common in other African countries like Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

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