Ahead of the 2nd EAC World Kiswahili Day celebrations that is being held in Kampala, Uganda, Uganda’s 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community (EAC) Affairs Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga revealed that plans were at an advanced stage to amend the EAC Treaty to operationalise the use of Kiswahili and French following the adoption of the two languages as official languages of the Community.
The adoption was made by the 21st Ordinary Meeting of the Summit of EAC Heads of State in February 2021.
“Kiswahili had earned a bad reputation in Uganda partly because it was used in pre-colonial times by slave traders from the East African Coast. The government of Uganda is currently working on a roadmap aimed at promoting the use of Kiswahili in the country and the recruitment of Kiswahili teachers is a key component in the roadmap,” said Uganda’s EAC minister.
Kiswahili is the first indigenous African language to be recognized by the UNESCO, July 7th of every year is a Kiswahili Day as a resolution by UNESCO proclaimed.
the East African Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution in 2016 to have Kiswahili adopted as an official language of the Community.
“Kiswahili as a language enables us to express ourselves, showcase our culture to the rest of the world, carries our aspirations and projects our beauty as Africans,” said the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Infrastructure, Productive, Social and Political Sectors Andrea Aguer Ariik Malueth.
In Uganda there is a negative perception of Kiswahili language that was said to be mainly used by robbers and other criminals in the country.
Ugandans have have now been called upon to learn Kiswahili as part of efforts to promote regional integration and economic growth in East Africa.
“The negative perceptions and attitudes towards Kiswahili are misplaced. The negative attitude is carried by personalities, not the language,” said the Executive Secretary of the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC), Dr. Caroline Asiimwe.
Dr. Asiimwe urged Ugandans to change their negative attitudes towards Kiswahili, adding that mastery of the language would open up immense opportunities in trade, media, criminal justice system and healthcare, among other sectors.
The EAC Treaty recognises Kiswahili as the lingua franca for the region, and the status of Kiswahili has since been elevated after it was adopted by the Summit as one of the official languages of the Community in addition to English and French.