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“Kiswahili Kitukuzwe!” Regional leaders push for amendment of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty to fast-track the use of Kiswahili as an EAC official language

todayJuly 8, 2024 2

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Regional leaders and stakeholders have renewed the call to the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers to fast-track the process of amending the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) to enable the utilisation of Kiswahili as an official language of the bloc.

As hundreds of people gathered on Sunday to celebrate the 3rd EAC World Kiswahili Language Day in Mombasa, Kenya, regional leaders and Kiswahili experts also called upon all EAC Partner States to pass laws and policies that will promote the use of Kiswahili. They emphasised the role of the language in fostering unity and solidarity across the region.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage, Hon. Aisha Jumwa, highlighted Kiswahili’s significant cultural and economic contributions to East Africa in keynote address.

“Kiswahili is our unifying language in the region, with over 200 million people speaking it. I urge all EAC Partner States to push for laws and policies to be written and published in Kiswahili,” said Hon. Jumwa.

Hon. Jumwa urged EAC Partner States to ensure laws and policies are made available in Kiswahili, even as she emphasised the global usage of Kiswahili and the efforts made so far by stakeholders in the promotion of the language. Hon. Jumwa also praised non-regional Kiswahili professionals for training initiatives that support the language’s spread, along with the formation of Kiswahili Clubs across the region.

The celebrations followed a two-day international conference organised by the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC), revolving around the theme “Kiswahili, Multilingual Education, and the Enhancement of Peace.” The conference explored the vital role of language and education in promoting regional peace.

On his part, Uganda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs, Hon. James Magode Ikuya, reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to adoption of Kiswahili as an official language, adding that Kiswahili was now compulsory subject in the country’s schools.

“With our language, we can set our own agenda. Kiswahili is our own language. These celebrations reiterate the region’s goodwill in promoting the growth and development of the language,” he added.

Speaking at the event, the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), Justice Nestor Kayobera, said that adopting Kiswahili as an official language would enhance citizens’ understanding of the proceedings of the EACJ across the region, currently delivered primarily in English.

“The Treaty establishing the EAC recognises the English language as the official language and Kiswahili as a lingua franca. Those who find themselves in courts, most of them use Kiswahili, but judgments are delivered in English because the law that guides the judiciary was enacted in English,” said Hon. Kayobera.

Justice Kayobera added that EACJ cannot thus deliver its rulings in Kiswahili terming it unfortunate that citizens are not able to follow proceedings and understand judgments in their own language.

In her remarks, the EAKC Executive Secretary, Dr. Caroline Asiimwe, singled out the UN’s recent recognition of Kiswahili and reaffirmed the Commission’s dedication to promoting the language across East Africa

“In the last two days, we have had stakeholders from all EAC Partner States, discuss the status of Kiswahili usage in their countries, the need for Kiswahili language policy and its use in our education systems. As a commission responsible for sharing the efforts of the development and use of Kiswahili in the EAC, I reiterate our commitment to working with all regional stakeholders to ensure we realise our goal,” said Dr. Asiimwe.

During the event, the EAKC also unveiled a book containing papers presented during the previous years’ Kiswahili Day celebrations, marking a significant milestone in the promotion and documentation of Kiswahili’s cultural and educational contributions.

Also present at the event were: Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage, Ms. Ummi Bashir; Likoni Constituency Member of Parliament, Hon. Mishi Khamisi Mboko; Mombasa Woman Representative Hon. Zamzam Mohammed; Heads of EAC Institutions; and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, among other dignitaries.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of East African Community.


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