Regional Leaders Call for Mandatory Use of Kiswahili in East Africa

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Regional leaders from within East African countries have appealed to member states to consider passing laws and policies that will promote and regulate the use of Kiswahili as the official language.

Aisha Jumwa, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts, and Heritage, said Kiswahili is the only 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 Jumwa.

She made the remarks on July 8, 2024, at East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, where several Kiswahili experts and leaders had gathered to celebrate the 3rd EAC World Kiswahili Language.

Aisha Jumwa, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts, and Heritage

The 2024 World Kiswahili Language Day event was observed on July 7, 2024, under the theme “Kiswahili: Education and Culture of Peace.

She further highlighted Kiswahili as a significant cultural and economic contribution to East Africa and emphasized its role in fostering unity and solidarity across the region.

Uganda’s Minister of State for East African Community Affairs, James Magode Ikuya, reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to the adoption of Kiswahili as an official language, adding that Kiswahili is now a compulsory subject in the country’s schools.

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

According to Kayobera, the Treaty establishing the EAC recognizes the English language as the official language and Kiswahili as a lingua franca.

He revealed that those who find themselves in courts use Kiswahili, but judgments are delivered in English because the law that guides the judiciary was enacted in English.

The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organization of eight (8) partner states, comprising Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, the Federal Republic of Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

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