Barbara Nekesa, State minister for Karamoja Affairs, stated during a news conference on October 24 that the government of Uganda will be taking a series of measures to foster the use of Swahili in the country. Swahili is set to become the official language of the East African Community (EAC), made up of Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. The use of Swahili in the latter is rare, especially when compared to Tanzania and Kenya, where Swahili is already an official language.
Measures to Be Taken
The use of Swahili in Uganda has been affected by its association with the brutal military dictatorships in the country, during a time in which soldiers were trained in this language. Today, the government is trying to counter that effect by training teachers for language classes at schools, as well as creating a Swahili Commission to help members of the East African Community carry out some research and teaching in this language. The Swahili Commission, which has already been ratified by the cabinet, will also be in charge of aiding the development of the curriculum to strengthen Swahili classes at schools. The Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda will then be in charge of planning and accelerating the teaching of the language in schools.
Why Foment Swahili?
Swahili is a widely spoken language in the East African Community and, as a consequence, one of the main aims of these measures is to ease communication between the different countries involved. Turning Swahili into an alternative national language in Uganda would mean the demolition of the linguistic barrier stopping individuals, organisations and businesses from communicating. Apart from fomenting relationships among members of the East African Community, Swahili is also useful in communicating with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the largest country in the African continent. According to Nekesa, Ugandan traders will then easily secure trading links with other trades in different parts of Africa.
The Swahili Language
Swahili is a Bantu language and it is used as lingua franca in various parts of southern Africa even in spite of only having approximately five million native speakers. Some of the vocabulary used in the Swahili language is derived from Arabic due to the contact that individuals had with Arabic speakers living or trading in the Swahili Coast.