The Future of Kiswahili in Africa

Kiswahili has acquired an important status in East Africa, namely in Tanzania where it is not only a national language, but the language of education, business, research and even politics. Tanzanians and Kenyans would speak the language. It is also widely used in Uganda, despite the fact of having been associated with the Idi-Amin regime and his army. Kiswahili users are found in other countries such as Comoros, Oman, Congo, Madagascar, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and the Central African Republic. With the new political development in the region, Kiswahili seems to be gaining a new role and new ground notably in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the geopolitical reconfiguration in the Great Lakes region.

2. The RDC and Central Africa

The recent changes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, has seen a dramatic remapping of language in the country. Lingala, the language of the army and the capital city Kinshasa, has suffered a setback with the arrival of a leadership from the Kiswahili speaking areas. Not only Kiswahili has become the language of the army, but also the language of the administration with Lingala taking the second position. The president is called Mzee--the old man--, a label made famous by Jomo Kenyatta and today Julius Nyerere. The rooting of Kiswahili has affected the following areas:

3. The Great Lakes Region and Kiswahili

Until quite recently, Kiswahili was the African language that tied together the three countries of East Africa. It had relative importance because there were other common means, such as a common colonizer, a common cultural background, and common language of education and business (English).

Recently, there seems to be proposals to work toward an economic and even political integration of Great Lakes countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At a recent meeting, President Munseveni circulated a 48-page paper entitled Towards A Closer Cooperation in Africa advocating such a union. These are the main points:

  1. The formation of a union government of Central and East African States. According to the July 17 issue of The Monitor, the Government paper, Munseveni reveals: "I have already spoken to most of the leaders of these countries, and the majority of them have not dismissed the idea. This is a good beginning."
  2. The union would be responsible for "external defence, foreign affairs, common market affairs, common services and scientific research," said Munseveni.
  3. a union government of the five would have a population of approximately 92 million, a land area of 703,842 sq. miles. "Overnight, these countries would be transformed into a medium power in political, diplomatic, economic and military terms comparable to Iran."
  4. Robert Mukasa. Copyright © 1998 The Monitor - Kampala. July 16.

The plan has its enthusiasts, but has many skeptics even in Uganda itself. 
Return to HomePage | Return to Main Page | Aims of the Course | Books and Documents | Coordinator | Drill Instructor | Future of Kiswahili | Former Students | Kingwana or Copperbelt Kiswahili | Kiswahili I | Kiswahili II | Kiswahili and Kwaanza | Kiswahili Language | Linguistic Map | Method of the course | Multimedia Resources | Professional Organizations | Prospective Students | Self-Paced Program | Swahiliphone Countries