EALA wants Treaty changed to make Kiswahili official language

Monday August 29 2016

EALA MPs during a sitting in Arusha. PHOTO | FILE

EALA MPs during a sitting in Arusha. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has passed a resolution to make Kiswahili an official language of the East African Community (EAC) alongside English.

The lawmakers, at a special session in Arusha, underscored the need to elevate Kiswahili to an official language in the region.

“It is our conviction that the heads of state of EAC will endorse this motion to enable amendment of the EAC Treaty which has only English as the official language,” said Ms Shy-Rose Bhanji, a Tanzanian MP and one of the three legislators who tabled the proposal.

The others are Tanzania's Mr Abdullah Mwinyi and his Kenyan counterpart Mr Abubakar Zein.

It is understood that there is intense lobbying to have the issue brought up before the extraordinary summit of the EAC heads of state slated for Dar es Salaam early next month.

After a heated debate on the matter, members of the regional parliament, agreed for the amendment of the EAC treaty in order to accord Kiswahili the status of official language.

Ms Bhanji said the language played a big role in uniting East Africans since its pre-independence days, adding that even colonial administrators and missionaries did not lose sight of that fact.

The language is used for social interaction and trade in many urban centres in the member states. In Tanzania and Kenya, Kiswahili is a national language, while it is spoken by nearly 50 and 70 per cent of the general public in Rwanda and Burundi respectively.