Arusha. The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has passed a resolution to make Kiswahili an official language of the East African Community alongside English.
The resolution sailed through after hours of heated debate at a special session held here on Thursday evening during which, the lawmakers underscored the need to elevate Kiswahili as one of the official languages of EAC from the current status of lingua franca.
The motion to recognise Kiswahili as one of the official languages of the Community was tabled by three legislators being Mr Abdullah Mwinyi and Ms Shy-Rose Bhanji, both from Tanzania and Mr Abubakar Zein from Kenya.
“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 Bhanji when she moved the motion before the House before it adjourned for the weekend recess.
Pressure is mounting and intensive lobbying is already underway to have the issue brought up before the Extra-ordinary Summit of the regional leaders slated for Dar es Salaam early next month.
After a heated debate in the House the legislators eventually agreed that the move to legalise Kiswahili as one of the official languages was long overdue and for it to be realised, the EAC Treaty has to be amended.
The outspoken legislator said Kiswahili played a big role in uniting the people of EA from the pre-independence days and that, even the colonial administrators did not lose sight of the fact as well as missionaries and the business community.
The language is currently spoken by 50 and 70 per cent of the general public in Rwanda and Burundi respectively.
Debating the motion, a legislator from Rwanda, Mr Martin Ngonga, said if rules permitted the Eala sessions should be conducted in Kiswahili.
However, Mr Ngonga, a former chief prosecutor in Rwanda, stressed that a spirited agitation for Kiswahili should not play down the role of English, the current official language of the EAC.
Mr Joseph Kiangoi (Kenya) said contrary to general perception, Kenya has embraced the language to an extent that it is now one of the compulsory subjects in the country’s education system.