Kiswahili all set to be official in the EAC

Tuesday April 11 2017

Arusha. The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) will be amended in order to include Kiswahili as one of the official languages of the community.

The ministerial meeting of the regional bloc which took place here last week stressed that for Kiswahili to be made one of the working languages, Article 137 of the Treaty has to be amended.

Article 137 of the EAC Treaty recognises English as the official language of the Community but emphasizes that Kiswahili shall be developed as a status of lingua franca, a community-wide language among the populace, of the region.

EAC Treaty is a 116 page document used as a guiding principle for regional integration. The Treaty was signed on November 30th, 1999 and went into force on July 7th, 2000. It has been amended twice; on December 14th, 2006 and August 20th, 2007.

In August last year, the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) passed a Resolution to urge the Summit of the EAC Heads of State to amend the Treaty in order to provide for Kiswahili as one of the official languages of the bloc in January this year.

The Resolution sailed through at the regional Assembly’s session held in Kampala, Uganda early this year during which the lawmakers underscored the need to elevate Kiswahili from its current status of lingua franca.


The ministers directed the EAC partner states to formulate National Kiswahili Languages Policies and enhance the use of the language in official domains ahead of the Treaty amendment.

The EAC member countries were also urged to initiate the process of institutionalization of Kiswahili as one of the official languages through the establishment of National Kiswahili Councils and National Kiswahili Associations.

Article 119 of the EAC Treaty provides for the development and promotion of indigenous languages especially Kiswahili as a lingua franca of the region while English is the official language.

“Kiswahili will be adopted as an official language within the Community as soon as the EAC Summit of Heads of State amend the Treaty to accommodate the new resolution,” EAC secretariat said in a statement yesterday.

Officials of the secretariat said after amendment, partner states are expected to facilitate adoption of the language at the national level. However, they were not explicit on when the matter will be brought before the regional leaders.