Central Africa: Tanzania Pushes for Kiswahili Use in the Great Lakes

Dar es Salaam — In bid to improve and strengthen the Swahili language in Africa, Tanzania has proposed that Swahili be used as an official language within the International Conference of the Great Lakes Regions, (ICGLR).

The Tanzania deputy minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Damas Ndumbaro, presented the proposal before the ICGLR Foreign Ministers meeting held in Brazzaville yesterday. That was where and when he told the foreign ministers that Swahili is already an official language in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and other parts of central and southern Africa, as well as of the African Union.

In a statement released yesterday by the country's Foreign Affairs Communications Unit, Dr Ndumbaro made the call on the member-countries of the African Great Lakes Regions to agree to use Swahili as an official language within ICGLR.

"We have requested our colleague (ICGLR) to adopt the use of Swahili as an official language within the Great Lakes Regions. However, there are six countries which have not yet signed the change of the African Charter to allow Swahili to be used as the official language in the African Union (AU)," he said

According to Dr Ndumbaro, the use of Swahili in the region is an opportunity that would bring about greater unity within the Great Lakes region and strengthen the African Union. Swahili is the only language that has nothing to do with colonialism in Africa, he noted.

"We hope that, once we can get the signatures of the remaining six countries, Swahili could then become the official working language at conferences taking place in Africa," he said. Dr Ndumbaro mentioned the countries which have not yet signed the newly-changed African Charter to allow Swahili to be used as the official language as including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.

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Dr Ndumbaro added that, member states were able to discuss the main agenda of the day, namely Peace, Stability, and Security - especially in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He also revealed that a majority of the member states commended the DRC for the successful and transparent elections that led to a peaceful transition from President Kabila to President Tschisekedi.

They also commended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Uganda and Rwanda, while urging the two countries to fully implement the provisions of the MoU in seeking to restore the historically strong relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Speaking earlier during the opening ceremony of the Foreign Affairs Ministers' official meeting, the prime minister of the Republic of Congo, Mr. Clement Mouamba, said he was happy because the meeting focused on assisting the DRC in the challenges it faces - especially in the eastern region of the Republic.

"I congratulate you on the work you have been doing in collaboration with various stakeholders in ensuring that the 'Ebola' epidemic is eradicated, as I believe together we can," the Premier said - adding that, "together, we have the capacity to fight such dangerous disease as the Ebola Virus Disease."

Premier Mouamba also urged the member states of the Great Lakes region "to continue to protect the peace and security we have in order to continue with various developmental activities as they are the foundation of the union to continue."

For his part, the minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Congo - who chaired the meeting - Jean Claude Gakosso, stressed to the ministers of the member states that peace and unity in the region are the most important pillars, and members should continue to maintain and protect them.

Assorted efforts have been made by member states in collaboration with development partners like the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the spread of Ebola.

"Various efforts taken by the DRC government to-date - in cooperation with the World Health Organization and other stakeholders in the fight against the disease - are to provide immunization and education to people in the affected areas," said Mr. Gakosso.

The Foreign Ministers Meeting was preceded by a meeting of the national coordinators and the regional inter-ministerial committee of the international conference on the Great Lakes Region, all held in Brazzaville.

The meeting was attended by the national coordinators and Foreign ministers from the ICGLR countries. These are Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - named here strictly in alphabetical order.

In August 2019, the Southern African Development Community (Sadec) declared Swahili its fourth official language after English, French and Portuguese.

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