February 27, 2021

French Language Joins English as EAC Official Languages

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Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) bloc have adopted French as one of the official languages – joining English and Kiswahili.

At a virtual summit held Saturday, the six leaders confirmed the addition of French. It means, it will become a major subject in schools around the community.

In attendance at the Summit were Presidents; Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi, Salva Kiir of South Sudan, and Tanzania Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu of Tanzani.

Currently, Burundi is exclusively French speaking even if many of its leaders do speak English. For Rwanda, the official languages are French, English, Kinyarwanda and Swahili.

English and Swahili are the official languages in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. South Sudan for its part uses largely English and Arabic.

Since 2013, there has been a plan to add French language onto English and Swahili, which have for sometime been the EAC official languages.

The project to bring French into the mainstream EAC gained prominence early last year when the French government committed to fund the implementation. France agreed to assist the EAC in conducting a study on the modalities to include French as an official language of the Community.

While at the EAC Secretariat in March 2020, the French envoy to Tanzania, Frederic Clavier, said the operational implementation of the study and related funding costs estimated to be Euros 42,511, would be covered by the Embassy of France in Burundi.

At the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) based in Arusha, Tanzania, all the lawmakers representing each of the nations have been using either English or Swahili during sessions.

At the leaders’ summit today, they directed the Secretariat to expedite the implementation of the use of the three official languages.

In other issues, Somalia and DR Congo are seeking to join the bloc. However, it was noted by the leaders that no action had yet been taken on Somalia’s application and the foreign ministers together with the Secretariat have been directed to begin reviewing Somalia.

As for DRC, its application has reached a stage of verification and may very likely join at the next summit.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta took over the rotating chairmanship of the bloc from Rwanda’s President Kagame who has been in the role since February 2019.

Kagame took over from Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, and four weeks later, their conflict exploded into the open. To this day, the Rwanda-Uganda border is effectively closed.

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