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WEKESA: Let’s promote Kiswahili as the language of African diplomacy





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A seemingly innocuous development, yet one loaded with diplomatic potential for Africa happened last week — the announcement that Kiswahili will be taught in primary schools in South Africa.

It is probably one of the most important developments in the trajectory of the language since it joined English, Portuguese, French and Arabic as the official language of the African Union in 2004.

Interestingly, the adoption of the predominantly Bantu language at the AU was in part thanks to former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano’s surprise delivery of a farewell speech as AU chairman in Swahili in 2004.

Indeed, the announcement by South African basic education minister Angie Motshekga, quickly garnered vibrant discussion on social media platforms in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

This is evidence of the great potential for Kiswahili as the glue in the quest by Africans to speak with one voice.

In the immediate, qualified Kenyan and Tanzanian Kiswahili teachers have an opportunity to head south to earn a living while propagating the language.

In the medium term, the number of Swahili speaking South Africans will rise adding to the approximately 150 million Swahili speakers in Africa.

In the long term, it is probable that other African countries in the southern, central and western reaches of the continent will take up Swahili aiding in cross-continental communication.

It will be recalled that South Africa’s approval for the teaching of Mandarin in 2015 was greeted with opposition by a section of the populace worried over what some considered — erroneously — a form of Chinese cultural imperialism.

By contrast, the wide acceptance of Kiswahili emanates from its African roots in the broader context neo-Pan Africanism.

In other words, unlike foreign languages such as French and German, Kiswahili is attractive to Africans, if nothing else, because it demonstrates the global purchase of a language indigenous to Africa.

In the wake of the announcement, radical South African opposition leader Julius Malema spoke in the same breath as Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s enduring thesis — decolonising the mind through African languages.

Malema went as far as suggesting that the continental adoption of Kiswahili would spur the rejection of foreign languages such as English as mediums of communication by Africans.

This constitutes an ideological perspective to the language question in Africa, one in which Kiswahili is viewed positively.

What can Kenya and Tanzania – the two “home” nations of Kiswahili – do to promote the language?

In Kiswahili, these countries have been sitting on a potent cultural diplomacy resource.

South Africa has now handed Kenya and Tanzania an opportunity to leverage language as a tool for cultural diplomacies.


Kenya’s cultural diplomacy strategy released in 2016 spoke of a plan to establish “Kiswahili institutions” abroad among other forward-looking strategies.

In Tanzania, one of the missions of the Baraza la Kiswahili La Taifa Nchini Tanzania (National Swahili Council) is to promote the language continentally.

South Africa provides the perfect opportunity for the implementation of the plan and potentially serves as the testing ground for the introduction of the language elsewhere in Africa.

Indeed, Kenya and Tanzania can put aside their frequent intemperate diplomatic schisms to forge a joint strategy for promotion of Kiswahili across the continent.

In so doing, they need not reinvent the wheel. Under the East African Community, the region already has the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC), which ought to resuscitate itself from a deep slumber following South Africa’s pro-Kiswahili education move.

An official from the Kiswahili Council should by now be headed to Pretoria bearing a powerful message: We can offer you expertise in Swahili pedagogy and teaching resources.

Again, the council should see the adoption of the language in the South African education system as an opportunity to promote the language to the rest of the continent.

One of the points of exuberance about Swahili is that it is the most spoken African language, well ahead of Hausa.

With speakers in at least 11 countries sharing borders with Kenya and Tanzania, it is the most spoken African language in terms of numbers as well as geographical reach.

However, the language is not well-rooted in the hinterlands of Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Comoros, Ethiopia, Zambia, DR Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.

What would it cost Kenya and Tanzania to help these countries with Kiswahili language development for instance through curriculum developing and dispatching teachers to schools.

What if the two countries started offering scholarships to a small number of budding Kiswahili speakers from African countries?

By investing in what may be conceived as Kiswahili language diplomacy, Kenya and Tanzania would be boosting their soft power on par with the public diplomacy strategies of China (Confucius institutes) and France (Alliance Francaise).

Rather than Kenyan and Tanzanian ministries of education and foreign affairs constantly being on the lookout for scholarships for their nationals, the reverse can be undertaken.

Dr Wekesa is a media and geopolitics scholar at University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa: [email protected]


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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