Tanzanian Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs, Professor Palagamba Kabudi has disclosed that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared July 7th of each year, as the “World Kiswahili Language Day”. The Minister disclosed the news shortly after launching the implementation of the gender-responsive simplified birth registration system for Katavi and Rukwa regions.
The event was held yesterday at Kashato Primary School in Mpanda Municipality in Katavi Region.
“Having a language recognised by UNESCO member states is a big thing. Kiswahili is the first African Language to have this honour,” noted the Minister. The declaration was made by UNESCO Member States in its 41st Session held recently in Paris, France. “It is now official that July 7th of each year will be celebrated as the World Kiswahili Language Day as declared by UNESCO member states in its 41st Session in Paris recently,” emphasized the Minister.
Elaborating, Prof. Kabudi emphasized that UNICEF member states made such declaration to honour the 7th July, which was the day in 1954 that Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) under the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania, adopted Kiswahili as a unifying language for independence struggle.
Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages of the African family, and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, on 7 July 2000, the East African Community (EAC) was re-established to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and integration among the East African people of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda where Kiswahili language is widely spoken. EAC is guided by its Treaty which established the Community.
It was signed on 30 November 1999 and entered into force on 7 July 2000 following its ratification by the original three Partner States – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan later joined the EAC and are now members.
Kiswahili is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers. It is one of the lingua franca in many countries within East, Central and Southern Africa as well as in the Middle East. It is also taught across major universities and colleges globally.
Prof. Kabudi further noted that Kiswahili language is one of the official languages of the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is therefore, an indispensable tool in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and in facilitating regional integration particularly in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
In the 1950s the United Nations established the Kiswahili language unit of United Nations Radio, and today Kiswahili is the only African language within the Directorate of the Global Communications at the United Nations. “Kiswahili language is rapidly growing not only in Tanzania, SADC, EAC and Africa in general but also in other countries globally,” he added.
The International Day will be celebrated by all stakeholders, in recognition of the global relevance of Kiswahili as a language of global communication built in the daily life of Africans in a constant enrichment of its multiculturalist.
In attendance at the event in Katavi were UNICEF Chief Child Protection in Tanzania, Maud Droogleever Fortuijn and Inclusive Governance Sector Lead, Second Secretary (Development) at the High Commission of Canada in Tanzania, Julia Hamel and the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) Advisory Board Chairperson Professor Hamis Dihenga.
Others on the list were Regional Commissioners from Katavi and Rukwa, Ms. Mwanamvua Mrindoko and Joseph Mkirikiti, respectively as well as several senior officials from both regions. In the next two months, more than 400,000 under-five children in the two regions are expected to receive birth certificates. The goal of the programme is to establish a system for registering all new births and all under-five.