It is now official. The world will celebrate the World Kiswahili Language Day on the 7th of July every year as directed by UNESCO Member States in its 41st Session in Paris, 2021.
In the African family, Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa.
It has also been ranked among the 10 most widely spoken languages globally with over 200 million speakers.
Within many countries in the East, Central, Southern Africa and the Middle East, Kiswahili is one of the lingua franca. The language is also taught across major universities and colleges worldwide.
In the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC), Kiswahili language is one of the official languages.
It is then, an indispensable tool in achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and in facilitating regional integration especially in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
The United Nations, in the 1960s, established the Kiswahili language unit of United Nations Radio, and currently Kiswahili is the only African language within the Directorate of the Global Communications at the United Nations.
WHY JULY 7?
July 7 was the day in 1954 that Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) party under the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first President of the United Republic of Tanzania, embraced Kiswahili as a unifying language for independence struggles.
Former-President and Father of the Nation of Kenya, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, also used Kiswahili language via usage of the popular “Harambee” slogan in mobilizing the people of Kenya in the struggle against colonialism.
Further, on July 7, 2000, the East African Community (EAC) was re-established to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and integration among the East African people of the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda where Kiswahili language is widely spoken.
Later on, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan joined the EAC and are currently members.
“Having a language recognized by the UN is a big thing! Kiswahili is the first African Language to have this honour. Kenya’s permanent representative to UNESCO France Amb. Phyllis Kandie played a major role. Kenya and Tanzania have been very instrumental in making this a reality” Prof. Iribe Mwangi, Department of Linguistics, Languages and Literature, University of Nairobi said.
The international day is set to be celebrated by all stakeholders, in recognition of the global relevance of Kiswahili as a global communication language built in the daily life of Africans in a constant enrichment of its multiculturality.