She said Kiswahili had immense potential to unite the people of East Africa and should therefore be embraced by all East Africans as the lingua franca of the region, adding that the language could also be an important tool in the pursuit of economic and social development in the region.
“It is my hope that the East African Kiswahili Commission will aid us in ensuring that the people of East Africa are not mere receivers of strategies for development, but active agents for change. Kiswahili should be promoted and used to enhance our ability to steer our the development efforts,” said the vice-president.
Samia disclosed that Tanzania would work with other East African Community (EAC) partner states to promote Kiswahili as the lingua franca of the Community.
“Tanzania will continue standing at the forefront of the promotion of Kiswahili, and is ready and willing to provide Kiswahili teachers to the rest of the region,” she said.
The VP was addressing delegates at the opening of the East African Kiswahili Commission’s first international conference under the theme: ‘Transforming the East African Community through Kiswahili.’
Convened from 6th to 8th September, 2017 in Zanzibar, the conference brought together Kiswahili stakeholders from the region and beyond to deliberate on how the development and use of the language could creatively be used in deepening and widening EAC integration and contribute towards the realization of sustainable development in the region.
In his remarks, EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko said the Commission was held in high regard and considered an integral and important institution of the Community.
“I would like to wish that existing cooperation between the Commission, the EAC Secretariat, and other EAC organs and institutions is intensified in all areas so as to use Kiswahili in ensuring active citizen participation in the development agenda of the Community,” said Mfumukeko.
“There is no doubt that Kiswahili is an important ingredient in the integration and sustainable development of the EAC. It is for this reason that Article 137 of the EAC Treaty recognizes its importance as a lingua franca.
“In an effort to give Kiswahili the force that it deserves to drive development in the Community, the East African Legislative Assembly, in July 2016, resolved to make it one of the official languages of the Community. We promise that the Secretariat will do what it takes to ensure that this desire is realized,” he added.
For his part, EAKC Executive Secretary Prof Kenneth Simala said that the development of Kiswahili would provide the Community with an opportunity to survive and thrive in an ever-changing environment, characterized by innovation and transformation.
“We have convened this conference in Zanzibar in an effort to appreciate and acknowledge the critical role that Zanzibar has played in the development of Kiswahili, not only in East Africa, but worldwide. We cannot talk about the history of Kiswahili without acknowledging the role played by Zanzibar,” said Prof Simala.
The EAKC's 1st Internatinal Conference was marked with the official opening of the commission's offices along Maisara Road in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Also launched was the commission's strategic plan 2017 – 2022, which was developed in line with the aspirations of the EAC's Vision 2050 and the African Union Agenda 2063.
Some of those who attended the conference were former president of Tanzania Ali Hassan Mwinyi; Minister of Information, Culture, Artists and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe; Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Augustine Mahiga; ministers from the government of Zanzibar, permanent secretaries from EAC partner states and heads of EAC organs and institutions.