Why South Sudan should adopt Kiswahili as one of the national languages

Posted: July 10, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Education, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Mabil Manyok Nhial, Juba, South Sudan


The true size of Africa

July 10, 2017 (SSB) — “Language and its relationship to development theory are estranged in the sea of discourse discussing the best route for Africa’s poverty amelioration,” echoed Adham Hanafi. Rhapsodies of evidence show that language policies in Africa are greatly characterised by the domineering tendencies of the ex-colonial languages as official ones in political, economic arenas as well as national communications. Looking at the notion of a language adoption, one has to delve into development, democracy and unity in diversity.

It is indubitably clear that South Sudan was admitted to the East African Community in March 2016 and was indeed warmly received as an official member in September of the mentioned year soon after ratifying the instrument of the Community. As a member of the East African Community, it is obligated to meet the requirements as per the guiding statute.

Therefore, South Sudan as a new member should adopt Kiswahili to be used as the national language as well as in dealing with other imminent regional issues as English remains the official language to boost international relations with Anglophones.

A common language enables people to easily understand one another since it creates sense of togetherness and fraternity among themselves and this undoubtedly enhances unquestionable social and political affinity among the countries that speak it. Promoting Kiswahili as an official language in the Republic of South Sudan will thus boosts the tenet of one language, one Regional body. This will lead to an intended pace-setting vision of the EAC which all the member states ought to realise.

In a heterogeneous state like South Sudan, there always lies a looming threat of antagonistic ethnic languages. They serve as divisive tools since differences in those languages are perceived to be facilitating sentiments of separateness and it subsequently throws a multitude into the bin of discord and consternation as epitomised in Nigeria where 400 ethnic languages exist as well as in Cameroon where there are 238 languages.

South Sudan in this case is no exception as there exist 64 languages with so many dialects and idio-dialects which vary from one tribe to another. For example, if the government were to adopt one of the native languages, say Lotuko, other language groups will feel segregated and some unwarranted rifts may crop up as a result. This has not always made it easy for such a multilingual nation to adopt one indigenous language as an official or a national language.

It would therefore make sense for the government to adopt Kiswahili as the national language, because no language group will feel low or inferior to the other one.

In a wider view, English has already been in existence as the official language. Considering the fact that a language plays a great deal in terms of development of a country, Kiswahili ought be the national language for commercial activities within the country and when dealing with regional matters so as to accomplish set objectives of the EAC.

For instance, when Julius Nyerere became President of present day Tanzania, he made Kiswahili the national and official language and he initiated the move by giving his keynote speech in Kiswahili in 1962. During and after Mwalimu Nyerere’s tenure, Tanzania went through a period of economic sickness especially in around 1970s and 1980s.

This was due to the fact that some donors especially from Great Britain wanted to give loans and donations with some strings attached. This was well exemplified when western donors wanted to provide educational facilities in form of written materials which they wanted to be printed in English in the UK while Kiswahili was and still is being taught from primary to tertiary levels.

These donations and loans could not work since Tanzania adopted Kiswahili as the official and national language because it was against some of the donors’ interests leading to a maimed economy. In this case, South Sudan should leave English as the official language and Kiswahili be the national language so as to save two masters at a time.

Most importantly, South Sudan is not only one of the member states of the EAC, but also blessed with its friendly neighbouring countries that also use Kiswahili in business activities. This was indeed the same reason as to why Rwanda passed the law pertaining to adoption of Kiswahili as the official language.

It is inestimably vital to adopt Kiswahili as the national language to help in boosting the economy of the country as lots of intricacies such as language barrier will be curtailed.

However, the government should also put more emphases on promotion of local languages in order to encourage democratic participation in the country. In a country where indigenous languages are constitutionally allowed, it is true that some minority groups of people who are not well conversant with international and regional languages can simply and easily take part in national political activities.

This is so because they can express themselves in languages that they know and are comfortable with.  A typical example can be seen in Zimbabwe where section 6 of the Constitution adumbrates sixteen languages which are officially recognised. Out of the sixteen languages, fourteen are indigenous ones such as Shona, Ndebele, Kalanga, Venda, and Xhosa among others.

In this vein, the government should do its unflagging best by implementing the already existing native languages which are provided for under Article 6(1) of the Transitional Constitutional of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 that “All indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted.”

Therefore, all the national languages should be developed and promoted by teaching them right away from primary level. This will preserve cultural protection and sense of belonging as internationally protected under The Convention on Cultural Protection, 1954.

It will also allow a few disadvantaged group of people who do not speak nor understand English, to fully take part in nation building which is an obligation for sons and daughters of South Sudan.

You can reach the author via his email: Mabil Manyok <johnmabilmanyok@gmail.com>

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

  1. Peter Athiu says:

    One of the problems of South Sudan is the absence of clear national language given the current multiplicity of local languages. Arabic is widely spoken in the country,for obvious reasons as a legacy of United Sudan,which imposed Arabic language as an official national language in the whole country.
    I it is important to have some sort of lingua Franca in our country and pidgin Arabic or (arabi-juba) can suffice for resolving this problem in the short term. The difficulties which are facing South Sudanese today include the inability of our people to communicate and to interact together on daily basis.
    We need to improve our education system where English language remain the principal language of instructions and government business.it is incumbent on our government to develop our indigenous languages where our African cultures are deposited.
    The call for Kiswahili as national language will take us for some time given it cost in time and material, thuogh it is a necessity for our membership in East Africa Community-EAC.


  2. Nhial Deng says:

    Kiswahili for what? English and Arabic are the best. If it is because of our membership to the EAC, then English is enough. We shouldn’t give up Arabic, because it is very important for our national security. Remember, Khartoum is our number one enemy and You must be aware of the fact that they are spying on us day and night. Then why not pay them in the same coin? This fact calls for our proficient knowledge of Arabic. So if we adopt Kiswahili, do we have to retain English and Arabic or we have to leave them? I support the idea of adoption of Arabic instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mabil Manyok Nhial says:

      English and Arabic will not be touched. In reality, Arabic is not one of the national languages in South Sudan as per the Constitution. Not mentioned anywhere in the national Bible, the Constitution. Not there at all.


  3. tafadzwa mariga says:

    thanks to the author for providing such a useful information you are a good writer my dear bro continue doing good job.the way you wrote your article preached about democracy by saying South Sudan should adopt language which is not used by other people in the country .


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