The central purpose of this debate is to discover and fulfill an African identity. That is why I find it disappointing that in this 21st century a man can sit on a chair and start typing sentences requesting English or Swahilli to be our national languages. What is national in these languages honestly?
I must stress that Swahilli cannot become our national language because it has nothing to do with national. Swahilli is already constitutionally our second official language. I’m therefore looking at Luganda as the favourable to become our national language for a variety of reasons:
Luganda was the first local language to produce a dictionary, I believe. This was because even the colonialists realised the need to promote it for easy communication throughout the country. I think this dictionary was compiled by John D. Murphy in 1972. However, already the missionaries had produced books serving the same purpose after swahilli was refused by Kabaka Chwa in Buganda . I must mention that the man, Father Kiggundu, who helped in compiling this dictionary, was killed by either Amin or Obote’s people. Kiggundu was the editor of Munno newspaper.
Luganda is so romantic among the local languages in Uganda such that I have had women saying that they love it compared to other Uganda languages. It is an equivalent of the French in Europe. In football; it’s an equivalent of the Brazil sambara. In addition, it is extremely and nicely expressive, comparatively easy, and harmonious to pronounce; and easier in its grammar than any of the languages in Uganda. It also possesses virtually the whole of the nineteen concord-prefixes.
I can also gladly say that gandalisation of words is a good thing because it shows that Luganda and Baganda change with the dynamics of the society. For instance, we did not have scissors in Buganda before the Arabs came. When they came, baganda adopted the Arabic word makassi for makansi. This was done to suit the Baganda natives dealing with Arabs in trade. There are so many words like this, for instance, kofia, a cap (a word, I believe, of Turkish origin), became enkofira, a hat. The basoga call it emfwakire.
This case is not only limited to Luganda and baganda. It happened in other places in Africa as well. For instance, the Arabs found a certain group of people residing in Zanzibar called Wahadimu. Their real name is actually unknown but they were called this in use being a Swahili adaptation of the Arabic. Most of the Wahadimu now speak Swahili, though with a peculiar accent.
Luganda is also so much interlinked to other Bantu languages in Africa . Why should we not swallow a bottle and just promote one of our Bantu languages instead of going for a foreign language as the national language. There are so many luganda words similar to those of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe . The luganda has also got so many words similar with the Bahima. The bahima language is closely allied to Luganda and Lunyoro, a large number of the words being practically the same, but the construction differs, and the Bahima accentuate their words in a very marked manner. The usual salutation, on meeting, is Oreirige; goodbye, Osibege. On seeing a person for the second time in one day, the salutation is Osiberege.Osiberege is not that much different from osibyotya by baganda. Bahima call wooden seats (ckitebe1),Baskets (ekibo),ropes (omugwa),(enanga and entongoU) and a drum (engalabi) have all got the same names as Luganda. So Baganda can be a starting base of uniting bantu speakers before the other groups.
Prof Apolo Nsibambi(former PM) wrote a good piece about the costs of so many languages in Uganda and it gives an insight of why we need to bury out tribal prides and promote the dominant local language in the country.. He wrote that when Uganda achieved independence, Radio Uganda was broadcasting in English, Luganda, Runyoro/Rutoro, Ateso and Lwo. In March 1967, when President Obote delivered his opening speech before a Seminar on Mass Media and Linguistic Communication in East Africa , he announced that another tenlanguages on the radio had been added. By September 1969, other languages had been introduced on the programme by Radio Uganda to make a total of eighteen. These were English, Luganda, Lusoga, Lunyole/Lusamia/Lugwe, Dhopadhola, Lumasaba, Sebei, Runyoro/Rutoro, Runyankore/Rukiga, Lwo, Ateso, Karomojong, Madi, Kakwa, Lugbara, Alur, Kuman and Hindustani.
Yet the President had pointed out in 1967 that all the fourteen languages then being broadcast were not in every case necessary. He had, however, added ‘ I am in government and I have to take the political feelings of the people into account in formulating policies.
Now I was just looking for this last statement. Obote was thinking like some Ugandans now who have allowed their bad feelings for Buganda to get in the way of their support to Luganda as the national language. Do you know how much money Obote costed Uganda by allowing almost 18 languages to create a stampede at Radio Uganda ?
Mr. Msibambi supplemented this point of tribal emotions and feelings by giving us an example of the Kakwa. When the Kakwa were requesting that their language be used on Radio Uganda , one of their major submissions was that they felt discriminated against whenever they had to listen to programmes in Lugbara.
You should not worry about the politicians because they make policies depending on how they benefit from the situations. So this debate about the national language is not concluded at all. Because the politicians don’t want to offend the non-baganda voting bloc, which is becoming larger every year, the trick is to play both sides, giving non-baganda what they want (making swahilli the second official language of the Uganda) while not losing the Baganda vote. They do that by trying to justify Swahilli as our language by using many ruses, hoping that one of them resonates with as many Ugandans as they can, such as:
1) Swahilli is spoken by many tribes in East Africa
2) Swahilli is the language that can unite different tribes in Uganda
3) How can Uganda be ashamed to adopt other languages?
Please let us not beef up this issue of a national language into Baganda arrogance and lose sight of what is best for the country. The truth is that you’re free to speak whatever you want, but the big problem is when you have 52 people speaking 52 different languages in one room you have a major organizational problem. This is why I think a national language like Luganda is necessary, because it is at least spoken by several tribes in the country. It is unfair that indigenous African languages in Africa do not enjoy the status of national language because Africa has got a lot of tribes. We need to go around around this problem by agreeing to at least one language.
Declaring Luganda as our national language will be a good thing for the country in the long term. Requiring immigrants to Uganda to be able to speak and write Luganda will be a needed requirement. The national language is the language in which commerce is conducted, the language used in public education, the language embraced by government. To have a foreign language(such as Swahilli) as one’s national language carries a very deep message of the lack of self-determination and one’s liberties.
USA has got more languages than all of Uganda combined but they managed to agree that English becomes their national language. In 2006 the USA voted in favour of English as the national language despite having Spanish and other languages being spoken in the country. Actually, they didn’t exactly use the words “national language.” Instead, they chose to call it a “common and unifying language.” Whatever way they called it, it was a good start. If you want to come to the United States and be a part of the culture, you should have to learn English.
For too long, Ugandans have coddled people who expect to come in the country from all directions and continue speaking whatever language where they came from. This needs to stop as soon as we get our national language. In fact, before you are granted Uganda citizenship, you should be given a simple Luganda language test. If you cannot demonstrate your ability to speak the native language, you’re out. Go home, learn Luganda and then apply again, as simple as.
People from other tribes that dress in a kiganda way and speak luganda on their weddings are promoting nationhood indirectly. Nationhood usually involves some combination of a national language, diet, dress, religion, physical appearance, etc. If somebody’s Swedish, the safe bet is that he’s a blond Lutheran who’s eaten lutefisk, and if he’s Italian, I’d guess he’s Catholic, brunette, and eats pasta. If he is British, he should somehow like the traditional fish and chips. You don’t have to be only a Muganda to speak the Luganda language, eat Baganda food, and wear Baganda fashions.
Nze bwendaba banange
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba