An International Conference on 50 Years of Kiswahili as a Language of African Liberation, Unification and Renaissance

To be hosted by the Institute of Kiswahili Studies
University of Dar es Salaam and ACALAN, Bamako.
Venue: University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Thursday 4th. to 6th. October 2012.

As we commemorate 50 years of Africa’s independence, we need to take into account the multitude of factors that contributed to UHURU which is the symbol of African liberation. Among these are the languages and especially Kiswahili that played an extraordinary role in uniting people in the anti-colonial struggle and the fight for Africa’s own independence. In a famous lecture he had delivered at Makerere University in November 1961, Shaaban Robert – the most prominent Kiswahili author of all time, had envisaged Kiswahili to be a very important unifying force for Africa. In that lecture, and indeed in his literary works such as his famous poem, “Kiswahili”, he had predicted that the language would gradually turn into a Pan-African means of communication. Later on, other African intellectuals, such as the Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka, made similar calls to take Kiswahili on board as the main language of communication between and amongst the African peoples. It should also be borne in mind that the late Samora Machel as well as the current Tanzanian President Kikwete, are among those leaders who spearheaded this position in OAU and African Union respectively.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and, to some extent, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, had used Kiswahili in most of their campaigns for their countries’ independence. The role of Kiswahili as a unifying force and as a tool for fighting for the independence of Tanzania and Kenya is an indisputable fact. However, such role at Pan-African level has not been recognized and testified, in spite of the fact that the language went and continues to go beyond its immediate borders, and in the process, turning into a major Pan-African lingua franca.

Besides Kiswahili being used in various areas as a vehicle for Linguistic decolonisation, statehood and nation-building, it continues to be used as a language for African Renaissance. This new dimension comes in harmony with AU’s call for African Renaissance as a response to global challenges. Indeed ACALAN has called for material development of African societies, spiritual uplift and moral regeneration of African peoples and People of Africa in the Diaspora to that end. It is through this understanding that the Institute of Kiswahili Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, in collaboration with the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), intend to host an International Conference to discuss and deliberate on the status and future of the Kiswahili language in Africa.