EALA lawmakers commit to support Kiswahili commission
Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on Monday pledged to play their role to ensure the East African Kiswahili Commission gets necessary funding and proper legal framework for it to achieve its mission.
Established in 2015, the commission is charged with, among others, promoting and developing Kiswahili language across member states of the regional bloc and beyond.
The lawmakers on Monday visited the Commission, one of the bloc’s eight semi-autonomous institutions, at the beginning of their two-week on-spot assessment of institutions, installations and facilities of the EAC on the Central Corridor.
Their pledge came after Prof. Kenneth Simala, the Commission’s Executive Secretary, briefed them about the institution’s challenges and its $23.3 million strategic plan, 2017-2022, as it looks to use Kiswahili to enhance political, economic and social cohesion within the EAC, among others.
One group of lawmakers, who are assessing developments on the Central Corridor, set off from Zanzibar where the Commission is based while another set off from Mombasa, Kenya, to cover the Northern Corridor.p>Lawmakers acknowledged that the institution, mandated to coordinate and promote the development and use of Kiswahili language in the region, lacks sufficient funds as well as proper legal framework as it continues to operate under a protocol.
Simala said: “There is no need to set up institutions that are not well funded and staffed. We aren’t doing most of what we are supposed to do because of lack of funds.”
Shedding light on the institution’s financial woes, Simala noted that, among others, partner states release funds around May “when we are at the end of the financial year” and the funds go to the reserve fund.
“It then becomes a serious audit query as we are later asked why we are asking for funds yet what we were given is not yet spent.”
Besides meager funds, the institution, whose budget for the year 2017/18 is $1,553,098, is also bogged down by the fact that they continue to operate under a protocol and this presents several challenges including the fact that the institution has no management board.
Simala noted that the current draft budget – 2018/19 – will not be increased.
By close of the first quarter of the current financial year, he observed, no contribution had been received from partner states yet they are all required to pay their contributions to the EAC budget in full by end of the second quarter of every financial year.
MP Fatuma Ndangiza (Rwanda), and others, promised to take up the issue regarding lack of a legal framework and see to it that things get better.
Rwanda has moved to promote the use of Kiswahili and parliament last year passed a law making it the fourth official language after Kinyarwanda, English and French.
Article 137 of the EAC Treaty provides that the language shall be promoted, developed and used as the lingua franca for the Community. While other EAC countries have significant numbers of their respective populations using the language, very few citizens of the new member, South Sudan, can speak Kiswahili.
Lawmakers agree that the country will take some time to catch up with the rest.
The promotion of Kiswahili use in the region is considered imperative to creating awareness and understanding of the challenges and opportunities that come with integration and sustainable development.
Simala said many countries including China, USA, South Africa, Ghana, and others, are today teaching Kiswahili because they know it is a resource to harness.
The lawmakers touring the Central Corridor continued their tour on Tuesday with a courtesy call on Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) and the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Dar es Salaam.
By: James Karuhanga
Published: February 14, 2018
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