Yesterday, Thursday, July 7, was the first ever Kiswahili Language Day. Kiswahili is one of the most widely used African languages, and is now the first African language to gain this form of recognition from the United Nations, distinguishing it as a beacon of unity and peace across civilizations. The official international day was held under the theme “Kiswahili for peace and prosperity”.
In the 1950s, the United Nations established the Kiswahili language unit of United Nations Radio, and today Kiswahili is the only African language within the Directorate of the Global Communications at the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly, through its resolution 71/328 of September 11, 2017, on multilingualism, welcomed implementation of a day dedicated to each of its official languages in order to inform and raise awareness of their history, culture and use, and encouraged the Secretary-General and institutions such as UNESCO to consider extending this important initiative to other non-official languages spoken throughout the world.
In that regard, the 41st session of the General Conference of UNESCO adopted resolution 41 C/61 that recognized the role the Kiswahili language plays in promoting cultural diversity, creating awareness and fostering dialogue among civilizations. It also noted the need to promote multilingualism as a core value of the United Nations and an essential factor in harmonious communication between peoples, and to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, tolerance and dialogue. The resolution proclaimed July 7 of each year as World Kiswahili Language Day. Kiswahili is the first African language to be recognized in such a manner by the UN.
UNESCO Director-General’s message for the World Kiswahili Language Day
Kiswahili is a language that speaks to both past and present. With over 200 million speakers, it is one of the most widely used African languages, encompassing more than a dozen main dialects. Over the centuries, this Bantu language has emerged as a common form of communication in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to the Middle East.
This first celebration of the World Kiswahili language day will be held under the theme “Kiswahili for peace and prosperity”. The mission of the annual celebration is to promote the use of Kiswahili language as a beacon for unity, peace, and enhanced multiculturalism.
Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages of the African family, and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa. It is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers. The language is one of the lingua franca in many countries within East, Central and Southern Africa as well as in the Middle East. It is also taught across major universities and colleges globally.