Prof. Bukenya: We are going to listen to the 5th Neville Alexander, a memorial lecture that we started back in Cambridge, Massachusetts when we learned of the passing of Neville Alexander who had been in my plans to go visit South Africa and spend several months with him. Neville Alexander was a revolutionary who contributed towards linguistic diversity and multilingual education in South Africa. He was born on October 22nd, 1936 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. My recollection; he had some Ethiopian descent. In 1955 he was awarded a B.A in German and History. In 1956 he received an M.A in German from the University of Cape Town and in 1961 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Tuebingen. He spent 10 years; 1964 to 1974 in prison on Robben Island for conspiracy to commit sabotage. Yes, he spent prison time with none other than Nelson Mandela.
There after he served in various positions in the area of language and policy in South Africa. He served as the director of South African Committee for Higher Education- SACHED, and as the director of the Project of the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa- PRAESA. He was also everywhere I went in Africa. I went to West Africa. I've been doing this kind of thing in West Africa for a while and everywhere I went, Cameroon, Senegal and other places, you'll find Neville Alexander known there as an institution. He's the leader of ACALAN; the African Academy of Languages. Before his death in 2012, he received the 2008 International Linguapax Award for his notable work in linguistics. I ask you … I urge you to go and if you're too lazy, just Google him and look at Wikipedia and get some information. But if at all you actually get engaged in learning about the importance of language in some of the ideas we're discussing here, you have to go back to this person, Neville Alexander because of the kind of contribution he left us. With that then I say my work is then to [inaudible 00:02:36] … to welcome Professor [Sihanya 00:02:38] to come and commence proceedings.
Prof. Sihanya: Introductory remarks are entitled: contextualizing law, language and literature in Kenya and Africa.’ And one thing for self introduction that I'm very proud of is the book I've been working on called Copyrights creativity and constitutional democracy in Kenya and Africa. Poetry, music and art … and how lawyers relate with these. So my remarks and introductory comments are based on the three key areas: One; how do we conceptualize law language and literature? Number two; what are some of the key issues in interpreting literary and legal texts. Number three; who is Professor Austin L.S Bukenya.? The significance of Professor Bukenya in the language and literature debate in East Africa and Africa generally. So number one, as I indicated, law has many definitions but … including Professor Hart's definition of law being a system of rules et cetera. But we've gone beyond that, especially in the 2010 constitution to know that law is also … it includes the rules, it includes the values, principles and policy, which were not captured before by a positivist like Professor Hart or even Professors [inaudible 00:04:24].
Secondly within conceptualization; what then is language and what does that move with the languages? I'm incompetent to define language. Professor Bukenya is here, but I can just mention some of the languages that are here in Kenya and East African debates. There’s English; colonial but also [Kenyanised 00:04:45], because we have Kenyanised English. For example, Kenyans say, “Otherwise?” To mean … I don't know, how are you? What? Otherwise can mean so many things et cetera, et cetera.
So we have also Kenyanised some of the English. We have Kiswahili and there's a debate on whether law should also be … When your qualification is mainly in Kiswahili, it should be taken as an alternative to English for purposes of admission, and Kenya and East Africa. There’s that debate which I really would like us to continue having. There’s also the question of mother tongue; sometimes called mother tongue, sometimes called indigenous languages, sometimes called local languages, sometimes wrongly, in my view, and Professor Bukenya will correct me, called vernacular … because last time I checked what vernacular means, is the language of primitive people. I don't know whether the meaning has changed but … so I tend to say local language. [foreign 00:05:44] if you like et cetera, et cetera. Then of course they sign language, Braille et cetera, et cetera. And even in law we are increasingly recognizing the significance of Braille and how to communicate with VIPs; visually impaired persons, which are even recognized.
There's also something which I wanted to ask Professor Bukenya to correct me today whether … is legalese a language? Or is it that legalese is a way of communication which can be in English, in Kiswahili or in [inaudible 00:06:16]? You will correct some of us on that. The second point so that we listen to our great speaker is that interpretation of literary texts and legal texts is that been important issue, and I think to be very brief there, some scholars tend … working both in literature and in law tend to argue that there’s a difference among the following three. One; interpretation, two; construction, and you will see that even our constitution tends to suggest that there's a distinction. You may say it’s a distinction without a difference, if you look at Articles 259 and 260, you may say … Were you getting me?
Prof. Sihanya: Were you getting me?
Prof. Sihanya: Thank you. Thank you. Okay. This can be even be better. Okay, so there’s a debate by some that interpretation can be different from construction and can be different from translation. So let me just be very brief on that. So interpretation as we all know can be from ordinary meaning et cetera, et cetera. From the three approaches that English law has. America has a variation of that. Ordinary meaning … The British have a different approach from the Americans. And the Americans have even the issue of history. You go to history to interpret materials. The British tend to just say that there’s the ordinary, the mischief rule, the golden rule. The Americans have the text, the history and the structure. Sometimes the words may be different from America and as vis-à-vis England, but sometimes they mean the same thing. So I guess wanted us to [foreign 00:08:07].
Construction we are told is many times a purposive way of interpreting materials, purposive. What was the intention of the writer of the text? What was the intention of the writer of the constitution? And I think the earlier debate this morning has dealt with some of these issues. Lastly, there's the wide translation and translation is not just …
One of the meanings of translation is from one language to another. From English, for example, from … Mr. Francis Davis Imbuga wrote a very powerful play called Betrayal in the city. Then it was translated into [foreign 00:08:55]. From one language or another but the translation I want to talk about in law is this; Professor Larry [Lessick 00:09:04] of Harvard has developed a theory that translation is a way of interpretation whether in literature or in law or generally. He gives one example which I could … I would give one example… two examples. One; laws used to talk men; man, man, man. And in some cases that has not been changed. Or person, person, person. And it used to be an understood that the man of law, the person of law was male, and many cases actually it was white men, Anglo-Saxon. These days we know that if you see a text written man or person we know, we ought to know … this is beyond debate for me. We know that ought to be man, a woman et cetera, et cetera. LGBTQ which yes they have legitimate rights. Please I'm very clear in my mind on all these things.
So it can mean all these issues. So another one that I can give you is that in 1850’s, Dred Scott was an African American. He wanted to fight for his rights. He had was a slave. The Supreme Court said, “Slaves can’t seek rights. Slaves are property. How can property seek rights? And that [inaudible 00:10:32] precipitated. A Supreme Court decision. It precipitated the civil war because African Americans said, “Okay, so we are not the persons? Then the legal system is not working for us. We better go into civil war. It [inaudible 00:10:42] precipitated the civil war. In the case of 1954, Brown versus Board of Topeka, that famous Brown case on education … desegregation of schools, Supreme Court said, “A person also includes an African American.” The text of the constitution had not changed but context had changed. That's why I'm saying contextualizing these issues. But the context had changed and now America accepted that African Americans would be persons. Let me just go.
So there is a issue of translation that meaning can change without textual to change et cetera, et cetera. Whether in law or literature. Everybody has their own experience of Shakespeare. Everybody have their experience of Bukenya’s writings, of Okot p’Bitek’s writings, Song of Lawino, Song of Ocol, et cetera, et cetera … of Jonathan Kariara’s Grass Will Grow … “If you should take my child Lord, give my hands strength to dig his grave, cover him with grass, for grass will grow.” Of Macgoye’s poem, A Freedom Song, “Atieno yo. Atieno washes dishes …” Every generation will give its own interpretation depending on their context. Who is Professor Austin L. S Bukenya? And what is his significance in our debate on law, language and literature. Again, I must acknowledge my limitations in this area. I’m a literature enthusiast not an expert at all but very excited with a few … one or two poems to my credit, published in some important foro like The Standard, but I’m an inspiring one and I’ll get greater guidance.
Professor Bukenya was born in 1944 in Southern Uganda, just the other day in Southern Uganda. He studied at Dar and of course New York, Makerere and Madagascar. You can already see that he is a man of East Africa and a man of the world. A global citizen and East African citizen. He has taught language, literature, theater arts in the Kenya and in Scotland, Uganda and Germany. And he was a founder member of the department of music, dance and drama. And I hope that he will give us a bit of a jig because I know he's quite good on that especially traditional from his native community. Okay, then he's been director of performing and creative arts at K.U; Kenyatta University.
And he was there, especially in 1990s from when he started influencing East African literature. He is an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary person. He’s merged theory with practice and he's also a performer. He's written books some of which include a novel called The People's Bachelor. By the way don't start reading there woman eater, it’s just The People's Bachelor, that was a novel then the play called The Bride. There’s a book which I’m very fond of that some of us read in O-levels form four and in A-levels form 6 and which I keep reading even now, and today he will autograph it for me. There’s a book that if you are really interested in poetry, the starting point is normally Poems from East Africa BY Cook and Rubadiri and then they powerful guide on East African poetry was written by none other than Professor Bukenya in 1978 and issues or editions were given, notes on East African poetry.
I am one of those who like Professor Chris Wanjala have requested the Professor to revise and expand this book immediately as the main task that we are requesting him to give to humanity. It's very very important. And of course, he has been writing on … he writes in English and he’s also been promoting Kiswahili quite a lot. He writes every Sunday in the Sunday nation and that is normally one of the main essays that I can even just go and buy the newspaper for just that, because you know the Kenyan newspapers, don’t you? Yeah. They say yeah, yeah. But I can just buy even the paper for just that, that where is Professor Bukenya’s? So please know that many of us … Professor Bukenya, as I sit down, has lived a very positive life to change lives; his own life and the lives of people around him. And there has been a debate this morning of our emeriti CJ and AG and I wanted to ask a question but then I decided that let me just listen more because some people may be called hecklers by asking questions.
The issue that I always wonder, what did you do with your life before office, in office, after office? Did you purposely organize your life to change human society? What is it that after office you can come and say how bad things were yet when you were there you were part of the presidential spokesperson? You know what I mean. We have to deal with this instead of being engaged in … Let me not go into that. We will debate. We’ve agreed that these are the things that we will debate. If there was an opportunity and you didn’t help change happen for Kenyans, and you had the opportunity, can you just apologize to Kenyans and say … and of course Saul can be Paul, Saul can be Paul. So can you just apologize to Kenyans and say, “Okay, I add …” Because the weight of opinion is that we add but we have a new life. Is that okay? Instead of talking to critics as hecklers, please. Thank you. Professor Bukenya. This is your chance.
Prof. Bukenya: I’d hoped that the CJ emeritus would have left by the time we talked, but now since he's here, I know he doesn't like standing on ceremony, so I will not go through the details of protocol but I’ll just say, “All protocols observed.” I just mention that I'm really delighted and humbled to have been invited. At least Mr. Dean I should mention that it's a great honor to me to be here delivering the Neville Alexander lecture. Well, I'm not really going to lecture because we’ve been around quite [inaudible 00:18:20] time, and in any case I’m not good at just reading [inaudible 00:18:24] I prefer to speak. As I told you, I have an interest and an engagement in performance so I prefer to perform my text than to read them and that will maybe also help us to save time but before I proceed maybe I should just make two very two very brief remarks. One of them of course, is as Sihanya’s, just that I'm not visiting, I'm just coming home.
I’m very much a citizen of here. My life started course at University of Nairobi as Professor Kabira would remember when I came in 1978 and then it's continued on to Machakos where I was a distinguished staff member at the Machakos Girls’ School and then for many years at Kenyatta University where as Sihanya hinted I ended up being director of the creative and performing arts. So I feel very much at home. More specifically I feel strangely very much at home among law students, and I tell you why; because when I was going to university back in 1965, I won’t ask you what you were doing then, I decided to go to Dar es Salaam and I was there for three undergraduate years and then one year of graduate study and work and in those day when you went to Dar es Salaam everybody assumed that you’d gone to read law because the University of Dar es Salaam was the only place that had a School of Law.
So people assumed that since I passed Makerere whose ivory tower I had grown up under and went all the way to Dar es Salaam and I had been a noisy debater and I had studied languages including Latin as it was in those days. I was the perfect material for a law degree, but as it happened I hadn’t gone to do law. I had no intentions of doing law, not because I didn’t like it, not because I didn't respect it, but because I had a burning passion for language and linguistics and that's when I was applying Dar es Salaam; the one place that had the most fully developed course in language and linguistics. So I ended up there. Of course, now looking back on it I know that there was also a sense of adventure. I had grown up, up to 21 years in Uganda never having gone anywhere else, so the adventure element I think was there. So I ended up there. But as it happened … I’ll be sitting down [inaudible 00:21:25] after the introductions, if you don't mind privileges of longevity.
I ended up interacting and actually living and working, studying with the first generation really of post independence law people; jurists, judges, advocates and so on. You may remember people whose names you probably heard but others who are very much still around and the previous AG; Amos Wako, the late Chief Justice Zacchaeus Chesoni … all those people. I could go on for forever. Some of them are controversial. Of course, the naming is not hierarchical or judgmental. I just mentioned the named the Justice Hayanga, Andrew Hayanga, I think you remember people like that, my friend Richard Otieno Kwach and so many others both here and in Uganda. These are the people I interacted with so when I say I feel at home with law students I mean it, literally. Okay … and of course when I came here I'm very proud now to boast that although we weren’t contemporaries that the CJ emeritus is a fellow alumnus of UDSM; University of Dar es Salaam. So when I say I feel at home, there it was and then of course the AG emeritus who was here also I know through other interests.
When I came here, to live here and work here, I also interacted and got to know quite a number of jurists and lawyers and so on. People like Professor Githu Muigai, Professor Kibwana, who else were there … Stephen Mwenesi and so on. So, thank you for welcoming me. Now, we said our talk will be about the challenge of East African multilingualism and the need for a realistic language policy or realistic language policies. Now, a lot has been pointed out already as we go along about the importance of [inaudible 00:24:22] … the importance of language in the law or in law practice. So I feel I'm preaching to the converted because maybe apart from teaching, law is the quintessential language profession or career.
Think about for example your court processes or the way from somebody is indicted before you. Indicted means speak into so … and so on and you hear whatever the prosecutions and defenses and take evidence and so on to the moment you pronounce judgment … whatever … deliver judgment and pronounce sentence … Notice the significance of sentence there; it has a different meaning for you lawyers from what it has for us linguists. But it’s just to emphasize that the language element in the law. So in my reflection on the challenges we face, I thought that the main proposition that I would like to put forward here is that, if language is so important to us in the law and of course in other professions, we need enlightened and clear policies to governate; those that we need. I need not elaborate on that, but this is the need that when we are talking about language even for you as lawyers, it's not just an idle pastime. It is an essential requirement. That awareness of language and how it operates in your profession. Okay, maybe like we always do I’ll start with just a few of the very quick definitions, things which we may use so that we know.
I may be rather repetitive because I think some of these things you know, but of course we talk about language as a system of conventional vocal symbols used in human communication. Notice there. So it’s a system .A language is a system of convention of vocal symbols used in human communication. I could go on about each of those key words there. It's a system that consisting of different parts which work together, conventional; that it is a pact, it is a contract. In fact, we talk about the linguistic contract that you have to know that you are on the same wavelength between speaker and listener and of course this usually causes a lot of problems. This is where the Tower of Babel comes in. The whatever … proverbial or Biblical Tower of Babel that people couldn't communicate because they broke the conventions. And you see there is no bottleness in a bottle. We know that this is a bottle and when I signal bottle you know what I'm talking about because we've agreed that this is what it is. If I was to say this is a … We are going to call this thing a table and we are agree on that and then we are going to call this thing a bottle.
I can say let me put this table on the bottle and we would still communicate. But that convention that we should know how we use [inaudible 00:28:17]. We agreed about it. And of course symbols as we said, they’re signs which signal a meaning or significance and of course communication. I won’t to go into that too much. Okay. The other term maybe which you have to think about is multilingualism, multilingualism. Now, of course as the term implies for you, I know you encounter and use a lot of Latins and Latinisms in your profession. The multi; the many and lingua; lingualism. So that's what it is. It means many languages. But notice that it can mean two different things because when you have a multilingual person, a person who speaks many languages … what you know, we also use word polyglot. Polyglot of course is the Greek. Multilingual is the Latin. But a person who speaks many languages, but a more relevant to our case here, multilingualism means a situation in which people speak many languages. A situation or an environment in which many people speak … sorry, people speak many different languages and that is the sense in which I use it here when I talk about the challenge of multilingualism. Of course I talked about East Africa because it's what I know best about and especially Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
As you’ve already been told I've lived and worked in all three. Born in Uganda; spent 21 years there, in Dar es Salaam; more than four years there and another 20 years here. And of course it's still counting, we shall say, because I never go away. I try to go away but I kept coming back and enjoying every bit of it so maybe the body went away but the heart never did. Anyway, but I think what I say [inaudible 00:30:26] could cover other places which are multilingual that is meaning that in these communities and these societies we speak many different languages. Now, of course you realize there that the two things combine that when you are in a multi lingual environment, you yourself are likely to be multilingual. And of course this is the basic state of matters in East Africa.
I’m talking about the traditional East Africa. Like certainly in Kenya and Uganda, the average educated person and maybe even more so in Kenya is likely to be trilingual. That is speaking three different languages. You’ll have a home language; Professor asked if we should talk about mother tongue, that’s a bit tricky. Why not father tongue or whatever, parent tongue? But sometimes it happen that it’s not even parent tongue that is spoken at home. So this is why I’m saying home language and then Kiswahili and English you see there we already … I think this is the sort of average kind of East African … Kenyan particularly, you’ll find that maybe in Uganda people may not be trilingual that way because they don't speak much Kiswahili and in Tanzania you’ll find that maybe people will be more tending towards monolinguals or bilingualism; English and Kiswahili. The home languages are not that highlighted. Okay, so there we are. And then of course they, we talked about language policies were a language policy is a big, some collection of public definitions, decisions and actions concerning the use of language.
You see, when we say a language of policy, it means, well, what we believe about our language situation and how we operate that situation. For example, when we decide that we have an official language, we are choosing from among different languages. When we say we will have a national language, again, we are presuming we are choosing from many and then we say, “Okay, what languages are we going to teach in? What languages are we going to write in? What languages are we going to broadcast in? What languages are we going to pray in?”And so on. So you realize these are not accidental, we agree. We said language is a convention and that is just an extension of that convention, the language policy. Now, of course, this whole concept and what we are talking about now falls in the area of what we call socio-linguistics. It is in the area of socio-linguistics which is a sub-branch of linguistics. You know, there are many sub-branches. So I think as you have in law, that people specialize in different areas. You talk about structural linguistics, which defines just the way that language is structured, it sounds, its syntax and so on.
Then we have, you can think of for example, historical linguistics. The way you can trace the way language has been developing and changing and so on. And then, we talk about psycholinguistics. Of course language works very much with our mind. And there is this huge area which we refer to as applied linguistics, which means language in actual use and action. There you have language acquisition, discourse and so on. Because we find language doesn't operate in a vacuum, it always operates in a kind of context. Okay. Now, let me, before I proceed, just point out, they told me I shouldn't go on too long and I said, I won’t. But let me very briefly point out just a few things and then as I was told will open the debate to you.
I think that the main cause of the challenges to us arise from two problematics of language. Now when we say problematic, as you know it is different from a problem because a problem perhaps you can solve but a problematic is something that you recognize, but you know it is not easily soluble so to speak. So you learn to operate with that awareness that it is always there. And the two problematics, of course we may identify others, but the two that I want to point out to you, on the one hand that language is both utilitarian and emotive. Emotive with an ‘E’ like emotion, something to do with emotions. We may think of language just as a tool of communication, just conveying meaning. You know, I transfer my meaning to you and you respond and so on. So that is the utilitarian side, just a tool for communication. I suppose in your digital language you say it's an app, a communicative app, meaning transfer, you see? But you know, on that one side it is just that, on the other side it is also a mine field of emotions, conveys emotions and the two cannot not really be parted. This is why you feel people talk about people sucking their language from their mother's breast and everything. Emotion is contained in language.
And what do you realize that even when you think you are using language neutrally as just a tool of communication, maybe that is hardly ever there. The emotional side is always existing. If you are looking at somebody and you say, “You are a fool.” Okay, you are conveying your intention. But the obvious [inaudible 00:37:31] you realize if you’re not out of reach, you may suffer some consequences and so on because you stir emotions. And that is either barely a simple level. Anyway, so, that is one of the problematics. And of course, as you shall see this can be exploited negatively or positively. With us now in the literary field, and even today I was talking about it, we're still in the middle of an argument, which has been raging for a long time out. Of course, you know it because it's in the public debate. Our elder, Ngugi wa Thiong’o raised this thing when, after a very successful career writing in English, he turned around and say, “I do not want to write in English anymore. I will write in Gikuyu, my home language.”Or he calls it regional national language.
And apparently he’s been advocating the same for all of us that we should quit writing in English, which is a colonial language and be writing in our home languages. And we say, “Why?” Anyway, the debate continues and we take different sides and so on. I wish you could have a token with him just as [inaudible 00:38:56] has had with Professor Muigai. But maybe you can organize it for us. Since you people are very involved in the arts and creativity. I was humbled when Mbwana Den told us that you beat us hands down. But that was me you were really teasing and the former chief there. But maybe now they’ll think about it and rehire me. You know, we were never beaten when I was there. Okay. So there you are. Now, like I was telling you now, the other problematic of language that has weight in deconstruction theory, language is always already changing. Language is always already changing in our hands. And this is very problematic because while you are thinking one thing today, something's going to happen tomorrow and it will change the whole situation. When we take this to the extreme we say that even as you utter a word, its meaning may be changing. So how will you be sure that you are communicating? But when you go to make a policy decisions and so on, it becomes a real challenge as you can see. Okay. So, it is with this that we begin to work with the East African situation. I'll briefly just give you…Sorry, can you hear me?
Speaker 2: Yes.
Prof. Bukenya: And I hope I'm not yelling too much at you. I should pity your ears. Now, the East African situation, I'll just briefly outline what it’s like. That in fact, it's a study in contrasts generally. That if you think about the situation in Tanzania, the situation in Kenya and the situation in Uganda, they contrast quite conspicuously. In Tanzania, as we said, for a long time, I think like in the years that we were in Dar es Salaam my students on the era of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the few following years, although they had accepted the… Of course you all have the colonial situation. We all had the colonial experience when English was imposed on us as East Africa. So it become the language of education, it became the language of the legal practice, the language of politics and so on. As you know, our constitutions are written in English and so on. And that situation persists in all our three countries to a certain extent. But in Tanzania there was a deliberate tendency to minimize it and gradually promote Kiswahili. And of course along with that there was also the kind of, if not suppression, at least known encouragement of the local languages so that Tanzania became at most just bilingual with a little English and mostly Kiswahili, almost monolingually Kiswahili speaking.
So of course there've been, like I’ll point out presently, they'd been sort of backtracking. They thought Kiswahili would go all the way in their education system up to through university. But then somewhere around the late 80s, early 90s, they started backtracking and saying, “No, no. We need English and ready to encourage it. And the standards of our English are falling.” So they had that backtracking. They couldn’t quite erase Mwalimu’s influence and all that. So, and of course, what you find now they are sending a lot of their young paper to so-called English medium schools and sending them to Uganda where they think we speak good English. I wonder whoever told them that. So, there is that. Now, of course, when you come to Kenya, I think Kenya has tendered to be a sort of middle way that okay, we have English as an official language, but you have Kiswahili as a national language. And of course, our home languages are left to fend for themselves again, but not discouraged. I think you know about that. We can always shortwave whenever we want.
So it’s that kind of less [inaudible 00:43:54] let things be and so on. So there is that. But of course, as you know recently I think in the… what do I call it? Competence, the new curriculum. The CPC, they call it?
Speaker 3: Competence based.
Prof. Bukenya: Yeah, competence based. They’re beginning to encourage the teaching of local languages, home languages and people are publishing study books and so on. Of course, the problem with that, and incidentally as I said, of course I'm sort of just giving you an outline. Kiswahili, as you realize, was accepted and adopted quite early on in our days over independence. But of course it was more or less a fete complete, it was always there. I think our history, even through the colonial times.
And of course the growth of urban areas already encouraged and promoted the use of Kiswahili. And of course the fact that we have Kiswahili as a native language in significant areas of Kenya, like the coastal area, don't be told the lie that Kiswahili has no native speakers. That was a colonial lie. So it has native speakers and its spread was fairly obvious that it came around. And, at independence, the decision was made to make Kiswahili a national language. It wasn't implemented equally, somebody has pointed out to the irony of having a national language which is not fully an official language. In fact, it was in order for certain attempts to counteract that that the Kenya government decided back in the 60s, middle 60s, late 60s, to introduce Kiswahili into parliament and of course the debate raged very much.
I remember clearly still our first post-independence attorney general Mzee Charles Njonjo once saying in parliament that he found it difficult to think of Kiswahili being introduced into parliament because he wouldn't know how to draft a bill in Kiswahili. We yelled at him and heckled him because we are East Africa very much in those days. We were shouting from Dar es Salaam, of course, with the impudence of youth saying, “Well, if Mr. Njonjo can't draft a bill in Kiswahili, then it is not Kiswahili that should be thrown out of parliament.”And so on. So, and of course Mr. Matano, do you remember Robert Matano? Those of you, a very prominent parliamentarian who said, “Of course.”Some people were saying, “Oh, Swahili doesn't have enough vocabulary, technical vocabulary and so on. So what are you talking about? If we don’t have a word for a hot dog, call it [embatano 00:47:09].” And so on.
So the debate continued raging. But I think really when very decisive language policy decision that was made. And as I said, these are not judgmental or praise things but I think with introduction of the 8-4-4 system, I think that was decisive in promoting Kiswahili because previous to that, Kiswahili had been an optional subject. As you probably remember, you could do it just like you could take a French option or a German option and so on. But with that element of bringing Kiswahili as a compulsory subject, I think it did a lot to boost the fate of Kiswahili. And I think it will continue even in the CBC system. Of course that's where we are today. But as you know, I think… I don't know about the new constitution, can one speak in Kiswahili in the [foreign 00:48:58]? In parliament? Can one make a speech? And you don't hear it very often, but at least it's there on the books. The action, it may be a bit erratic and rare but it's there and I think that's one way.
Now, if you crossover to Uganda, you’ll find a slightly different situation that Kiswahili is not…well, wasn't for a very long time accepted as one of the languages, operative languages and at independence in 1962, we went monolingually official with just English. That national business was to be conducted in English. As for the local languages, somehow because of the more less colonially controlling system in Uganda, the local languages developed in the churches, in the schools, at least at the… what do they call it? Primary school level. And some of them, like [inaudible 00:49:26] and so on at the secondary level. But the official situation was that until… And Kiswahili of course came in to become the language of the armed forces or the disciplined forces official language and it was taught, again, as an option in the high schools and so on.
But that's how the situation remained until things in 1995 when they had the constitutional review there and Kiswahili was actually declared an official language to be used in specifically defined contexts. I don’t know if they have actually defined that, but I don't know, but I know what is happening on the ground because I've been… like I told you I’m an activist and I've been trying very much to promote Kiswahili on the ground in Uganda where, of course with other colleagues. As you know, all over East Africa, we, in the last decade, we had the establishment of the East African Kiswahili commission. We came together… Originally the three original East African countries, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania. We had Professor Kimani Njogu representing Kenya and Dr. Ann Akishe who was then executive secretary of Bakhita, the Baraza La Kiswahili La Tanzania. And then me for my sins, I was on that panel. But eventually the commission has been set up with its headquarters in Zanzibar.
And I'm glad to say that its first executive secretary is actually our friend and fellow Kenyan Professor Enyadi Simala who was from Masinde Muliro University and is doing a very good job. His contract I think expires sometime next year, but we're hoping it will be renewed because he's still setting up quite a lot of things. And now we are supposed to have national Kiswahili councils everywhere, including Kenya and Uganda. But that is something that has got to go through legislation. And I don't know how far Kenya has gone, we gave our proposals through the minister of Gender, Culture and Social development. And then they said they sent this to be the law, the attorney General's chambers and so on to draw the bill properly, we are still waiting. Maybe they're not really giving it priority. So that the situation in Uganda. But three things have struck me about that. But in Uganda, there is a great reluctance to promote Kiswahili. We are really almost banging our heads against the wall. And I'll tell you why, because there is a lot of competition against Kiswahili. Being especially in my own ethnic group, the Luganda speakers.
Because we are a very large group and of course privileged, we are the people around the capital, the people who have the economic means, the political clout and all that. And we regard our language, Luganda, as the natural choice for national language and official language. And of course, another reason behind that is the historical reason that the British used us in their indirect rule system where, as you know, they would send out their collaborators to subjugate their neighbors and dominate them. The Baganda went from Kampala, covered the whole of the Eastern region and part of the Northern and Southern Western regions and so on. And they imposed the Luganda on them so that you would find people speaking Luganda or Kiganda as far as the Kenya border. If you go to Busia you can communicate very easily with everybody there and so on. So there is that. And people agitate against the introduction of Kiswahili because they see it, rightly, I suppose, as a rival. And then there was a kind of source of missionary conspiracy, because once… Although Kiswahili was the language that was used to bring Christian instruction and so on to the interior just as it did everywhere.
And you still find most of the words concerning worship, [foreign language 00:54:25] and so on foreign language 00:54:30], they were there; they are in the Christian languages there because they came from the Kiswahili thing.
But once they were established there and they had made alliances with the local people, they started to say please don't promote Kiswahili, because it is going to promote Islam here. Because Islam is quite a strong faith out there. But you see, playing on the emotions of the people as I told you, playing the emotional card. Even more so, as I told you, Kiswahili happened to be the language of the armed forces. And what happened was, when they had those really undisciplined so called disciplined forces during the Idi Amin days and so on. Because those people were using some kind of very debased kind of Kiswahili actually. People started really hating and rejecting Kiswahili. I define it in my own study as the Panda Gari syndrome because those soldiers would come and sweep a whole village, and load them on Lorries and go and torture them and so on. So there is that element as well.
But anyway, I shouldn't go into too many details, but we are battling against that because, as I told you, we've had some gain that officially, Kiswahili was declared in the amendment to the 1995 constitution in 2003as an official language. But you see the contradictions there that now, although that has been declared, a very prominent educationist suggested in 1992 that Kiswahili should be taught throughout at least the primary system. It was accepted and published by the government. But has never been implemented. They always argue, “We don't have enough teaching materials. We don't have enough teachers.” I'd say, “We’ve got enough teachers. Look, we are graduating Kiswahili students at Makerere, and just next door there is a whole lot of graduates who are [foreign language 00:56:38]. Who are trampling the tarmac? Why don't we bring them?” We make a rather silly joke and say, “When you come, we’ll even give you shambas and good salaries. [foreign language 00:56:52]. So why don't you go for them? Why don't you go to Tanzania and get teachers?”
So you find that many of these things are actually I think…what do you say in English? [foreign language 00:57:09], excuses. But we keep saying, “Well, [foreign language 00:57:15].”So that's the kind of situation we are in. Now, let me just conclude by pointing out what happens in these multilingual situations, some of the problems we have. One, you realize that in a multilingual situation there is, as I said, the language situation is always shifting. In terms of the way we grade our language. You can think about acquisition; first language, second language, third language. But then, we may think about utilization, though this changes, you may be a first language speaker of say Ekegusi but because you live and work in an environment where Ekegusi is not very often spoken, you will find that maybe your priorities are going to change. That you’ll be using more English, more Kiswahili and less Ekegusi. Do you see what I mean? So from first language, second language, third language, you get a situation of a primary language, secondary language, tertiary language. I don't know if you are…This is something within your own experiences, that maybe this is what you experienced.
That, especially for you now in the university situation, probably your primary language is English and maybe when you go off the campus and so on, you’ll find your secondary language is actually Kiswahili and your home language usually may speak with only a few of your people of your community or when you go home, that will become your tertiary language. So that becomes a challenge.
Now how do we order these languages? Then there is what you called hierarchization, the hierarchy in terms of social prestige and so on. We have the problem of colonial brainwashing that we were told the language of power of course is English and of course the language of the hoi polloi, maybe they speak Kiswahili and so on. Of course the tribal languages, they call the more tribal dialects. I want to go into that because dialects is just a variety of one language. That the language may have varieties, slight differences. Like if you say language like Kikamba, a friend of mine that’s just written a beautiful bookgram about it and she points out about these differences and say the people from Kitui will speak like this and people from Machakos and Makueni will speak like this and maybe people from Mwingi will speak slightly differently. Those are what you mean by dialects. We don’t to call our languages dialects as [foreign 01:01:05] Museveni tends to do. Because when they do that the Europeans tended to just degrade our languages and so on.
So every language is a complete language besides those varieties. And then of course, the other thing that, there are also what we call registers. Registers. That you may have an informal language, the language you speak in your intimate [inaudible 01:01:50] of formal language and then a specialized level of language. This is where your legalese comes in. But legalese is not a special language. It is a register variety, we call them registers. Intimate, informal, formal, specialized. The church people would have their own languages where they started out thoughing, thying and thyning and so on. And brethren and sistren. So those are just registers. Okay. But now, when you get to that situation, how do we come to operate? That what do we need? I won’t go too much into that. But let me just briefly to you what I think a realistic language policy should be. I’ll just enumerate a few things here that I thought that realistic linguistic variety should be to begin with empirical. That is, based on clearly observed situations on the ground. Say how many languages do we have? Where are they used? At what level are they used? And so on.
And of course, even if you are going to start teaching them like…Incidentally, the teaching of local languages is not just a Kenyan inspiration. It is an international phenomenon which has been rising considerably since the beginning of the century when the United Nations came out and said, they called it native language, is a human right. That every human being has got a right to their… they may use mother tongue but you know what we mean, first language, home language. And of course, but they cannot have that right if they don't have access to it through the media, through education, through various social interactions and so on. And I think like the problem we are facing with the… Goodwill may be there to teach these languages but we’ve no trained teachers. Being a speaker of the language doesn't automatically make you a good teacher. So those are challenges. But this is it. Let's observe exactly what is on the ground and then base our decisions on that.
When they say we should teach the local languages, what local language will you teach in Nairobi for example? And how will you decide what it is in the [foreign ]? That is sheng’. Sheng’, which is an emerging language. Somebody wrote that it is going to kill Kiswahili. I don't think it is and I don't oppose it myself.
I think it’ll find its level, but this is where the management comes in that we need to manage these changes. Then it should also be comprehensive. A system, a language policy should cover all the necessary aspects. One of the main problems of our countries is that the language policies are fragmentary and desultory. Something is said here and then…But it doesn't really cover every aspect. In fact, what we are working towards now, like with Kiswahili is what we are calling mainstreaming Kiswahili in every area of public operation. But it's not covering all the possibilities. And of course also systematic. There are things that should work together. I told you about the declaration, the constitutional stipulation in the Uganda constitution that Kiswahili is an official language but then as I told you, they’re not teaching it. Or certainly not covering the whole area, at least in the primary schools.
At one time, a lady who was our minister of education said, “Oh, I think the money that was allocated to Kiswahili should be, I think, reallocated to sanitation.” I said, I wrote back and I complained that I said, “Well, sanitation is very important, but taking money from an official, declared official language that should help people to learn their official language is denying them a constitutional right.” I don't know if my constitution interpretation there was adequate, but that is the kind of inconsistency you get. [inaudible 01:05:25] this is our official language and so on. And then when you go into church or whatever you pray in the tongues or whatever and so on. So a systematic and also flexible. I suggest flexible or adaptable. Because, as I said, language is always changing. So the language policy should be also adapting to the realities of the situation inclusive. Of course, this is one of the main challenges we face in our multi-lingual situation. Here you have the national cohesion and what? Yeah. The commission there. I still attribute it to Bwana Kibunja but he's moved on to other things. Who’s heading that? I don't know. Do you know? Who is heading the… Okay. Yeah. Ole Kaparo, that’s right. Our former speaker, is it? Yeah. Okay.
So why we say we should encourage our regional national languages as Ngugi calls them. How do we avoid the fragmentation of short waving? We use that expression. When you were there, different language speakers and then somebody… Suddenly somebody switches into a local language with one or two others there and the others are left out, you see. So, how do we maintain that inclusiveness while developing the diversity? Okay. And of course more clarity that our policies should be clearly defined, people should know. And of course, about the divisiveness and the cohesion of our local languages. I think the problem doesn’t actually lie in the languages themselves. But in the way we use them. Again, like we said, register, defining the contexts in which those languages should be used. So these are some of the thoughts I thought we may contemplate on and see where we’re challenged definitely by our multilingualism, but the problem is not the multilingualism but how we manage it and develop viable policies about it. Thank you very much. I'm sorry I went on a little longer than I thought, but I get carried away. Thank you.
Very briefly, [Miawa01:08:04] is asking about that, what is a cause application and I think is very good, because I might have spoken very much just at the hypothetical level, but when it comes to the brass tacks of what we do with language.
Basically, this is where the definition policies comes in very clearly and actualization of policies. One thing to say, okay, we shall be multilingual like in South Africa with I think 13 or so something official languages. In addition to English, you see. I think what is needed there is it applies mainly to the technical terms because in many situations you find, how are you going to…what are you going to call… Do you call the law of tort, for example? What are you going to call tort in Tholuo? I don't know. Do we have a word for it? And so, and then of course if you say what are you going to call it in Tholuo then you have to ask what are you going to call it in Kikuyu? What are you going to call it in Turkana and so on? Then, what you need is actually a standardizing agency where these things are used as kind of a clearing house that people come up with ideas and suggest what best conveys their context, the concept and then agree on it.
A very good example we had in Tanzania was what was called the TUKi, [foreign language 01:09:59]. In the early days, 1960s and 70s. They called it the Institute of Kiswahili research, I guess. These days they call it TATAKi, Takhsisi ya Taaluma za Kiswahili. And that is where I learnt some of my Kiswahili and sometimes cheat people and get away with it. In fact, next time I come I will speak in Kiswahili about legal terminology. But you see, what they used to do, they would, for example, say, “Okay, we want a term for a thing like television. And so what are we going to call it?”And people would come up with terminology this, this, this, this. And then they debate them and say, “No, this I think is the best.”But as it is, Kenya, we don't, we didn't, but I think now we should have an institution like that. This is where what I told you about the setting up of a language council. Of course now we are talking about a Kiswahili council, but I think there should be a national…Maybe, is there any institution like that, comparable to TUKi? You see? A lot of the terminology that has been developed in Kenya, like rununu, have you heard that word, rununu? For the cell phone, runinga of course. And whatever, quite a number of them.
They're developed by self-appointed linguists like the late Sheikh Napani who gave us the words like runinga, rununu, [foreign language 01:11:56] and rununu means wonder or something like that. And you had a quite a few of those words being developed. But the thing that you need for example, for you, like in a school of law or an institute of law, you could sit down and debate how are we going to have this official terminology? And then you publish this, circulate them, this is the process of standardization. In fact, if you check out the publications of TUKi, and they still go on, the dictionaries we use, Kamusi Ya Kiswahili Sanifu [foreign language 01:12:42], Kamusi Sanifu, you know, this is standardized. They did many of these in law. I think there is one in law, Kamusi Sanifu Ya Sheria, you might be interested and so on. So this I think is one way of meeting that challenge.
Jack: [inaudible 01:13:05], my name is Jack. Africa has a population of a 1.2 plus billion people. And 120 million people of this in East Africa and about 80%, 80 million people speak Kiswahili. So then why can't we in East Africa embrace Kiswahili instead of using a colonial language English to have a transformative education in East Africa and then the rest of other African countries will follow suit. I’m also aware that a 100, about 170 million people in Africa speak Arabic.
Can’t East Africa be an example to the other nation? Right now we're talking about free market in East Africa, I mean, in Africa, recently. So how would we realize the economic development if we use different languages? And it will be, I believe, very difficult for somebody, a Kenyan to go to Congo because Congolese will speak Lingala. So why don't we use Kiswahili because it's of African culture unlike the Arabic because the Arabs will have more influence in that. So, my proposal and my request is, is there a way for the commission to impress Kiswahili as a mode of our education system in East Africa? Thank you.
Prof. Bukenya: Yeah, a very good question. But let me give you a factual correction. You said we cannot do business with the Congo because they speak Lingala, that is true, but not for the entire nation. In fact, a large part of the Eastern Congo, DRC, you mean, they speak Swahili? In fact is one of their political problems because they tend to divide themselves from the Kinsasha Western people who speak Lingala and Eastern which speak Kingwana, which is an accepted dialect of Kiswahili actually. You can communicate in… I heard the man who won the Nobel Prize for peace, the surgeon, he speaks Kiswahili, like a lot of the people from there and so on.
So the Kiswahili is spoken in quite a large part of the Eastern Congo. But the rest, what you say is right. I mean, why can’t we promote a continental language or a few of these languages as continental languages? Now, that is already happening. Regarding the number of Kiswahili speakers, maybe it is bigger than you realize. If you say 80 million, is probably more than the mark, maybe about 110, the least. But of course, it all depends on how you rate the competence of the speakers. So, but Kiswahili is a very good example. This is why I said that I'm optimistic about Uganda. Despite the resistance, that Kiswahili seems to sell itself. After all, it’s sold itself across East Africa. As I said, it's a native language of the coast, but somehow, different historical, economic and so on factors made it spread right through the interior, and is still spreading.
But even more importantly, as we know, Kiswahili has been adopted as a working language at the African Union back in I think at the beginning of this century, Kiswahili was adopted as one of the official working language because of course they have English and French and Arabic. Now Kiswahili is another of those languages. And of course there is a very big drive to… Some very famous cultural figures have recommended Kiswahili as the continental language of Africa. I don't know if you've noticed that. Wole Soyinka, have you heard about him? The Nobel Prize winner, they literature winner and so on. He, I was there actually at a conference in Lagos in 1977 when he came up with that suggestion. Now that was not easy for a Nigerian, a Yoruba man to come out and say, “I think Kiswahili should be promoted as a continental language.” But he did.
Of course, we can't say things have happened a lot but they are happening. In 2008 I was invited to Dar es Salaam, they have what you call Usiku Ya Kiswahili to give a keynote thing about that Kiswahili on the continent and I was speaking just about that, the spread of Kiswahili over the continent and were looking at places where it is taught and so on.
But we won’t go too much into that. You've heard recently that Kenya and South Africa have signed an agreement for Kenya to help in the setting up of the teaching of Kiswahili in South Africa. You see what is happening now? So, we are going places but like I said, and that one I delivered in Kiswahili actually and I was very badly challenged by the Zanzibaris because I told them, “If Kiswahili is accepted across Africa, we shouldn't regard ourselves as conquerors colonizing, invaders in those countries. We have to have a lot of humility in going about that.”And then also I said that, “Well, obviously as Kiswahili spreads across Africa, it will change, inevitably change.” That is what displeased the Zanzibar is [foreign language 01:19:18]. I said, “Well, you can listen to me as I speak, my accent is not like yours. And yet we’re communicating. What matters is not that Kiswahili will change but [foreign language 01:19:35].We have to manage those changes.”
But as I told you, Kiswahili definitely is going places. And of course I mean the people from overseas, professor Mugane and the others will tell you about the phenomenal… I think I call it Phenomenal development of Kiswahili, I think more than 300 universities and colleges teach Kiswahili, up to quite high levels of competence and so on. Maybe Dr.Mugane will tell us about that. [foreign language 01:20:08].
Speaker 4: I wanted to pose a question and that is having to do with, I’m in an institution where language learning and language use is actually been on the decline. But I went to a university where language consideration is given such high priority and recognition that in fact, like I said earlier, do you want to insist on it? We've taught, we teach more than just about two dozen languages every semester to 500 students at Harvard. They're not there to learn how to order meals in restaurants and read to train schedules and describe bedrooms and other things that other languages do. But they’re actually there for the disciplines and the professions. And so linguists are normally very nervous about language planning. And the reason they are nervous is that it produces, it produces rules and you have to start figuring out what is actually important and all the other stuff.
Linguists prefer to go and see in the marketplace what's going on. So, if you're doing research… I was just, if you're doing research, you're actually going to go to the particular community that speaks the language and actually use it and translate it and then produce the material in English or Swahili and so on. The thing it seems is that we keep confusing the language of publication with the language of actual deliberations that actually produce the knowledge that we have. So, while it is very clear that we do not want to buy buildings and trade expensive things with all kinds of languages, the question I'm asking is, it appears to me from my institution that you can make an argument that languages are neglected in some way because if faculty take use of them, they actually seem to… students also follow along.
So I wonder whether I'm wrong or not. But when we were at Stanford, they wouldn't allow anybody to actually take languages. They were saying, “Get six weeks of language, then neglect language and go do engineering.”And we’re basically saying, “No, those bridges you're going to build, they're going to speak these other languages.” So is there a position whereby you can have a language policy that is every language?
Prof. Bukenya: For me, like I think I mentioned, because I speak my language, I write in it, I've even done a dictionary in it and so on, written and novels and plays and things. So I opt initially for what I would call a trilingual approach.
A home language, Kiswahili, English. I don't want to discard any of them because I mean there's just being realistic. And Ngugi has been talking about it, not discarding English but not writing in English, but he's been saying it in English all these years which means, I think for Ngugi, if I understand him well, he may be overstating the case. But justifiably, for rhetorical emphasis, that the point has got to be made strongly, a kind of affirmative action for our local languages. So I think that is quite understandable, but in the long run, you find that we cannot say we will just throw out English. Of course, it's a colonial language and so on. It might have been a colonial language as in the historical perspective. But as Chinua Achebe said, “It’s as much our language now. We have to…It appropriated us, now we have to appropriate it for obvious reasons.”And definitely, I think we should write in it.
Even for creative works. And I think our young writers are doing this very efficiently in English. I don't know if you know the new book that is doing the rounds in Kenya now, The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. But I mean there are so many others. In Uganda, there is the Kintu story by Jennifer Makumbi, which even if you don't like fiction has won her $165,000.Now, even if you don’t like it, you’d want to take another look, you see. So, and there is a very good reason for this, the same thing goes for Kiswahili. In fact, for Kiswahili, I have a double argument. One is that it is the unify Africa language, the language that unites us because language also has a lot to do with identity. It defines us and I think Kiswahili more than any other language. Not only in East Africa, I mean, you go anywhere else people recognize you as an African, probably they'll say a word or two in Kiswahili to you, you know about this. So it is our… both uniting as what we call a lingua franca. You know, the common language that unites us, and both identifies us as African.
But I also argue, in the Ngugi case that Kiswahili is a mother tongue if you wish. There are many people who regard it as a mother tongue in two ways. That there is the Waswahili Asilia [foreign language 01:26:40], if you think of us. And of course it's not only in a theoretical sense, of course Mwalimu Nyerere who was my sort of super teacher out there like he was for all of us who were in Dar es Salaam. He would talk about the Tanzanians as, “[foreign language 01:26:58].” You see? That inclusiveness. And it was true because you’ll find, like again in our town areas and so on, and you find like in mixed marriages, people come from two different ethnic groups and they don't have a common language between them or maybe they may have English, but if they don't, their common language would be Kiswahili.
And of course the neighborhood, there'll probably be speaking in Kiswahili and so on. So it is a first language, practically first language for these people. If you say they should write in their first language, then their first language is Kiswahili. You cannot… Ngugi is guardedly cool about Kiswahili, I think he recognizes it and its importance, but I think…Well, he’s a very versatile man and he may come up with some kind of illuminating statement, but so far I wish…In fact, I was trying to probe him about that. We had lunch with him before the launching of the book about him that Thursday, which was wonderful.
It was like going back to the old Makerere days and all that. But I saying, “Would you put a word for Kiswahili?” And he was… He always compliments me on having popularize orator but about Kiswahili I’m yet waiting for an encouraging word. Okay. So there it is, that things are happening, but what you are saying now, this standardization like of Kiswahili should be the work of the Kiswahili commission. And of course, I mean, we cannot say that we’ll do it. We have to give them ideas because they're kind of clearing house. And…Do you have their contact? Professor Simala’s contact? The East Africa Kiswahili commission? I see. Okay. Maybe I’ll give you Simala’s number and you can get in touch.