Writing in The East African (January 11-16 edition), Shayaka Kanuma, Chief Editor of Rwanda Focus, a Kigali weekly publication, gave notice of the death of the French language in Rwanda. “Almost everyone speaks Kinyarwanda and English in public offices”, he declared, and that English is now the “language of instruction in Rwanda’s entire education system”.
Citing as his reasons for making such a dramatic statement Mr Kanuma pointed to a desire by the country after the Rwanda Patriotic Front took power in 1994, “to re-imagine itself in many ways”; that members of the new administration had been to school in English-speaking Uganda; and that Paul Kagame’s speeches in English had further inspired others to take up the language.
He also noted “cultural forces” at work such as the influence of music from JayZ, Fifty Cent and Beyonce, the popularity of talk-show hostess Oprah Winfrey and the influence of DSTV.
In particular, he stated, “Every sports enthusiast, from the upscale professional to the wheelbarrow pusher, seems to be a fan of either Arsenal or Man U or Chelsea or Liverpool, and they want to follow the commentary, which is in English”.
Now there he hit the nail on the head as we know all too well in Kenya.
One Forum member says he is an Arsenal fan, his wife and daughter support Manchester United as does one of his colleagues at work, the other two workmates supporting Chelsea, and Liverpool.
But where tribal divisions can lead to clashes, and inter-family dispute lead to unhappiness, the love of an English Premier League team seems to lead to just good hearted and harmless, even is sometimes heated, debate.
Where two Kenyans are gathered together they talk football (and politics). Forget Swahili, forget even English, it’s the game of and the language of football that remarkably unites the nation in its divisions, and that, says the Forum, is no bad thing.