The case for Kiswahili as a regional broadcasting language in East Africa
The peoples of East Africa have a long history of a rich and diverse regional heritage. Perhaps one of the most renowned aspects of this heritage is Kiswahili, the language widely spoken and understood across Eastern Africa. As the numbers of people who are proficient in the language continue to grow year after year, there have been numerous enriching perspectives on the anthropological, historical , literary and sociolinguistic aspects of Kiswahili. In this article, we offer a fresh perspective on how Kiswahili can be tapped as a resource for mobilizing popular support for the East African regional integration process across the five member states of the current East African Community: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. Kiswahili should be elevated to the position of a regional broadcasting language for a proposed regional broadcasting network operating under the aegis of the East African Community in Arusha, Tanzania. This is the main argument of the article. The argument is grounded on three main points, namely, media studies indicate that ICT and FM radio stations have become very popular mass media across Africa in the past two decades; radios are ubiquitous media of communication, entertainment and education across East Africa, especially in the rural areas where the vast majority of the people still live; and a regional broadcasting service, using the popular FM mode, can be mooted by the EAC Secretariat in Arusha to promote the programs of the EAC and harness the popular support for its intentions. Kiswahili should be given priority as the chief broadcasting language, as it is a rich symbol of the shared regional heritage. The paper concludes with a proposed framework that offers a basis for further thought and action towards the realization of the foregoing.