Mozambique's Chissano addresses summit in Kiswahili

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Outgoing African Union (AU) chairman Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique on Tuesday made history by partly using Kiswahili to address the continental body's third annual summit in Addis Ababa.
Kiswahili is widely spoken in East Africa, parts of central Africa and in certain Indian Ocean islands.
Chissano, who also retires from the Mozambican presidency later this year, read more than two thirds of his report and farewell speech in Kiswahili, thus becoming a pioneer in the utilisation of an African language during a continental summit.
The Bantu language with a slight influence of Arabic is commonly spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Comoros and eastern DR Congo, among other countries.
Although AU documents are not yet translated into Kiswahili, Chissano described his initiative as "a provocation".
His Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki also spoke in Kiswahili in his contribution to the general debate at the third AU summit.
Observers familiar with the debate on the introduction of African languages during discussions of the continental body were not surprised that Kiswahili became the first to be used.
The constitutive Charter of the now defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU) hinted about their introduction, while Article 25 of the African Union's constitutive Act clearly stated their importance.
"The working languages of the Union and all its institutions, if possible, include African languages, as well as Arabic, English, French and Portuguese," reads article 25 of the AU Act.
The AU charter clarifies the term "if possible" contained in the OAU charter to mean when translation is guaranteed.
This was the case when two Kiswahili speakers addressed the summit on Tuesday.
The audience applauded the initiative in spite of a few moments of confusion.
The utilisation of Kiswahili was first endorsed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) before being tabled for discussion last year during the second AU summit in Maputo, Mozambique, where it was formally recognised as one of the Union's working languages.
Other main African languages such as Hausa, Mandingo, Lingala and Fulani could also be used during AU meeting once simultaneous translation into the other working languages is possible.

07 july 2004 12:47:00

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