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Rights Abuse - English the Official Language

 

“I am now speaking English. I refer to the British language as a captured weapon we are now employing.” His Excellency President Yoweri Kagutta Museveni speaking at the function at the residence of the British High Commissioner in Kampala for the 2017 Official Birthday celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and also the 65th anniversary of her reign.

English, the official language of the Republic of Uganda, is not indigenous to the territory. It is not an ‘African-Ugandan’ language. It is the language of those who colonised the territory; a clear testament of sustaining neo-colonialism.

English as the official language de facto means that all Uganda’s important policy is written in English. It is rare, if at all, for policy documents to be translated into ‘African-Ugandan’ languages. The first National Development Policy (2010) and the second National Development Policy (2015), for example, are not translated into ‘African-Ugandan’ languages; and are available online only in English.

These two policies are among the key ones in which the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO) Administration articulates its vision and aspirations for the Republic. Such policies contain the structure which shapes all other policy, as it is defined by the NRMO Administration.

Policy documents not being translated into ‘African-Ugandan’ languages would ideally not be a problem; the formal education system of the Republic, after all, is conducted in English. Nevertheless, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2016), a significant proportion, nearly 30 percent, of the population aged 10 years and more are unable to “read with understanding and write a simple sentence meaningfully in any language”, let alone in English.

Illiteracy levels among women, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, are higher at a rate of 32.4 percent, as compared to among men at the rate of 22.6 percent. The varying abilities to read and write, may explain why there is male dominance in policy development and implementation arena.

Ability to read and write does not necessarily translate into one’s abilities of conceptual understanding as was beautifully captured by Okot p’Bitek in the “Song of Lawino”. The main protagonist, Lawino, the “Traditionalist-Ugandan”, is not able to read and write, but is highly intelligent in her mockery of global-western culture; in comparison to the reasoning abilities of her husband, Ocol, the “Westernised-Recaptive”.

It is Lawino who has the presence of mind to caution Ocol that: “the pumpkin in the old homestead must not be uprooted.”  Continue reading here