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English language imposed in Rwanda yet unspoken by 98% of the population

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KIGALI – A customer and a bank clerk nearly came to blows recently in Kigali. The customer had asked the clerk to help him fill in the withdrawal slip in English, but the clerk refused. “How are we supposed to be able to fill in a document in English if you can’t do it yourself?” asked the angry customer.

For most Rwandans, English is a foreign language although its usage in banks, shops, the media and administration has significantly increased. As many Rwandans do not understand it, they struggle with paperwork and end up avoiding English-only stores and businesses altogether.e withdrawal slip in English, but the clerk refused. “How are we supposed to be able to fill in a document in English if you can’t do it yourself?” asked the angry customer.

In the streets of Kigali, French and Kinyarwanda (Rwandan) shop signs have been overtaken by English. The same phenomenon is also taking place in the media. Rwanda’s only free-to-air TV station TVR, which is state-owned, broadcasts English-language programs from the BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Chronicles and news bulletins make up the only truly national programs. English also prevails on private radio.

“It’s as if banks and radio stations don’t want to reach the majority of Rwandans,” says a villager from Bugesera, in the Eastern Province.

Kinyarwanda, French and English are Rwanda’s three official languages. The last national census, carried out in 2002, showed that 99.7% of Rwandans living in the country spoke Kinyarwanda, 3.9% spoke French, 1.9% spoke English and 3% Kiswahili (Swahili is used as a lingua franca in East Africa). Older Rwandan graduates only learnt French and their native language while younger ones have learnt a little English.

Many Rwandans refrain from shopping in stores that label everything in English: “We’re afraid of buying pet-food by mistake if a clerk isn’t around to translate the labels,” jokes a man from Kigali. “Shop owners should have their products labeled in Kinyarwanda, which most people speak,” he adds.

“Banks and other financial companies, which require their customers to fill in forms, should translate their documents in several languages,” suggests a local economist. For him, “to chose one language for commercial use excludes a large number of customers.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of young Rwandans have stopped using their mother tongue. Public servants who were trained in French force themselves to speak English – even though they hardly know how to – “to practice or simply to show off.”

“Young snobs and intellectuals alike have taken to speaking English only,” notes a teacher from Butare, the country’s second largest city.

In 2008, the Rwandan government decided to change the medium of education and administration from French to English. The government wanted “to give precedence to the language that would make Rwandans more competent.” They justified their decision by saying English was the language of business and would facilitate Rwanda’s integration into the East African Community (EAC) – whose members are all Anglophones.

“But graduates from Rwandan universities speak a broken mix of languages. Their English is not good enough to compete with their Anglophone neighbors,” explains a professor from the National University of Butare.

Three years after establishing English as Rwanda’s education and administration official medium, the government partly reversed its decision. Kinyarwanda is now the official language for the first three years of primary school education.

It’s worth it to note that Rwanda, which has been a member of the International Organization of La Francophonie since the 1970s, joined the Commonwealth in 2009.



September 20, 2012   2 Comments

Kagame To Attend “Rwanda Day 2012” In United States

Paul Kagame

Rwanda President Paul Kagame will this week travel to United States to participate in several activities at the much-anticipated second edition of Rwanda Day 2012.
This year’s event will take place in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, starting on Friday September 21 to 22, 2012.

According to Eng. James Kimonyo, the Rwanda Ambassador to United States, the theme of this year’s Rwanda Day is “Agaciro, The Journey Continues…”
“This event will provide the opportunity for all Rwandans as well as our friends to learn more about the remarkable unfolding success story of Rwanda’s progress by hearing and seeing all the ways that this rebirth has been made possible,” said Kimonyo.
“I am pleased to inform you that His Excellency, President Paul Kagame has accepted to be our Guest of Honor,” he added.
Kimonyo said last year’s Rwanda Day event held in Chicago was a great success.
“Outdoing such a success is no small fit, but I am confident we can. I am most especially inspired by the incredible interest shown by so many of you that have already committed to attend Rwanda Day edition in Boston this year.”
This event will be marked by celebrations of Agaciro (Dignity) through traditional songs, poems, drums and dances.
A variety of organizations will also use this opportunity to showcase their products and potential opportunities for trade and investment offered in Rwanda.
Kimonyo observed: “Some of our Government leaders will share with us information on the ongoing political and socio-economic development of our country, and a wide range of topics will be covered during a series of panel discussions.”
According to the tentative programme, Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo will give the opening speech.
Prof. Shyaka Anastase, CEO Rwanda Governance Board, will give a key speech under the theme “Ongoing governance Reforms, Taking Bold Steps.”
According to international surveys, Rwandans have highest levels of trust in their institutions.
This is primarily due to high levels of accountability and governing reforms aimed at empowering the citizen.
John Rwangombwa, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning will discuss a topic on “Rwanda Socio-Economic Transformation, the Next Phase (EDPRS).”
Rwanda has seen average economic growth of 8% in the last decade.
This growth has come along with socio-economic transformation such that one million people have lifted themselves out of poverty in the last 5 years (EDPRS I).
The Government of Rwanda sets more ambitious targets to ensure that 45% of its citizens are out of poverty under EDPRS II.
Mushikiwabo will separately analyze Rwanda’s global relations.
According to Kigali officials, Rwanda remains committed to promoting good relations based on the respect, mutual interests with other countries, aiming at enhancing peace, security and development.
The guests will also attend Rwanda Cultural Night on Friday.
Then on Saturday, President Kagame is expected to give a speech alongside other high profile guests in the Diaspora.
The function will end with a cocktail and entertainment.

Source: News

September 20, 2012   No Comments

Zimbabwe police seek Rwandan fugitive Protais Mpiranya

Zimbabwe’s police say they have launched a manhunt for a former top Rwandan official, accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

Protais Mpiranya was a commander in the Presidential Guard in 1994 and is accused of playing a key role in the slaughter of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Zimbabwe has previously been accused of sheltering him.

The UN’s Rwandan war crimes tribunal has offered a $5m reward for him.

“We want him dead or alive. We are looking for information to arrest him; we don’t know how long he has been in the country,” chief superintendent Peter Magwenzi of the police homicide section told the AFP news agency.

Last year, Zimbabwean official denied that he was in the country.

Source: BBC News

September 20, 2012   No Comments