In 1969, then Kenya's Attorney General Charles Njonjo (pictured) objected to Swahili becoming an official Kenyan language.
As Kenya ushers in the Second Republic, the country now has two official languages, namely English and Kiswahili. This is provided for in the new Constitution that was promulgated by President Mwai Kibaki on August 27. Kiswahili has since time immemorial been Kenyas national language with English beingthe only official language. It is the most widely spoken African language in Kenya, accounting for about 70 per cent of the speakers. People use Kiswahili to communicatein offices while the President sometimes uses Kiswahili to address the nation, mostly off the cuff. The new Constitution under Chapter two section 7 (2) declares Kiswahili an official language of the Republic together with English. (1) It retains its previous status as a national language.
What this means is that a person who visits a public office can choose to be addressed in Kiswahili. Before the new constitutional dispensation, litigants faced a number of barriers, with judges who are mostly competent in Kiswahili, insisting thatevidence adduced in that language be translated into English by court clerks. This has often resulted in the delay of cases. Kiswahili suffered a major setback when former AttorneyGeneral Charles Njonjo on July 25, 1969 objected to its introduction as an official language. He argued that Kiswahili has its origins in the Arabic language and if all foreign languages were to be done away with, it should be on the list.