Written evidence from The Kenya National
Kiswahili Association (CHAKITA-Kenya)|
PETITION TO UK PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE
The National Kiswahili Association (CHAKITA) is disturbed
by the impending action to cut funding to BBC and in the process
deny citizens of Eastern and Central Africa access to critical
political, cultural, social and technological information. In
certain parts of the region, BBC is the only source of reliable
and critical information. We urge the British Parliament to consider
increased funding to BBC, not its reduction. Farmers and workers,
who speak Kiswahili and other African languages now being targeted
for marginalization rely on the BBC for information on environment,
health and agriculture. Cutting support will deny them of their
right to know.
(1) The 2008 post-election violence in Kenya
challenged in fundamental ways the country's national identity.
As a geographical space, the nation-state was put in jeopardy
and risked fragmentation. Young people, angry and disappointed
at the declaration of contested presidential results by the Electoral
Commission of Kenya, suddenly rose against their neighbors who
had exercised their constitutional right to vote for a candidate
of their choice. The fundamental right to life was temporarily
suspended in certain parts of the country. The BBC Swahili Service
was a critical source of information on Kenya.
(2) Africa is endowed with abundant national
resources. However, the continent's future economic growth will
depend mainly on its labour skills and its ability to accelerate
a demographic transition. Also, the continent will require to
invest in people in order to promote their individual development.
In order to achieve these, we need education, health, flexibility
and a certain amount of economic security. But in the context
of HIV and AIDS, war and conflict, drought, urbanization, unemployment,
and massive poverty, the situation does look grim. Yet by focusing
on protection against vulnerability, Africa can solve its crisis,
and language with the right and balanced content can play a major
role towards this end. In view of the dismal levels of literacy,
it is becoming quite important to use African languages, such
as Kiswahili, as engines of development can help solve the problem.
African languages might open possibilities for the bulk of the
people to be engaged in productive labour, and participate in
politics and economic activities. Regional languages could be
used to bolster cross-border trade, widen access to services especially
for the rural people and increase community involvement in construction,
maintenance and management of the infrastructure. The BBC should
continue being part of this process of transformation. It is indeed
the responsibility of Parliamentarians to show their sensitivity
to Africa by voting against the cuts on BBC broadcasts.
(3) The link between language and development
cannot be ignored. This is because language is more than a means
for the transmission of information. It is also a tool for creativity,
innovation, affinity and solidarity. By using a language such
as Kiswahili in radio broadcasts, we increase public participation,
facilitate affirmative action, broaden decision making processes,
build on cultural systems and ensure many Africans are enlisted
for African development. Thus within the context of seeking a
path to greater development by enlarging avenues for working directly
with communities, African languages should be emphasized and modernized
as engines of development. The BBC can be key in that process
through targeted broadcasts. It is not enough to talk to the elite;
reaching rural areas is of paramount importance.
(4) There is no doubt that Africa is undergoing
tremendous changes at the political level. A range of opportunities
are now available for popular participation in politics, accountability
of leaders, openness and transparency in the conduct of national
affairs, and the pursuit of justice and fairness for all. In pursuing
national integration across ethnic lines and between socio-economic
classes, responsible journalism is required. BBC has played that
role effectively over the years and needs to continue doing so.
The station commands respect among audiences and is viewed as
(5) Finally, the growth of communication technologyinternet,
mobile phones, and satellite networkshave truly compressed
time and space and opened opportunities for multiple voices to
be heard. We are witnessing the emergence of online communities
brought together on the internet by convergences of politics,
ethnicity, gender, professional duty and shared social concerns.
Communities are getting closer to the sources of information and
are more informed than a decade ago. The entertainment and media
industry are influencing culture and creativity in fundamental
ways but we are also experiencing multilingual internet sites
and radio programming in local languages. Quite often we hear
the voices of rural farmers on BBC commenting on local and global
events. We would like to continue hearing these voices.
THE UK PARLIAMENTARY
1. Do not cut Kiswahili Broadcasts because of
their importance to Africa.
2. Increase funding for World Service.
3. Support the right of all people to access
information, especially in Africa where literacy levels are still
We urge that no cuts be made with regard to broadcasts
in African languages, especially Kiswahili.
Prof. Kimani Njogu, Ph.D. (Yale)
Kenya National Kiswahili Association
10 February 2011