Author and African intellectual Ngugi wa Thiong’o says focus should be placed on decolonising the language of education. Africans can empower themselves with African culture, language and knowledge

History has shown us that language can be a powerful tool to unify – or to separate a people.

During the Muslim conquest of North Africa from 647 to 709 A.D. , conquered nations were forced to convert to Islam. As part of their conversion, their native languages were destroyed and replaced with Arabic. From the destruction of original cultures came a unified Islamic front. Fast forward to today, and because all Muslims share a common language, no matter where one Muslim is from, he or she is able to communicate with other Muslims in their area.

As another example, for almost 250 years China looked a lot like Africa looks today. Small territories with their own languages, currencies, and cultures were constantly at war with their neighbors. This period – called the Warring States period – claimed the lives of more than 10 Million people. It wasn’t until 221 BC that a man named Emperor Qin brought an end to the wars by conquering all 8 of the Warring States in just 9 short years. He then unified those states under one legal system, within one border, with one currency and one language. Fast forward to today, and the unity that Emperor Qin created still stands more than 2,000 years later.

The two examples above illustrate the fact that without a common language, there can be no unity. In the case of Africa, where there is division among languages, hell ensues.


Chinua Achebe felt the English language would carry the weight of his African experience. “But it will have to be a new English…”

When the great tribulation known as the maafa descended on African peoples, European invaders conquered and colonized nearly the entire African continent. As part of their divide and conquer strategy, groups of Africans that shared historical unity were forced apart by new political borders and colonial languages. With those new languages and divisions came new cultures and new conflicts. Africans who were now under French rule were used as soldiers to fight against Africans who were now under German rule. And with neither group able to speak to the other, conflicts between the two raged unchecked.

The divisions created by alien colonizers – be they Arabic or Europeans – last to this very day.


South Sudanese Troops
The Nuer speaking Black folk of South Sudan have been persecuted by the Arabic speakers of North Sudan for decades. The English speakers in the Northern part of Cameroon have been cut off from the rest of the world by French speakers in the southern part of the country as a form of political retribution. In both South Sudan and Cameroon, it seems the languages of the colonizers continue to divide Africans. And so, it must be through language that we can achieve our re-unification and sovereignty.


To bring a common awareness to our collective condition, Africans across the globe must unify under one language. English speaking African- Americans are ignorant of news coming out of Francophone Africa. Portuguese speaking Brazilians struggle to express solidarity with Xhosa tribesmen in Southern Africa. And Black men and women currently enslaved in Arabic countries are powerless to articulate their plight to non-Arabic speaking Africans.

However, if the African Diaspora were to unify under one language, all 1.3 Billion Blacks around the world would no longer be isolated from one another.

If linguistic unity is critical to Pan-Africanism, then the only language robust enough to achieve such unity is Swahili. Here is why:

• There are anywhere from 50 million to over 100 million Kiswahili speakers. That means with a population of 1.2 Billion, more than 10 percent of the African population already shares the same language.
• Three out of the 54 African nations have already declared Kiswahili their official language, and it is spoken widely in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands.
• Swahili is easy to learn. The tone that a word is spoken in does not change the meaning of the word (as is the case with Igbo and other Niger-Congo Languages). Verb conjugation is straight forward, and the language uses the noun class system.

In March (2017) members of the Pan-African group United Black America voted unanimous to make Kiswahili the official language as part of their efforts to remove all European influence from their organization.


The common language of the people must reflect their true nature and origin, which is why both European and Arabic languages cannot serve the African diaspora. When African Arabic speakers encounter African English speakers, genocide ensues.

Most of the members of our organization use an app called Duolingo to learn Kiswahili. It is one of the easiest apps out there and is available on both Apple and Android devices.

The article was first published on

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  1. Kiswahili is an African language classified as a Bantu language. It might have borrowed words but it is an African language genetically morphologically and syntactically. Arabic on the other hand is an Indo-European language.

  2. i think Africa don’t need to worry much languages, to destroy these Europan languages it might take a while.The most solution we can make as fast as now is currency.If we can use one currency in Africa, everything will go smoothly.

  3. I think swahili has roots in Arabic. Please double check. The word swahili comes from the Arabic plural of saahil, meaning coastal region. So I wonder how this pure african language be pure whilst rooted in Arabic?

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