Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 5, No 2 (2011)

KiSwahili: the lingua franca of Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda

Calisto Mudzingwa
Issued Date: 15 Jul 2012

Abstract


This study examines the complex linguistic situation in Nakivale Refugee Settlement (Nakivale), and demonstrates that, for practical and pragmatic reasons, KiSwahili is emerging as the lingua franca, which needs to be actively promoted by the authorities. Nakivale is located in southwestern Uganda. The refugee settlement was started in 1959, and is of a more permanent nature. An estimated 80,000 people (refugees and Ugandans) reside in Nakivale, in the same settlement, sharing, among other things, health facilities, water, land, administrative services and educational facilities. The huge diversity of nationalities (nine, excluding one Liberian) translates into massive linguistic complexity, making communication across nationalities a nightmare. Lack of a common language breeds mistrust, tension, animosity and at times outright hostility. It is natural that a lingua franca is emerging in Nakivale; it is logical, practical and pragmatic that the lingua franca is KiSwahili. This paper recommends that the Government of Uganda, particularly the administrators of the settlement, together with humanitarian workers actively promote KiSwahili, by, for example, teaching it in schools in Nakivale and creating informal KiSwahili classes for adults. It is envisaged that a common language would bring harmony, stability and meaningful social interaction among the refugees.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v5i2.347

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