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‘Symbol of Freedom and Self-Reliance’

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Picture: Twitter/@WizaraSanaa Swahili has managed to emerge as the lingua franca of the region as it has come to epitomise the “freedom and self-reliance” of the population, especially during the national liberation movement, says language expert.

Kiswahili: Language Expert on its Value for East Africa

Africa celebrated Kiswahili Language Day on July 7. The most widely spoken language on the Continent, Kiswahili, or Swahili is a Bantu language spoken by over 200 million people in East Africa and other parts of the Continent.

In honour of the Kiswahili Language Day, Sputnik Africa sat down with Mayya Nikolskaya, a Swahili teacher at Russia’s MGIMO University, to reflect on the language’s role in history and its future.

Nikolskaya just returned from Tanzania’s Zanzibar where the day was observed in a big way.

“We had something that resembles very much May 1 demonstration that we used to have in Russia. That is when you have a lot of people basically marching all the way for an hour or so from one place to another, accompanied by a music orchestra, with people singing and dancing and crying all the time,” the linguist said.

According to Nikolskaya, festivities on this scale prove that Swahili connects people “from all walks of life, from all social strata”.

Elaborating on this idea, the expert noted that Swahili has managed to emerge as the lingua franca of the region as it has come to epitomise the “freedom and self-reliance” of the population, especially during the national liberation movement.

“Kiswahili for so many people, was the symbol of freedom and the symbol of self-reliance, maybe, because that was a purely African language,” Nikolskaya stressed. “It was a manifestation of all things African to people who resided in East Africa at the time.”

The Africanist added that even though many East African national leaders were educated in the UK, for example, when they returned, they still advanced Swahili as a unifying tool.

“That was like essentially a bridge between different ethnic groups, but also a unity between what later became to be different nations or different states on the African Continent,” Nikolskaya pointed out.

The expert recalled that the Soviet Union assisted in building African states after independence and noted that Russia has undertaken a lot of efforts to promote and study Swahili to know the culture of East Africa.

According to the teacher, the recognition of these merits is the decision of the National Kiswahili Language Council to extend an invitation to the Kiswahili Festival for teachers in Russia for the first time.

The expert added that Russia has a very strong school of African studies and African languages, and unlike Western textbooks, Russian manuals do not omit the proper structure, grammar, or vocabulary.

Moreover, Nikolskaya underlined, there are several high-level Swahili speakers at the Russian embassy in Tanzania, which is “truly unprecedented”.

“When you look at the other embassies at the diplomatic corps in Tanzania, as strange as it might sound, we are almost the only ones, the Russians are always the only ones who actually speak Kiswahili on a very good level,” she noted. “First off, this is basic respect […] You come to a country, you stay there for three, four or five years. What’s the point of not learning the language?”

The expert also pointed out the closeness of the cultures of Russia and Swahili-speaking countries.

Thus, there is a term in Swahili called “utu”, which implies humanity, showing kindness, and treating your neighbour well.

“This is the same thing we have in Russia. Just [that] in Russia this tends to be a large part from the Christian Orthodox philosophy but is still the same. The people do care about their community, and they try to be nice to people around them,” Nikolskaya remarked.

Replying to Sputnik Africa’s question about the prospects of Swahili development in Russia, Nikolskaya said that with the growing interest in Russia in the Continent, which is accompanied by the Russia-Africa summit, interest in this African language will expand.

For its part, regarding the future of Kiswahili in Africa, the researcher noted that it will depend on the actions of political leaders, even though Kiswahili is “obviously going to remain a lingua franca”.

“Whether it is going to be elevated to the next level is obviously going to depend, like I said, on the political leadership, because whether the people are ready to embrace Kiswahili, on the language policy, as an African language is part of their consciousness,” Nikolskaya concluded.

In late May, Alexey Maslov, the director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, said that from the new academic year in 2023, four schools in Moscow will start teaching such African languages as Swahili and Amharic.

Masters and graduate students of the institute have been involved in programme development and teaching, he said.

Third South African Consulate Opens in Ekaterinburg

Picture: Yuri Maltsev/REUTERS/August 5, 2012 – Local residents look at the newly built bridge across the Golden Horn bay in Russia’s far-eastern port of Vladivostok August 5, 2012. A consulate of the Republic of South Africa has been opened in the city of Ekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, Sputnik reports. Apart from its full-fledged embassy in the Russian capital, Moscow, South Africa has an honorary consulate in Vladivostok, a major city in the Russian Far East on the Pacific Ocean. Yuri Sivachenko, a Russian citizen, serves as South Africa’s Honorary Consul in Vladivostok.

Apart from its full-fledged embassy in the Russian capital, Moscow, South Africa has an honorary consulate in Vladivostok, a major city in the Russian Far East on the Pacific Ocean. Yuri Sivachenko, a Russian citizen, serves as South Africa’s Honorary Consul in Vladivostok.

A consulate of the Republic of South Africa has been opened in the city of Ekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, a Sputnik correspondent reported.

Earlier, on April 28, Sergey Mazurkevich, General Director of the Ural Mining Metallurgical Company LLC (UMMC), was appointed Honorary Consul of South Africa in Ekaterinburg.

The South African Consulate is located in the building of the Panorama business centre.

South African Ambassador to Russia and Belarus Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka told reporters that the possibilities of opening an honorary consulate in this region are enormous as opportunities are opening up between the two countries, noting that the appointment of Mazurkevich is quite a milestone.

“There are many similarities between South Africa and Russia. I am honoured to have such a title and we will do our best to develop interstate relations,” Mazurkevich said.

Alexander Kharlov, the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Ekaterinburg, noted that South Africa is a unique country with 11 official languages and that the task of the new consulate in the Urals is to show the potential of both countries.

In addition to the official part of the consulate opening, there was also a “musical break” where the South African jazz band Claude Booysen, based in Ekaterinburg, entertained the guests.

The new consulate in Ekaterinburg is the third South African consulate to be opened in Russia, the other two being in St. Petersburg in the north and Vladivostok in the far east.

In another development aimed at strengthening co-operation between Russia and African countries, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin earlier this week ordered the establishment of a trade mission to Nigeria later this year.

‘Western Staff Training is a Form of Neo-Colonialism’

Picture: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/October 24, 2019 – The Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, 2019. A Russian diplomat says while developing educational programmes in Africa, the West does not focus on training specialists in the field of natural and scientific disciplines necessary for the industrialisation of the Continent.

The diplomat’s remarks were made during a round table in the format of a video bridge Moscow – Kinshasa – Tunisia – Douala – Bamako on the theme: “Russia-Africa: Media Co-operation and Media Sovereignty”, organised by the Rossiya Segodnya Media Group.

Western approaches to personnel training in Africa have become a form of neocolonialism, while Russia is not going to “siphon off the brains of African countries”, said Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

“What is happening is what is called ‘brain drain’, and in other words, it is another form of neo-colonialism, exploitation of Africa, which has been going on for centuries through the slave trade and the pumping out of resources, and now it has turned into ‘brain drain’ and taking the best people out of Africa,” he said.

His remarks came during a round table in the format of a video bridge Moscow – Kinshasa – Tunisia – Douala – Bamako on the theme: “Russia-Africa: Media Co-operation and Media Sovereignty”, organised by the Rossiya Segodnya Media Group.

Ozerov noted that unlike the West, Russia “does not need to pump brains out of African countries”.

“On the contrary, it [Russia] is interested in training highly qualified personnel, including in those areas that the African Union needs most,” he added.

According to the Russian diplomat, while developing educational programmes in Africa, the West does not focus on training specialists in the field of natural and scientific disciplines necessary for the industrialisation of the Continent.

“If we look at the structure of personnel trained by Western countries, we see that there are disastrously few specialists in the natural science disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, and when they are trained, these specialists often stay in the West,” he said.

These articles were first published in Sputnik