« Rwanda wants to speak English. » French is to be banned from the Rwandan educative and administrative system. The decision announced by the country’s president, Paul Kagame, has prompted lots of divers reactions from the international press. Mr. Paul Kagame’s decision was followed by an unprecedented boycott of the Francophonie summit, which kicked off Friday, October 17 in Québec, Canada.
Rwanda will speak the Queen’s language from now on at both educational and administrative levels. “We will give priority to the language that will make our children more competent and which will serve as a beacon of development to our country”, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, has declared.
English is to set to replace and relegate French, which has been the formal language of the country since time immemorial, to the sidelines. According to Augustin Baziramabo, of the Rwanda Congress of Canada, “this decision is scandalous. The people were not consulted. The dictator Kagame has imposed this change to strengthen the small elitist group he brought with him from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and North America after the war”
The decision taken by Paul Kagame is more political than cultural. Rwanda has been most vociferous in accusing the French government for its participation in the genocide, which took place in the country 1994. After severing diplomatic ties with France, Rwanda has threatened an international legal action against some French personalities who were serving in government at the time of the tragic genocide.
The thin line between the between the two countries was dealt a heavy blow upon the closure, a few months ago, of the French-Rwandan cultural association, the French International School, the French Embassy as well as some French companies.
Member state since 1970, Rwanda is yet to announce its withdrawal from the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) and its President, Paul Kagame, is not attending the 12th summit of the OIF which opened, Friday 17 October, in Québec, Canada.
In the mean time, Rwanda is awaiting its official membership to the Commonwealth, the English-speaking equivalent of the Francophonie, in 2009. The OIF is yet to issue an official statement concerning Rwanda’s decision.