Rwanda opposition sues over exclusion of French language

9th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

A Rwandan opposition party has filed a lawsuit with the central African nation's Supreme Court accusing the government of deliberately sidelining the French language in violation of the constitution.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) argued that French should hold equal status to Kinyarwanda and English, and that increased marginalisation of the language was "a hindrance to the national unity and reconciliation process" in Rwanda.

The former Belgian colony has been shifting away from the use of French since the 1994 genocide, after which the Rwandan Patriotic Front of Paul Kagame -- now president -- took power along with his rebels who were trained in English-speaking Uganda.

President Kagame, an English speaker who has steered the country into Commonwealth membership, accuses France of complicity in the genocide because of its support of the Hutu nationalist government that carried out the killings of at least 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis.

However the DGPR, in a statement released late Monday, said "Article five of the constitution stipulates that Rwanda uses three official languages: Kinyarwanda, French and English."

"Many government institutions such as the National Bank of Rwanda, Rwanda Revenue Authority, National ID Project and many others have opted to either use English alone or with Kinyarwanda, and deliberately left out French," the party said, arguing this isolates a large section of the country's population.

Despite the increasing dominance of English -- which brings Rwanda closer to many east African partners and is seen as an aid to drawing foreign investment -- many Rwandans remain attached to French and are struggling with the change.

© 2014 AFP

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