Global Politics

Rwanda to switch from French to English

The Rwandan president says the reasons for switching to English are economic: that Rwandans will need English if they're to compete in the global marketplace. But those familiar with the recent history of Rwanda see another motive as well. This analyst says the decision about the school is part of a larger reorientation in Rwanda which is hugely significant�namely extracting Rwanda from the collection of French-speaking countries and joining it with the English speaking countries of Eastern Africa and the wider world. The analyst says the new ruling elite is all English speaking who grew up as exiles in Uganda and they don't speak French. So if you want to be in the elite, you need to speak English. The new government in Rwanda harbors deep resentment towards France for its support of the government in power during the Rwandan genocide. The analyst says the French feared a victory by the rebels during the genocide who are more oriented towards the English speaking world, and France tries to hold onto its power in Africa, the last vestige of its global influence. There's been tension between Rwanda and France ever since the Rwandan genocide, which boiled over to a full row during the 2006. but this analyst downplays that tension as the reason for Rwanda's language switch. But he's also not sure the official language in Rwandan schools should be French or English and kids should learn in their native tongue. That analyst is not alone in his concerns and there's a lot of debate in Rwanda at current over the correct balance between English, French, and the native language in Rwanda. The second analyst says in practice the schools have always gotten by with a mix of all these languages and he expects that to continue for some time to come.

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