Kenyan and Tanzanian Presidents Engage in Friendly Banter over Language Skills
On Saturday September 9, 2023, Kenyans and Tanzanians took to social media to engage in a light-hearted banter sparked by their respective presidents’ remarks on who speaks better Swahili. Swahili serves as the principal language in both East African nations, yet Kenyans have often faced teasing for their perceived inadequacy in standard Swahili, while Tanzanians have been subject to mockery for their English skills.
During a recent agriculture and food summit in Tanzania, President Samia Hassan playfully scolded Kenyan President William Ruto for not using proper Swahili greetings. She quipped, “The other day, [Mr] Ruto came here and taught us to say ‘jambo,’ but the correct phrase is ‘habari ya mchana.’ These Kenyans… we should enroll them in Swahili lessons.”
However, CNN correspondent Larry Madowo, who also hails from Kenya and was hosting the forum, came to the defense of his president. He stated, “I feel compelled to protect my president because Kenyans and Tanzanians are like brothers. We communicate with Tanzanians in flawed Swahili, and they respond to us in imperfect English. We carry on like this, as if it were the gospel truth,” igniting laughter among the audience.
This exchange beautifully showcased the cordial relationship and shared cultural background between the neighboring countries.