Original Paper

Language Policy

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 191-215

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Language policy, multilingual education, and power in Rwanda

  • Beth Lewis SamuelsonAffiliated withDepartment of Literacy, Culture and Language Education, School of Education, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Sarah Warshauer FreedmanAffiliated withGraduate School of Education, University of California


The evolution of Rwanda’s language policies since 1996 has played and continues to play a critical role in social reconstruction following war and genocide. Rwanda’s new English language policy aims to drop French and install English as the only language of instruction. The policy-makers frame the change as a major factor in the success of social and education reforms aimed at promoting reconciliation and peace and increasing Rwanda’s participation in global economic development. However, in Rwanda, the language one speaks is construed as an indicator of group affiliations and identity. Furthermore, Rwanda has the potential to develop a multilingual educational policy that employs its national language, Kinyarwanda (Ikinyarwanda, Rwanda), to promote mass literacy and a literate, multilingual populace. Rwanda’s situation can serve as a case study for the ongoing roles that language policy plays in the politics of power.


Language-in-education policy Rwanda French Kinyarwanda Africa