Monday, October 19, 2009

nne vs. ine

Samson, my Swahili instructor, teaches me and five other folks Swahili for three hours in the morning.  And of course, us students are curious of life in Tanzania, and Samson joyfully enlightens us. Today, he gave us a small picture of Life in the West.

Kigoma is a city in Western Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika.  It's proximity with DR Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda has attracted a number of refugees from these countries.

 During the Burundi-Rwanda war, several refugees came to Kigoma. After the war was over, the Tanzanian government wanted to send these people back to their countries. Of course, many of these people refused and remained in Kigoma. In Tanzania, many people do not have IDs, so it was difficult to distinguish the natives from the visitors. So this is what the government did to send back the refugees. The government first called the population to gather the at the city center, and one by one, asked them to count numbers from one to ten in Swahili, without telling them why.

"Moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, ..., kumi."

According to Samson, people from Burundi and Rwanda pronounce nne (number four) as ine. So all the people who said, "moja, mbili, tatu, ine, tano, ..." were deported.

The twist is that there are two major tribes in the Kigoma area, and one of those tribes pronounce nne as ine as well. So there were Tanzanians in Rwanda, as unintentional refugees.

Of course, this is just what Samson told the class so I cannot verify the validity. But interesting stuff nonetheless.

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