Mother Tongue Injustice: Reflections on the Kenyan Justice System

Henry Simiyu Nandelenga


The inalienable right to one’s mother tongue has long been acknowledged universally. This was first captured by the UN’s ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ as early as 1948 and recently reinforced through the ‘Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’ in 2006. The constitution of Kenya 2010, in The Bill of Rights (BR), reiterates this position by stating that the rights and fundamental freedoms belong to each individual and are not granted by the state. Mother tongue is one of the Human Rights. In essence, the constitution is expected to provide a basis upon which mother tongue can play a central role in the legal and judicial system of the country. However, mother tongue language remains on the periphery as the language of the law not to mention its subordinate role both as a legal language and the language of the administration of justice. This paper examines the current low status assumed by mother tongue in the Kenyan context within the Forensic Linguistics perspective.  It is argued that there is an attempt at forced assimilation of mother tongue language to the dominant English language in our justice system. This process is at the heart of human rights violations as envisaged in the constitutional provisions on equality and freedom against discrimination as per article 27(4) of the Bill of Rights. The right to use of one’s mother tongue in the legal process is a fundamental pillar of equality and freedom against discrimination. It ensures that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. The state players, therefore, have an obligation to protect the mother language through enforceable legislation as contemplated by the constitution of Kenya Article 7(3). The same constitution must be re-examined and amended to put mother tongue at the core of judicial administration and legal practice in the country.

Keywords: Mother tongue, injustice, legal, constitution, forensic linguistics.

DOI: 10.7176/JLPG/118-13

Publication date: February 28th 2022

Full Text: PDF
Download the IISTE publication guideline!

To list your conference here. Please contact the administrator of this platform.

Paper submission email:

ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

Please add our address "" into your email contact list.

This journal follows ISO 9001 management standard and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Copyright ©