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25 Jul, 2023 17:07

Mali scraps French as official language

Bamako’s new constitution replaces its former colonizers’ tongue with others spoken locally
Mali scraps French as official language

Mali has removed French as an official state language, six decades after the country gained independence from its former colonial master. The decision is enshrined in the West African country’s new constitution, adopted on Saturday.

On Friday, Bamako’s constitutional court validated the final results of a June referendum on a draft constitution, declaring that it received 96.91% approval from voters.

French will serve as the primary working language, while the 13 national languages spoken within the country will be formally recognized as official languages. An additional 70 local languages, including Bambara, Bobo, Dogon, and Minianka, some of which were granted national language status by decree in 1982, will be retained.

Mali has been ruled by a military junta since two coups in August 2020 and May 2021, following a decade of political instability marked by rising jihadist insurgencies.

The junta has insisted that a new constitution is essential to rebuilding the country, promising to return to civilian rule with elections in February 2024 after an earlier plan failed.

Interim President Assimi Goita announced on Saturday that the implementation of the constitutional framework signals the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the former French colony.

Relations between Paris and Bamako have deteriorated in recent years, as anti-French sentiment has grown across France’s former West African colonies as a result of claims of military failures against jihadists and political interference.

France withdrew its last troops from Mali in August, ending a nine-year military operation in the country to fight armed groups.

Late last year, the military government ordered all NGOs, including aid groups funded by France, to cease operations in the country. The action was taken in reaction to Paris’ decision to halt development aid to Bamako over alleged concerns about Mali’s cooperation with the Wagner Russian private military company.