In another blow to French interests in Africa, the Muslim nation of Mali has formally adopted a new constitution which drops French as an official language.
Earlier this week, Mali’s military leader, Col. Assimi Goita, put the country’s new constitution into effect marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the West African nation.
Under the new constitution, passed overwhelmingly with 96.91% of the vote in a June 18 referendum, French will just be a working language, while 13 other national languages spoken in the country received official language status.
The decision by Mali to drop French comes at a time of growing anti-France sentiments across West Africa due to its military and political interference.
Academic Boubacar Bocoum said: “The French language was not a chosen language. First of all, it was a colonial language that was imposed, then, when the coloniser left in the 1960s, they left us this French language and the French administration, which means that the whole mode of governance was precisely modelled on the prototype of poor colonial governance.”
Bocoum said that “despite independence, the leaders continued to manage the country with the neocolonial spirit, the colonial administrative system and all that the colonial system left them and never thought at a given moment that it was necessary adapt to the social and cultural realities of the country.
“The French language, which is a hegemonic language, was a language of manipulation, of propaganda, of alienation which meant that, at a given moment, we could only think through the French reference system which caused a lot of damage. We have studied in this language, we have been indoctrinated by the great theories of these countries and that, ultimately, our leaders only think through France.”
And Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba, a member of the National Transitional Council (CNT) and spokesperson for the Collective for the Refoundation of Mali, stressed: “Today, we have decided to be linguistically sovereign and it is true that France has been colonising us for more than 100 years. And after 60 years of independence, it was the same thing, but today we have decided to formalise our national languages in official forums.”
Moreover, Fomba notes that “English can also become the language of work in Mali because it is the most widely spoken language in the world.”
Last year France began a military withdrawal from Mali after more than nine years fighting anti-regime rebels.
France first deployed troops in Mali in 2013 to stem a rebel advance and return cities such as Timbuktu to government control.
Relations between France and Mali deteriorated after two coup d’états and the new military regime’s reluctance to agree to an immediate transition to civilian rule.