French is no longer the prime and official language of Mali, six decades after gaining independence from France.
The West African nation, now governed by military leader Colonel Assimi Goita has decided to remove the French language as its official language and make its 13 local languages the official languages.
Last Friday, Bamako’s constitutional court validated the final results of a June referendum on a draft constitution. Under the new constitution passed overwhelmingly with 96.91% approval from voters, French is no longer the official language.
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 through a decree in 1982, will be retained.
On Saturday, Mali’s junta leader and interim president Col. Assimi Goita enforced the country’s new constitution, marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the West African nation, the presidency said.
Since taking power in an August 2020 coup, the leadership has stressed a new constitution. The junta had initially promised to hold elections in February 2022 but later delayed them to February 2024.
Relations between Paris and Bamako have been hostile 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 gave public directives to vacate all NGOs, including aid groups funded by France, from their 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.
Relations between Paris and the military junta in Mali have deteriorated since the coups in the West African country.