A profound moment of transformation unfolded as the Mali government, with unwavering determination, made history by officially removing French from its list of official state languages.
For generations, French has been the language of administration, education, and official discourse in Mali, serving as a stark reminder of the colonial era when the country was under French rule.
This monumental shift has not gone unnoticed by pan-Africanists and scholars across the continent. Managing Editor of the Insight Newspaper, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, who is a respected Ghanaian pan-Africanist and influential voice in the media landscape, has turned his attention to the development.
As Mali takes a bold step in removing French from its list of official state languages, Pratt has raised pertinent questions, challenging Africa’s readiness to embrace this transformative linguistic shift.
“The Mali government has officially removed French from its list of official state languages, signaling a move away from the country’s colonial past. Is a wind of change blowing on the African continent, and are we prepared for the ramifications from the Western world?” he tweeted.
With its new constitution, Mali has dropped French, which has been the country’s official language since 1960.
According to reports, under the new constitution passed overwhelmingly with 96.91% of the vote in a June 18 referendum, French is no longer the official language. Although French will be the working language, 13 other national languages spoken in the country will receive official language status.
Mali has about 70 other local languages spoken in the country and some of them, including Bambara, Bobo, Dogon, and Minianka, were granted national language status under a 1982 decree.
Recall that Mali’s junta leader Col. Assimi Goita put the country’s new constitution into effect, marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the West African nation.
According to the Presidency, Mali’s military since taking power in an August 2020 coup, has maintained that the constitution would be critical to rebuilding the country.
Mali witnessed two subsequent coups in recent years, one in August 2020 and the other in May 2021.
The junta had initially promised to hold elections in February 2022 but later delayed them to February 2024.
The decision by Mali to drop French comes at a time of growing anti-French sentiment across West Africa due to its perceived military and political interference.