Malian authorities announced on Tuesday that French will no longer serve as the official language of the West African country. According to reports, the decision came as a result of the new constitution, which was overwhelmingly passed with 96.91% of the vote in a June 18 referendum. Under the new constitution, French will still be used as the working language, while 13 other national languages spoken in the country will be formally recognized as official languages.
Mali is a linguistically diverse nation with approximately 70 other local languages spoken across the country. Some of these languages, including Bambara, Bobo, Dogon, and Minianka, were previously granted national language status under a 1982 decree.
The implementation of the new constitution was carried out by Mali’s junta leader, Col. Assimi Goita, marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the West African nation. The country’s military, which assumed power in an August 2020 coup, has stressed the importance of the constitution in rebuilding the nation. Notably, Mali experienced two subsequent coups in recent years, one in August 2020 and the other in May 2021.
Initially, the junta had promised to hold elections in February 2022, but they were later postponed to February 2024. Interim President Assimi Goita announced on Saturday that the implementation of the constitutional framework signals the establishment of the Fourth Republic in this former French colony.
The relationship between Paris and Bamako has seen a decline in recent years, with rising anti-French sentiment across France’s former West African colonies due to accusations of military failures against jihadists and political interference. In August, France withdrew its last troops from Mali, concluding a nine-year military operation aimed at combating armed groups in the country.
Last year, the military government ordered all non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including aid groups funded by France, to halt operations in Mali. This action was taken in response to Paris’ decision to suspend development aid to Bamako, citing concerns about Mali’s cooperation with the Wagner Russian private military company.