Gambia to stop using "colonial relic" English - president

BANJUL, March 12 Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:50pm EDT

BANJUL, March 12 (Reuters) - Gambia will drop English as an official language soon because it is a colonial relic, President Yahya Jammeh has said, without indicating which language the tiny West African country would use in its place.

Gambia's 1.9 million people speak several African languages including Mandingo, Fula and Wolof, the most widely spoken language of Senegal, its only direct neighbour. The country gained independence from Britain in 1965.

"We no longer believe that for you to be a government you should speak a foreign language. We are going to speak our own language," Jammeh said in an address in English last week that was broadcast on Tuesday.

English is the main language of education, but Jammed said that was no reason to keep it. "The British did not care about education, that means they were not practising good governance. All they did was loot and loot and loot," he said.

Jammeh spoke during the swearing-in of Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, a Pakistani national, as Gambia's new chief justice.

The president, who seized power in a 1994 coup, drew international criticism after he executed a number of prisoners in 2012. In October, he accused the United States and Britain of fomenting coup attempts and supporting the opposition.

He did not give a precise time frame for the dropping of English but said it would happen "very soon." (Reporting by Pap Saine; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Tom Heneghan)

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