Gambia to stop using 'colonial relic' English: president

BANJUL Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:53pm EDT

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Burton/Pool

BANJUL (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 neighbor. 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 practicing 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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Comments (1)
Alusaine wrote:
I do understand the frustration of Mr. President, but I need to give some pieces of advice here:
-English language is more internationally spoken than any of the African languages, more so from Gambia. For economic reasons, the more your language can be understood by the wider market, the better.
-Translating all those documents; governmental, educational or even novels, you name it,into the new language of choice requires a substantial financial input.
-For teachers in the various educational institutions to switch from English to the new local language can be challenging, expensive and daunting.
I have traveled a bit and seen great advantage in a language that could be spoken internationally.
Our colonial masters hurt us and they hurt us big time. The black people continue to be subjected to this unfortunate relic of colonial racial discrimination, for the reasons that these so called colonial masters subjected us to shameful and inhuman act of slavery and moral degradation. Yes, we were also exploited with absolute impunity. But come on, you want to tell them what you feel. Tell it in a language they can understand. Tell them in English. Apart from that, the money you will use for translating those many literary works, could be better spent on social developments of your people. Do not use anger over wisdom. In this day and age, we need computers, and we to communicate in the language it can understand. Do not give up English. IT IS JUST A LANGUAGE.

Mar 13, 2014 9:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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