DAKAR – Gambia will drop English as its official language, President Yahya Jammeh said in his latest diatribe against former colonial power Britain. “We’re going to speak our own language,” he said, without specifying which of the poor west African country’s indigenous tongues would replace English.
The 48-year-old Gambian strongman is often pilloried for rights abuses and muzzling of the press, and members of the country’s diaspora have set up critical news outlets against Banjul.
A video of his latest broadside against Britain, delivered in English during the Thursday swearing-in of a new chief justice, was uploaded on YouTube.
The country has several languages to choose from as a replacement for English. Two in five Gambians speak Mandinka, while Fula or Wolof are used by another 34 percent. Jammeh himself is from the minority Jula tribe, which speaks a Manding language most closely related to Bambara, spoken in nearby Mali.
Gambia, a country of about 1.8 million, is a sliver of territory flanking the Gambia River, with Senegal on either side and a narrow Atlantic coastline.