Yahya Jammeh, the president of Gambia, has said the country will move away from English.
“We no longer subscribe to the belief that for you to be a government you should speak English language. We should speak our language,” he said during the swearing-in ceremony of Gambia’s new Chief Justice which aired on state-run Gambia Television Services last week.
This is part of a general policy of moving away from the West; recently the country withdrew from the British Commonwealth (a loose collection of former British colonies).
However, Gambia is a popular holiday destination with some 65,000 British holidaymakers spending time there each year. A move away from English is bound to have an adverse effect on this income.
Jammeh came to power in 1994 in a military coup and has been heavily criticised for human rights abuses. Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest and poorest countries.
This sounds like mere posturing on the part of Jammeh.
He made his comments in English knowing that the press would pick them up. If he had made them in any other language they would have been ignored.
Whether English is good or bad, whether it is seen as the language of colonialism or not, it is the de facto world language today and trying to deny that is pointless.