By Gael Masengi
It came as a surprise to those die-hard supporters of the French language in Gabon when the president, Ali Bongo announced two weeks ago that he is planning to replace French and promote English as the second language in attempt to improve opportunities for its people.
|Gabonese president, Ali Bongo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda|
President Bongo Odimba made the announcement less than ten days before flying for the 14th Francophonie (French-speaking community) summit held this past week-end in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. His spokesperson told AFP the president coming back from Rwanda, where a similar move has proved successful, has come to realised that the language of Shakespeare and Harry potter as being a ‘necessary working language’. He told reporters Gabon is in need to develop and want to give itself the best opportunities; “When you leave a French-speaking space, if you don’t know English you are almost handicapped.” He added “It’s a question of diversifying our partnerships, ensuring that the people of Gabon are armed and better armed.”
Being myself a Francophone…well until five years ago, I can confirm to you that, the sentiment of breaking way completely from the French language or axing it is growing rapidly among Francophones, primarily in diaspora, and specifically to those in English-speaking countries with many saying a record of former British colonies either in the continent or outside are thriving economically, have a better political stability and democracy at least exists. In contrast to French-speaking, where they say dictatorship reign, reproach their respective governments for lack of vision and way too irrelevant or disconnected to today’s fast developing world. But others just simply find English-speaking folks liberal life style as the way to live.
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary [October 15] of the death of who’s known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, Marxist leader and pan-Africanist, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso [former French colony], South African-based Congolese activist, prof Pascal Kilolo of University of Johannesburg commented saying: “Françafrique [the infamous France’s relationship with French-speaking Africa] is a clear indication of neo-colonialism which benefit only France and eternal head of states not the people. France has to re-think it policy toward Africa, specifically to its ‘backyards.’” He said “It’s pretty obvious that for years France has supported let alone helped put in power dictators throughout its former colonies in Africa… look around, you will notice in more than five French-speaking countries [In Africa] presidents have been occupying office for at least more than ten years with no plan whatsoever of implementing a true democracy.” the tutor concluded
Gabon is one of France’s closest allies in the region and important channel for French influence in the continent, the country is home of millions of Euro from French investment companies though it vows to keep alive the language of Molière but analysts believe English will likely overshadow it and subsequently eradicate and finally replace it completely in years to come. Since he came to power in 2009 after the death of his father, yet parallel to his ideology, Ali Bongo has been advocating strongly for the idea to adopt the English language however the move to English, according to president is all about opening up new prospects for Gabon and its people, he said of his meeting with Rwandan counterpart Paul kagame:
“I am keen on understanding how Rwanda has fast-tracked Vision 2020 targets, how it has managed to develop successful village settlement program and adopted agricultural practices like animal farming that are beneficial to the poor.” but many argue that Rwanda’s fast growing economy is result of wars it’s helping wage in eastern DR Congo since the current regime came in power eighteen years ago.
Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, joined the commonwealth, an association chiefly composed of former British colonies in 2009.