The Burkinabè government made a significant move on Wednesday by adopting a bill that revises the Constitution, marking a pivotal shift in the status of official languages. The revised constitution now designates national languages as official, relegating French to the status of a “working language.” The Council of Ministers’ report underscores that this legislative change aligns with the transition’s mission to initiate comprehensive political, administrative, and institutional reforms aimed at strengthening democratic culture and consolidating the rule of law.

Key highlights of the new text include the establishment of national languages as official, mirroring a similar move made earlier this year by Mali, a country also governed by the military and sharing strained relations with France. The bill, which still requires approval from the Transitional Legislative Assembly, introduces additional measures such as the establishment of traditional and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The expanded role of the Constitutional Council and the abolishment of institutions like the High Court of Justice and the Mediator of Faso are noteworthy changes. Moreover, the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) receives strengthened constitutional protection. Against a backdrop of recent demonstrations advocating for a new constitution, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who assumed power in September 2022, had pledged constitutional modifications in response to calls for change.

Prime Minister Apollinaire Joachimson Kyelem of Tambela emphasized the significance of crafting a new constitution for political, economic, and cultural sovereignty, highlighting the move away from concepts influenced by the French constitution. Since Captain Traoré assumed power, Burkina has distanced itself from France, its former colonial power and historical partner, while aligning more closely with Moscow. Burkina has been grappling with escalating violence since 2015, as jihadist groups, which initially targeted neighboring Mali and Niger, have claimed over 17,000 lives in the region.

Piers Potter

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