Mali has dropped French, which has been the country’s official language since 1960 following the new constitution.

This comes after the new constitution passed overwhelmingly with 96.91% of the vote during the June 18 referendum. Although French will be the working language, 13 other national languages spoken in the country will receive official language status.

Mali’s junta leader Col. Assimi Goita put the country’s new constitution into effect, marking the beginning of the Fourth Republic in the West African nation. The junta had initially promised to hold elections in February 2022 but later delayed them to February 2024.

This comes at a time where several Western African nations are looking to separate themselves from the French’s perceived military and political interference.

Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would withdraw French forces.

He was angry that military leaders – who seized power in 2021 – delayed plans to hold democratic elections. They also invited the Russian mercenary group Wagner to provide an estimated 1,000 fighters to provide security.

In addition, Mali has told the UN that its 12,000 peacemakers need to leave, after 10 years countering Islamist militants in the country despite the UN’s Secretary General, António Guterres, recommendation to extend their stay in Mali for another year.

Mali’s Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, rejected this, saying the UN force had failed to respond effectively to security challenges.

Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and French troops, who led counter-terror operations, the number of terror attacks in Mali steadily increased, as did the number of Malians joining insurgent groups.