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French first! - Zum Status des Französischen in der somalischen Elite Dschibutis

Zurück zum Heft: Romanistik in Geschichte und Gegenwart 26,1
EUR 15,90

The Republic of Djibouti occupies an important geopolitical position in the Horn of Africa and is the last former French colony in Africa. Today, Djibouti is an independent, multiethnic and multilingual country. The two main ethnic groups are the Afars and the Somalis, who share a difficult history of conflict, colonization, war and social inequality. Since the days of independence, Djibouti's citizens have faced a constant struggle to value different ethnic roots and languages and yet creating a common national identity. The 1992 constitution finally declared French and Arabic the only official languages of the country, while Afar and Somali are onsidered national languages, not least to avoid further conflicts between the two groups. From a legal point of view, Djibouti’s linguistic situation is very clear, but what do people think of the official regulations? What impact can such a language policy have on identity and ideologies, and vice versa, how do strong language ideologies influence politics? This paper addresses the issue of language ideologies by looking at the perspective of the Somali-speaking elite of Djibouti, which largely shapes the country’s political and economic elite. Part of French colonial heritage is a deep-rooted language hierarchy within this particular group. Despite their strong attachment to Somalia and their great affection for the Somali language, French is still considered superior compared to Somali. An important consequence of this strong standard language ideology is, on the one hand, constant doubts about an important part of the group's identity, on the other hand, mostly unconsciously, the contempt of the Afar language, which has devastating effects on the creation of a common national identity. Having political responsibility in this conflicting situation is an enormous challenge for this group.