Gabon, one of France’s closest allies since the African country’s independence in 1960, announced this fall that students returning to school would be learning English as a second official language in addition to French.
Analyst Lydie Bako said Gabon’s decision to adopt English as a second language reflects a political rift between Gabon President Ali Bongo and France’s new leader, Francois Hollande, who came to power earlier this year.
“Bongo must be also of disappointed in Francois Hollande, the French president,” said Bako. “I remember during the summer, Bongo came to France and the way he was welcomed or greeted at Elysee was not the way he was used to.”
According to Bako, the same day Bongo met with Hollande, officials from the French president’s party were meeting with Bongo’s opposition. Hollande’s Socialist party said they were concerned with the lack of democracy in a number of countries, including Gabon.
But Gabon’s presidential spokesperson, Alain Claude Bilie By Nze, denied any political motivation behind the transition toward English.
“Its not a political decision, it’s a decision that was made by education specialists,” he said.
Bilie By Nze added that first steps toward adopting English were made by Gabon’s parliament in 2011, long before Hollande received Bongo in Paris, and that Gabon does not intend to abandon French.

Listen to report on Gabon's adoption of English