Kolda is a muti-ethnic and muti-linguistic nation that packs such diversity within its borders. In the 2024 Election, however, these identities will once again be a political factor. To understand the issue, a quick history lesson.
Kolda is traditionally home to two major ethnic groups the Leubar and the Kendouga. The Leubar traditionally speak a language known as Kango, while the Kendouga speak Fonyiara. In the 1100s, the arrival of Islam and traders from Serriel and Iskiram led to a large number of Kendouga converting to Islam, especially in the northern Moudjeriia region of the country, these people came to now identify as Moujerrians. In the 1500s, colonization led to the introduction of new languages and people, with French and Spanish being added to the list of languages. As the Brissiac Colony spread, the French language began to be forcefully adopted by the Leubar and Kendouga. Often receiving a French language education was the only way to achieve political success. This meant by 1950, 40% of the population spoke French in some form. When the Republic of Kolda was established in 1984, Seynabou Gano united a diverse range of ethnic identities around the French language, or at least a modified version. Meanwhile, Gano and the Brissiacan govermeant reached an agreement with Kolda expelling Arrivee farmers to the Brissiac Region and exchange for Gano’s government leaving the Region out of far-reaching socialist reforms.
Today, French remains the language of governance, although there have been hints of change. Ousamane Alsane, who is the candidate of the Democratic Action Party, has promised a more muti-cultural govermeant with Alsane speaking at political events in French, Kango, and even Arabic. President Edouard Senghor however, remains firmly in speaking the French language. Despite ideological differences with his predecessor on many issues has remained steadfast in preserving linguistic uniformity. On issues of ethnicity, however, Senghor identifies strongly with the Leubar ethnicity and has even used ethnic lines as a political tool. When taking power in 2011, Senghor was quick to blame not only Colonel Adama Daouf for the death or assassination of his predecessor but also the small Faeleme ethnic group for attempting to undermine the government. In response, supporters of Senghor forcibly removed members of the Faeleme from political and business positions.
In the Brissiac Region, French and the Arrivee identities are strong bases for the Brissiac Union Party, which has undergone economic planning of its own. Much of the Koldan population of Brissiac live in de-facto segregated parishes, where conditions are poor and basic services are lacking. Despite this, Koldan workers in Brissiac make almost twice as much per week as their counterparts in the rest of the country. This correlation between ethnic identity and class has been called out by left-wing traditionalists who criticize Senghor for failing to honor the founding principles of class equality.
Despite these ethnic and language divisions, a growing number of people are looking toward ethnic and language tolerance. In Lennes, the film and cultural capital of Kolda signs can be seen in multiple languages throughout the entire city. Young people have also adopted a new form of hybrid speak known as “Novlangue”, the dialect combines French grammar with Arabic and Kango phrases.
Language and Ethnicity look to still define this election, as polling and voter patterns have often reflected ethnic origin. Yet, there is a hope these factors will not be as divisive. In addition, the relative weakness of the KLF-U in polling has given hope to members of the political opposition.