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Historical survey: From the Mission for the African Academy of Languages (MACALAN) to ACALAN


1. The Mission for the African Academy of Languages.
By Decree N°00-630/PRM of December 19th 2000, the President of the Republic of Mali set up the Mission for the African Academy of Languages (MACALAN), a light structure, with the responsibility to establish and launch the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) in relation with the Secretariat General of the O.A.U..
By Decree 00-30/PRM of January 26th 2001 he appointed Mr Adama SAMASSEKOU, former Minister of Basic Education as Head of the Mission.
The texts organising the Mission assigned a team of five Mission Officers to assist the Head of the Mission. A secretary, an administrative Assistant, an orderly and a driver completed this team.


The Mission started with the identification of its major partners in order to be assured of their assistance, especially the different ministries in charge of Education, of Culture, of Communication, of Foreign Affairs and Malians Abroad at the national level, and at the international level. the Office of the Director General of UNESCO in Paris, the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar (BREDA), UNESCO Institute of Education in Hamburg, the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IIRCA) in Addis Ababa, the UNESCO Representation in Mali, the Intergovernmental Agency of the French Speaking World.
The national structures interested in or working on languages, as well as linguists and researchers were identified to make up the National Scientific Commission.
The major steps of this first stage were as follows:

1.1. The meeting with the Head of the State. On Friday March 30th, 2001, the National Scientific Commission and the Mission team met with the President of the Republic in the presence of the Ministers of Culture and of Education. The Head of the State took this opportunity to give his vision of the future African Academy of Languages, a structure meant to work for the promotion and the harmonisation of languages in Africa.

1.2. The national Workshop. On April 2nd and 3rd, 2001, the Mission organised a national Workshop at the Palais des Congres in Bamako. The purpose was to inform about the project, and to formalise a common national vision of what the African Academy was to be. The Workshop, besides other recommendations, insisted upon giving an official status to African languages and on accelerating their introduction in the educational system, in administration and the in the legal system of the Member States of the future Academy alongside with partner languages.

1.3. The trip of the Head of the Mission to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). To ensure the political support of the OAU, the Head of the Mission travelled to Addis Ababa April 19-22, 2001 as a Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Mali to the Secretary General of the OAU In addition to the support of the Secretary General, the talks resulted, on the one hand, in the necessity for a sensitisation of African Heads of States on the question before making any decision and on the other hand, in putting the project on the agenda of the 74th Session of the OAU Council of Ministers in July 2001 in Lusaka,.

1.4. The African Consultation. The African Consultation organised on the 25th, 26th and 27th of May 2001 (see the report in french) aimed at the scientific and technical validation of the proposed African Academy of Languages. Besides the Malian experts of the National Scientific Commission, African and non African experts participated in this Consultation. The Consultation meant to consider, among other documents, the Presentation Document and the Draft Statutes of the African Academy of Languages. The Consultation especially recommended the setting up of a Taskforce, an ad-hoc structure to follow up the activities to be carried out for the establishment of the Academy, to finalising the midterm Action plan and to work out the cost estimates of the activities of proposed Academy. The taskforce was to include one representative from each of the five geographic regions of Africa, and the Indian Ocean, as well as the Director of the CELHTO and the Rapporteur General of the African Consultation. The members of the Taskforce were to remain in contact by mail until the final launch of the Academy.
The African Consultation has also approved a draft Decision and resolutions to be submitted to the Conference of Ministers of Culture of the French Speaking World, and to the UNESCO General Conference.

1.5. The Lusaka Decision. After the scientific and technical validation of the proposed Academy by the African Consultation, the Mission had yet to achieve the OAU political validation. This justified the trip of the Head of the Mission to Lusaka where the proposed establishment of the African Academy of Languages was to be considered at the 74th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Panafrican Organization; The project presented by the Head of the Mission was warmly approved by all the Members of Council of Ministers who took Decision CM/Dec.613 (LXXIV) to commend the initiative of the President of the Republic of Mali and to commit the General Secretariat and all the Member States of the Organization to get involved by all means in the concrete realisation of the Academy. This Decision of the Council of Ministers was confirmed by the Summit of the Heads of State and Government gathered in Lusaka (Zambia) on July 9-11, 2001.

1.6. The First Meeting of the Taskforce. The ad-hoc commission or Taskforce had its firs meeting on July 21st and 22nd, 2001 at the Hotel Mande. The meeting, presided over by the Head of the Mission, agreed on the following activities, among others:
- an International conference on the role of African languages in African integration on September 7, 2001.
- the official launch of the activities of the African Academy of Languages on September 8th, 2001.
- the establishment, on September 8th, 2001 of a light structure, combining MACALAN and the Taskforce for the running of
the activities until the official launch of the Academy and the validation of its Action plan;
- the official launch of the Academy on March 27th, 2002.
- the elaboration by the OAU General Secretariat of a legal document (A Protocol of Agreement) for States' adhesion to the establishment of the Academy.

2. The African Academy of Languages (ACALAN).
In view of the length of the elaboration and ratification procedures by the African States of the legal Document establishing the African Academy of Languages as a specialised institution of the African Union, Mali has put in place a structure -of a national dimension as regards its functioning but with a pan-African vision. This made it possible to keep alive the enthusiasm aroused since the African Consultation, and to better take care of the transition within the establishment process of the Academy. The activities of the Academy were actually launched in three stages preceding the adoption of the statutes of Academy by the Khartoum Summit of January 2006:

A. The Installation of the Presidency. The Presidency was installed under the high patronage of the President of the Republic of Mali. Three speeches were delivered: First was that of the Head of the Mission, Mr Adama SAMASSEKOU, who recalled all the activities carried out by the Mission since February 8th, 2001. Then came that of Professor Ayo BAMGBOSE of Nigeria, a member of the Taskforce and a distinguished linguist who, on behalf of the ad-hoc Commission and all African linguists, commended the initiative of the President of the Republic of Mali, and called for support for African languages. His Excellency Alpha Oumar KONARE , President of the Republic delivered the speech to install the Presidency. After recalling Mali's contributions to the promotion of African languages, and after clarifying the importance of language in the development process and in African integration, the Head of State urged the first President of the African Academy of Languages and his colleagues to " take up the challenge to put in place a pan-African institution capable of helping our States and our peoples to conceive and develop a language policy, relevant and efficient enough to quickly contribute to the Renaissance and the Unity of Africa."

B. The International Conference. The conference on "THE ROLE OF AFRICAN LANGUAGES IN AFRICAN INTEGRATION" presented by Professor Ahmadou TOURE of The University of Mali and Dr Rakissouiligri Mathieu OUEDRAOGO of the University of Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou with the participation of experienced specialists from the Central, the Eastern and the Indian Ocean regions, has clearly shown the relevancy of the topic.

C. The Second Meeting of the Taskforce. The launch of the Activities of the Academy ended with the Second meeting of the Taskforce which made some recommendations concerning the pursuit of the activities. The Taskforce insisted that the newly installed Presidency strive to make the African Academy of Languages, as the President said, a Panafrican institution.

Thus, the Mission for the African Academy of Languages (MACALAN) came to terms with the launch of the activities of the African Academy of Languages. The newly installed Presidency is composed of:

  • the President,
  • the Secretary General,
  • the Director of the Resource Centre.

It is assisted by a particular secretary, an administrative assistant, an orderly and a chauffeur. A bilingual secretary has joined this team.

D. The way toward Khartoum

Had not been the transition from OAU to AU, the priorities of which were the establishment of its central bodies, the Academy would have been effective since the Summit of 2003.

In February 2002, the Government experts, meeting in Addis-Ababa under the auspices of OAU/AU, adopted the founding texts proposed by the team of the  Interim Presidency of the Academy and the Task force it set up.
During the Maputo Summit of 2003, the AU Executive Council requested that the ACALAN structures be set up in accordance with the Lusaka Decision.

The creation, in February 2004, of a Steering committee for the Implementation of the Language Plan of Action for Africa (ILPAA) in Yaoundé in Cameroon, Co-chaired by Mr. Adama SAMASSEKOU, President of ACALAN and Prof Neville ALEXANDER from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and composed of eminent linguists and academics from the various regions of Africa among which Ayo BAMGBOSE from Nigeria, Arame FAL from Senegal, Maurice TADADJEU and Sammy CHUMBOW from Cameroon, Hermas MWANSOKO from Tanzania and Carole BLOCH from South Africa, Becky NDJOZE-OJO from Namibia and Salam DIAKITE, now replaced by Souleymane SANGARE, from Mali), made it possible to renew, at the continental level, the enthusiasm aroused just after the  Lusaka Decision.

Indeed, the Steering committee for the Implementation of the Language Plan of Action for Africa (ILPAA) made relevant recommendations in order to operationalize the Academy:

  1. to accelerate the establishment of the African Academy of Languages;
  2. to put in the budget of the African Union Commission a line for the African Academy of Languages;
  3. to invite the African Union to declare the Year 2006, the Year of the African Languages;
  4. to submit the project of implementation of the Language Plan of Action for Africa (ILPAA) to a meeting of the financial and technical partners.

Following the Yaoundé Workshop, the President of the African Union Commission gathered, in March 2004, a working group on the African Academy. It is particularly during this meeting that the idea to make of the year 2006, the Year of African Languages (YOAL) was retained.

The second meeting of the Steering committee, held in December 2004 permitted to refine the ACALAN/ILPAA projects.

A decisive step was the audience granted by the President of the African Union Commission to the President of ACALAN, in July 2005. This audience which was a real working session, permitted to pave the way towards Khartoum.

The third meeting of the Steering committee, in October 2005 in Cape Town, with the active participation of Mrs Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union, H.E. Bience GAWANAS, accompanied by Professor JOHNSON, permitted to finalize the major texts of ACALAN, before the Nairobi meeting.

In Nairobi, from the 10th to the 14th of December 2005, the Steering committee ACALAN/ILPAA took part in the first session of the Conference of the Ministers for Culture of the African Union, which adopted the draft Statutes and several files of ACALAN, in preparation for the Khartoum Summit of January 2006 (23-24) which adopted, among other decisions, the proposed draft Statutes of the Academy as a Specialised Institution of the African Union. Cf. the Web site

From the 20th to the 21th of June 2006, took place in Addis-Ababa, the official launch of the Year of African Languages (YOAL) and the Inaugural Session of the Interim Governing Board of ACALAN. A the same occasion, the President of the Academy Mr Adama Samassékou was appointed as the Interim Executive Secretary of ACALAN. The 2nd Session of the IGB took place in Bamako from the 5th to the 7th of June 2008. The ACALAN Rules of Procedure were adopted during this Session and the Nucleus of the Assembly of Academicians was established. The interim Executive Secretariat which will be establishment at the beginning of this year 2007, will, among other, work for the establishment of the permanent structures of the Academy. And in December 2009, the Interim Executive Secretariat passed the torch to a new international team managed by Prof. Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe, PhD, from Mozambique.


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