African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 398

Full Length Research Paper

“Mother tongue won’t help you eat”: Language politics in Sierra Leone

Mneesha Gellman
  • Mneesha Gellman
  • Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, Emerson College, USA.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 16 August 2020
  •  Accepted: 03 September 2020
  •  Published: 31 October 2020


This article addresses the question, how does Sierra Leone’s language regime, moderated through formal and informal education, contribute to post-war globalization dynamics? Since Sierra Leonean independence from Britain in 1961, Krio, a type of Creole, has gone from being the mother tongue of a small ethnic minority to the lingua franca, particularly in Freetown, the state capital. English has been Sierra Leone’s elite language since colonial times and remains the only official language of government. Yet many other languages are spoken in Sierra Leone in different communities and contexts. Drawing on interviews and political ethnographic work in Freetown and the districts, the study argues that language and identity shift connected to post-war globalization reflects tensions between upward socio-economic mobility and cultural survival.


Key words: Sierra Leone, language, education, participation, identity, citizenship.