Senegal Also Wants to Close French Military Bases

Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko: “They threaten our sovereignty”

Ousmane Sonko

Another African country is getting liberated from the French military presence. Senegal’s new Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko has called for the closure of French military bases still in the West African country. During a joint press conference with French leftist leader Jean-Luc Melanchon, who was visiting Dakar, Sonko questioned “why there are still several French bases in Senegal, more than 60 years after independence from France.” According to Sonko, the French military presence has a negative impact on the country’s sovereignty. “I reaffirm here Senegal’s desire to have its own control, which is incompatible with the prolonged presence of foreign military bases in Senegal,” the prime minister said, emphasizing the desire to establish political, economic, and military ties with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, a trio of neighboring countries that have already expelled French troops and turned to Russia for help in fighting jihadist rebellions.

The French Defense Ministry estimates that 350 French soldiers, mostly belonging to the Foreign Legion, are currently in Senegal. For the moment, French armed forces are still present in four West and Central African countries, from Senegal to Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Chad. There are about 1500 French soldiers living in Djibouti, in the eastern part of the Dark Continent. The French military presence in Senegal is governed by certain bilateral agreements, but all of them need to be renegotiated now. “We can make defense agreements without justifying the fact that one-third of the Dakar region is now occupied by French garrisons,” Sonko said.

According to the French press, “as part of its gradual loss of influence in Africa, Paris has even considered sharing some military bases with US troops, who are also on the verge of withdrawing from neighboring Niger and Chad.” According to French Chief of Staff Thierry Burkhard, this hypothesis is considered “desirable if France wants to reduce its visibility while maintaining the minimum area necessary to maintain access to the territory open to Paris.”