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Senegal PM Criticises French Military Bases, Advocates Self Control

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In a comprehensive speech on Thursday, Senegal’s Prime Minister, Ousmane Sonko touched on a number of topics, including the euro-backed CFA franc, oil and gas transactions, and LGBTQ rights. He even mentioned the potential of closing French military posts in the West African nation.

Firebrand politician Sonko came to prominence in March after his hand-picked presidential candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, won a resounding victory. Sonko is well-known for his criticism of what he saw as French imperialism in its former colony. In Senegal, France has roughly 350 soldiers.

At a joint conference with French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon in the capital Dakar, Sonko stated, “More than 60 years after our independence … we must question the reasons why the French army for example still benefits from several military bases in our country and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and our strategic autonomy.”

“I reiterate here the desire of Senegal to have its own control, which is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal … Many countries have promised defence agreements, but this does not justify the fact that a third of the Dakar region is now occupied by foreign garrisons.”

After driving out French forces, neighbors Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger looked to Russia for assistance in quelling Islamist insurgencies on their own. Additionally, they broke away from ECOWAS, a West African bloc that denounced their coups, and established their own alliance of Sahel states.

However, Sonko spoke kindly to them on Thursday. “We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,” he stated. Additionally, he stated that in order to enhance export competitiveness and absorb shocks, Senegal, which shares the euro-linked CFA franc currency with seven other nations, would prefer a flexible currency pegged to at least two currencies.

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