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Senegal PM Sonko Suggests Closing French Military Bases

SENEGAL’S Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko raised the possibility of closing French military bases in the West African country during a comprehensive speech on Thursday. His address also covered topics such as the euro-backed CFA franc currency, oil and gas deals, and LGBTQ rights.

Sonko, a firebrand politician, gained power when his chosen presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye won decisively in March. Known for his criticism of perceived French overreach in its former colony, Sonko questioned the continued presence of French troops.

‘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,’ Sonko stated at a joint conference with French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Dakar.

France currently has about 350 troops stationed in Senegal. Sonko emphasised the need for Senegal to control its own sovereignty, stating, ‘This is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal.’

He highlighted the example of neighbouring countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, which have expelled French troops and turned to Russia for assistance in combating jihadist insurgencies. These countries have also distanced themselves from the West African bloc ECOWAS and formed their own alliance of Sahel states.

‘We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,’ Sonko affirmed.

On the economic front, Sonko addressed the euro-pegged CFA franc currency, shared by Senegal and seven other countries. He advocated for a flexible currency pegged to multiple currencies to better absorb economic shocks and support export competitiveness. During the election campaign, Faye had initially pledged to abandon the CFA franc but later retracted that promise.

Sonko also reiterated his commitment to renegotiate oil and gas contracts in Senegal, with production expected to begin this year. He called on Western countries to show ‘restraint, respect, reciprocity, and tolerance’ regarding social issues, including LGBTQ rights and gender equality.

Acknowledging the existence of homosexuality in Senegal, Sonko stated, ‘Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalising this phenomenon,’ emphasising that the country would continue to manage such issues according to its socio-cultural realities.

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