Senegal PM broaches ejecting French military

The new prime minister of Senegal, Ousmane Sonko, announced the possibility of closing French military bases in the West African country in a national address May 16. During his speech at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Sonko expressed his concerns about the French role throughout the West African region. He stated: "More than 60 years after our independence…we must question the reasons why the French army…still benefits from several military bases in our country, and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and our strategic autonomy."

Sonko also expressed strong disapproval of efforts made by France and the West to promote values that he said are not in line with those upheld by Senegal and other African countries, including LGBTQ rights and monogamy.

At present, there are 350 French soldiers stationed in Senegal, with 260 of them serving permanently. They have been in the country since 2011, providing training to soldiers from several West African countries.

Following an agreement, Senegal regained control of several military bases previously held by its former colonial ruler in 2010.

From Jurist, May 17. Used with permission.

Note: Formerly a pan-Africanist opposition leader, Sonko was appointed prime minister following the victory of his protégé Bassirou Diomaye Faye in the March presidential election. Sonko was released from prison earlier that month, having been arrested for "disturbing the public order" in July 2023. He was barred from running for the presidency as a result of his conviction on this and other charges, but this would not prevent his appointment as prime minister. Faye himself was also released from prison just days before the election, having been arrested the previous April for "spreading false news."

Although he did not stand as a candidate, the election and release of several political prisoners were a defeat for the government of then-president Macky Sall. When Sall announced an indefinite postponement of the elections in February, this set off angry protests, in which three were killed in Dakar and Saint-Louis. Senegal's Constitutional Council subsequently overturned the postponement, and the elections were held the next month. (Jurist, Jurist, France24)

Over the past three years, coups have ousted French-aligned regimes in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea an Gabon. US troops are also being ejected from countries in the region.