June 16, 2024

Senegalese PM Sonko calls for expulsion of French troops, regional Alliance


Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko has stirred significant political discourse by advocating for the removal of French military bases from Senegalese territory, citing concerns over national sovereignty and strategic autonomy.

In a bold speech delivered on Thursday, Sonko questioned the presence of approximately 350 French troops in Senegal, a legacy of colonial ties.

“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 stated at a joint conference with French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Dakar.

Sonko’s address covered a range of issues, including the controversial CFA franc currency, Senegal’s oil and gas deals, and LGBTQ rights. Known for his fiery rhetoric against perceived French overreach, Sonko gained prominence when his ally Bassirou Diomaye Faye won a decisive presidential election in March.

Criticism of French military presence is not new in West Africa. Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have already expelled French troops, opting for Russian assistance to combat jihadist insurgencies.

These countries have also distanced themselves from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following coups, forming their own Sahel alliance.

Echoing regional sentiments, Sonko expressed solidarity with these neighboring nations. “We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,” he affirmed.

Addressing economic issues, Sonko called for a flexible currency pegged to multiple currencies to boost export competitiveness, a departure from the euro-pegged CFA franc shared with seven other countries. Although President Faye initially promised to abandon the CFA franc during his campaign, he later retracted this pledge.

Furthermore, Sonko reiterated his administration’s intent to renegotiate oil and gas contracts as Senegal prepares to commence production this year. He also urged Western countries to exercise “restraint, respect, reciprocity and tolerance” concerning social issues like LGBTQ rights and gender equality, emphasizing that Senegal would manage these matters according to its socio-cultural context.

“Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalizing this phenomenon,” Sonko declared, reflecting the country’s conservative stance on homosexuality.

Sonko’s remarks signal a potential shift in Senegal’s foreign and domestic policies, underscoring a growing movement in West Africa towards greater autonomy and regional solidarity.

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