France announced it would close its military base in ex-colony Senegal and pull out all but 300 of its 1200 troops there in a shift towards helping local African forces provide their own security.
Those French troops remaining would staff a military cooperation centre for the West African region, a statement issued by the French embassy in the capital Dakar said.
“The main goal of our defence cooperation is to help Africa launch its own collective security system, together with our longstanding training for officers of national armies,” it said.
“France will no longer have a military base,” it added, noting it would retain its two other African bases in central African Gabon and the other in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
France and Senegal have been negotiating the move for months and President Abdoulaye Wade’s government initially expected a decision before its 50th anniversary of independence on April 4.
However there was no agreement by then and in a move which appeared to take France by surprise, Wade went on television on the eve of the anniversary to declare that Senegal was taking back all the military premises used by France, most of which are dotted around the capital Dakar.
“It’s been a long process which has just finished but all’s well that end’s well. France is an ally and strategic partner for Senegal,” Wade’s spokesperson Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye said by telephone.
Pic: Senegalese troops