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Africa

Senegal 'takes back' French military bases

media Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade (R) and First Lady Viviane Wade attend … Reuters

Senegal marked 50 years of independence on Sunday by announcing it was taking back French military bases. The move was agreed in February but Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's announcement was significant in a country marked by 350 years of French presence.

The first French colony south of the Sahara, Senegal hosts one of three permanent French military bases in Africa, with 1,200 men based in Dakar. The other permanent bases are in Libreville and Djibouti.

A colourful two-hour parade in Dakar on Sunday included a French contingent marching behind an officer bearing France's flag. Several African heads of state and French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux were among those who attended the ceremony to mark the anniversary of Senegal's independence.

Wade said that keeping French military bases in the country "appeared more and more incongruous and has often been felt by our populations... as an incomplete independence."

In February, Senegal and France announced that they had reached an agreement to close the bases. However, France said it intended to preserve a "centre of military co-operation with a regional purpose."

No withdrawal timeline has been given but French troops will gradually leave Senegal in the coming months. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated that only 300 will remain.

Wade's announcement came shortly after the inauguration of a controversial monument to the African Renaissance, which has been criticised for its cost of over 20 million euros.

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