Senegal says to take back French military bases

DAKAR, April 4 (Reuters) – Senegal will take back military bases held by former colonial ruler France, President Abdoulaye Wade said on the eve of the West African country’s 50th anniversary since independence on Sunday. “I solemnly declare that Senegal is taking back, starting April 4, all the bases on our soil previously held by France,” he said late on Saturday in a televised speech. Senegal and France agreed in February on the drawdown this year of 1,200 French soldiers from an air base in the capital Dakar, one of three French bases still active in Africa. France has had a continued military presence in the country since decolonisation in 1960. Wade said Senegal’s government would begin talks with French officials on the logistics of the handover. Earlier on Saturday, Wade inaugurated a monument to the “African Renaissance” — a $28 million statue of a man, woman and child looming over Dakar slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty — to mark the 50th anniversary of independence. More than a dozen heads of state, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, attended the statue’s inauguration amid some complaints by residents the project was a waste of money in an impoverished country with crumbling infrastructure. On Sunday the country marked independence day with a parade in Dakar. (Reporting by Diadie Ba; writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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