France to keep military bases in Gabon, Senegal
France said on Wednesday it would maintain permanent military bases in both Gabon and Senegal, backtracking on a plan to shut one of the two under a review of its military strategy in Africa.
"The idea is that we will keep both Libreville and Dakar," Defence Minister Herve Morin told a press conference.
President Nicolas Sarkozy last year approved a White Paper that called for France to cut its permanent presence in Africa from four to two regional hubs, one facing west towards the Atlantic and the other looking east.
France's other permanent bases in the region are in Djibouti and on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
But while Senegal is seen as the leading choice for the Atlantic, Morin said Wednesday it had always been clear that France's oil-rich former colony Gabon would be an exception to the rule.
"In the current state of affairs, our forces will stay in Gabon," he said.
Morin said however the arrangement was open to review and that Sarkozy may decide "in one, two or three years" and in agreement with Gabon to withdraw the 1,000 troops stationed in its former colony since independence in 1960.
Several dozen French troops deployed earlier this month to protect Paris' consulate in Gabon's oil capital Port-Gentil when riots broke out after the contested election of President Ali Bongo, son of late ruler Omar Bongo.