At the Port-Bouët military base in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, December 19, 2019. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP
At the end of tough discussions, the head of state finally decided on the future of the three French bases on the coast of West Africa. While the armies were excluded from the Elysée Palace arbitration courts for many months, according to our information, Emmanuel Macron decided on a drastic reduction in military personnel in Gabon, Senegal and Ivory Coast during a Defense Council held in mid-December 2023.
The exact number of French soldiers to be stationed in these bases in Libreville (Gabon), Dakar (Senegal) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast) is not yet set in stone. But in the army headquarters, which are most affected by these personnel cuts, the planned reductions are in any case significant: only about a hundred positions, which are intended primarily for support functions, will be permanently retained in each of the three cities, it says Communication the desired maximalist scenario.
For the Libreville and Dakar bases, which officially each housed 350 soldiers in recent months, and for Abidjan, France's logistics hub for its operations in the Sahel, where around 950 soldiers were stationed, this decline in numbers is a significant point. However, the head of state has not decided to close them – something that was once considered. However, the French presence in Djibouti and Chad (1,500 soldiers each) remains unchanged.
“We want to go quickly”
“There is no change of axis,” we say at the Elysée Palace, recalling that the principle of reducing the French military presence in Africa has been on track since February 2023, when the President announced this on the eve of a trip to the continent. “But there are factors that are driving us forward,” we add. We want to move away from a model where we were very present in the capital cities and had a much smaller presence. »
The coup in Niger in July 2023 played a crucial role in this restructuring. The withdrawal, which was forced under pressure from the putschists, was completed at the end of December. After those in Mali and Burkina Faso. And now we in the Elysée Palace and in the General Staff say that we are in a hurry to move forward. “We want to act quickly,” says the Presidium of the Republic and points out that the “modalities” should be discussed with the partner countries.
The army headquarters is explained that the project is to limit the deployment of soldiers with their families, who maintain the image of an isolated France, to create bases intended as simple “concierge services”. In short, areas with limited visibility but for which it will still be possible to vary the workforce for one-off missions, with “principles of back and forth according to the needs of partners (…), each with their own particularities”. We show off at the Elysée.
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