News / Africa

French Army Marks Bastille Day in Mali

General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, force commander of Operation Serval, reviews troops in Bamako, Mali, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)
General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, force commander of Operation Serval, reviews troops in Bamako, Mali, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)
Ivan Broadhead
France’s national day celebration, Bastille Day, was observed in Mali with a parade by French forces Sunday, mirroring the main ceremony in Paris. Stability in the war-torn West African state is improving as French troops deployed on Operation Serval continue to mop up insurgent groups in the north. Speaking to VOA in a rare interview, the commander of French forces, General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, expressed his optimism about this month’s elections in Mali.  

At Bamako air base, French troops gave a somber rendition of their national anthem "La Marseillaise"  during their Bastille Day parade - a ceremony that commemorates the emergence of the modern state that grew from the chaos of the French revolution in 1789.

Such historical resonances are not likely to be lost on those senior Malian army officers present. The former French colony saw its government overthrown 16 months ago. A near six-month state of emergency was suspended only last week in anticipation of presidential and legislative elections July 28.

General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin is commanding officer of Operation Serval. The mission by France - at the request of Mali's government - to restore stability and contain Islamist and other insurgents in northern Mali, has been a broad success, with just a handful of French fatalities.   

Addressing concerns that the international community is rushing Mali into elections for which it remains ill-prepared, de Saint-Quentin said he is optimistic a functional new government will emerge.

The general said he has no reason to believe otherwise.  He said France's efforts in Mali have required some sacrifices, but a consequence is that the elections are actually taking place.  He noted that just six months ago when Operation Serval began, two-thirds of Mali had been overrun by terrorists.

French troops, part of the 3,200-strong Operation Serval contingent in Mali, participate in a Bastille Day parade in the West African nation's capital, Bamako, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)French troops, part of the 3,200-strong Operation Serval contingent in Mali, participate in a Bastille Day parade in the West African nation's capital, Bamako, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)
x
French troops, part of the 3,200-strong Operation Serval contingent in Mali, participate in a Bastille Day parade in the West African nation's capital, Bamako, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)
French troops, part of the 3,200-strong Operation Serval contingent in Mali, participate in a Bastille Day parade in the West African nation's capital, Bamako, July 14, 2013. (I. Broadhead/VOA)
A low voter turnout could threaten the credibility of the elections. More than 300,000 Malians are believed to remain displaced by the recent turmoil. Voter registration is also hindered by Mali’s large size and the complexities of introducing a biometric polling system in one of the world’s least developed nations.

However, security is improving and Islamist rebels have been broadly routed by the French, with others fleeing to southern Libya. European forces are now training the Malian army to resume full defense and security duties. General de Saint-Quentin does not preclude targeted French military support if stability is compromised during the elections. 

He said judging by the number of voter registrations, Malians are eager to go the the polls.  The general expressed hope the elections take place peacefully, noting there have been no terrorist attacks for some time, and that Malian forces have a plan in place to maintain security.  He said France is ready to help if Malian forces need any assistance.

Ramping up its stabilization mission (MINUSMA), the United Nations is in the process of deploying 12,600 peacekeepers to Mali, including a significant Chinese contingent. At the same time, Paris intends to reduce its force of 3,200 combat troops to around 1,000 by year-end. France now has a new role to play, observed French ambassador Gilles Huberson.  

He said France was there to help in January, and will be there again to help with redevelopment, if Mali wishes.  The ambassador says this is the next stage, and Paris has decided the provision of French aid will be entirely transparent and open to scrutiny.

Speaking in Geneva earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters the situation in Mali is of grave concern. 

“It is vital these elections be credible and peaceful, with an outcome respected by all Malians," he said.

French soldiers stand in an armored vehicle during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2013.French soldiers stand in an armored vehicle during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2013.
x
French soldiers stand in an armored vehicle during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2013.
French soldiers stand in an armored vehicle during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2013.
Ban was among the guests of honor of French President Francois Hollande at the main Bastille Day celebration in Paris Sunday, as was Dioncounda Traoré, who, until July 28 at least, remains Mali’s interim president.

You May Like

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs