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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora