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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid