News / Africa

Hollande: France to Remain at Mali’s Side as Fight Continues

France's President Francois Hollande (2nd L) joins hands with Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore at Independence Plaza in Bamako, Mali February 2, 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande (2nd L) joins hands with Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore at Independence Plaza in Bamako, Mali February 2, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
— French President Francois Hollande received an exuberant welcome in Mali Saturday, three weeks after the start of a French military intervention that helped stop an Islamist militants' advance into Mali's south and won back the al-Qaida linked rebels' three northern strongholds after 10 months of occupation.  

Residents of Timbuktu danced, drummed and cheered in the streets Saturday as they welcomed French President Francois Hollande.  These expressions of joy were forbidden by the al-Qaida-linked militants in control of the town just one week ago.

President Hollande said later in his speech in Bamako that the 4,600 French troops involved in Operation Serval, most of them on the ground in Mali, were fighting "as brothers" alongside the Malians.

Hollande says "town after town, village after village, the French and Malian armies supported by regional troops have finally returned to Mali its unity, territorial integrity and strength.  The terrorist," he says, "has been pushed back.  He has been chased out, but he has not yet been beaten."  

The French military intervention began, at the request of the Malian government, on Jan. 11, less than two days after the rebels, in control of the north since April, launched a surprise offensive south.

Mali's army, already weakened by military defeat in the north and a coup in the south last year, could not have held them off on their own.  French aircraft have carried out daily bombing campaigns against militant targets throughout the north and French ground troops have deployed as far north as Kidal.

Many of the rebels had already fled the main towns, dispersing among the population and seeking cover in the dunes and mountains of the far north, according to military sources.

The shadow of a grisly guerrilla war to come hangs over the country even as Malians celebrate in the victories of the past three weeks. 
  • French President Francois Hollande, center right, is greeted by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore, as he arrives at the airport in Sevare, Mali, en route to Timbuktu, February 2, 2013.
  • French President Francois Hollande addresses the troops at the airport following his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.
  • Elders gather with over two thousand well-wishers to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.
  • French President Francois Hollande visits Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.
  • Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.
  • French President Francois Hollande holds hands with Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traoré in Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.
  • Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali, February 2, 2013.

Hollande says the terrorist groups have been weakened and suffered large losses but have not disappeared.  He says troops will keep hunting them down, and France will stay at Mali's side as long as it takes, meaning, he says, until the regional African force that is still deploying to Mali is ready to take over the fight alongside the Malian army.

Hollande sought to reassure Malians, saying that French soldiers are not there to advance French interests or take sides but to fight terrorism in the region and the world.

The crowd in Bamako waved flags from both countries.  One woman had painted a heart-shaped French flag in the middle of her Malian one.  Another waved a sign that read, "Merci, Papa Hollande."

Mali's interim president, Diouncounda Traore, said Saturday that without French help, Mali would be no more.

Normalcy remains a long way off for the country.  More than 400,000 people have fled the north in the past year.  Humanitarian groups say that number could as much as double in coming months if fighting continues.

Recent victories come amid reports from human rights groups that Malian soldiers and residents of liberated towns are taking revenge against suspected militants and perceived rebel supporters from the Arab, Tuareg and Peul ethnic groups.

Both presidents urged Malians to respect human rights.

Traore defended the Malian army, calling its behavior during the campaign "quasi-exemplary." He said "no misconduct, no reprisals, no revenge killings" will be tolerated.  He says people committing abuses are acting on their own and will be held accountable. 

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid