February 02, 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.