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.
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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid