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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid