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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs