News / Africa

In South Africa, Rare Support for French Intervention

African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, with French President Francois Hollande, Elysee Palace, Paris, Nov. 14, 2012.
African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, with French President Francois Hollande, Elysee Palace, Paris, Nov. 14, 2012.
Anita Powell
African powerhouse South Africa has previously denounced foreign interference on the continent, but the nation is welcoming the French military campaign against Islamist militants in Mali.
Residents of Mali’s fabled town of Timbuktu welcomed French President Francois Holland as a hero and liberator on Saturday, after French forces helped Malian soldiers drive back Islamist rebels from the northern town.
In South Africa, reaction to France’s advance has been more muted, but just as positive, an unusual turn for a country that has staunchly opposed foreign military intervention on the continent and stuck to the African Union credo of “African solutions to African problems.”
In 2011, President Jacob Zuma, addressing events in Libya, said his government believed in the “rejection of any foreign military intervention, whatever its form." His government also opposed French military intervention in Ivory Coast's violent 2011 political crisis.
In the case of however, Zuma says “there was no other alternative” to stop the advance of Islamists, because the Malian army did not have the power to do so after members of Mali’s army led a March coup, motivated in part by their complaint the government did not give them enough support in the fight against Tuareg separatist rebels.
Zuma's response appears to be universal; African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife, said the continental body was “very grateful to France," a surprising statement from a leader who has long been critical of the former colonial power.
Dlamini-Zuma has said she believes French intervention ended her first bid for her current job.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela says it is critical the Mali operation was asked for by African forces, not France.
“South Africa has got no problems with the assistance of countries like France to deal with the conflict in Mali," Monyela said. "In fact, we welcome it on the basis that there has been consultation, but secondly that it is in response to a request by Africans for this intervention.”
He described France’s 2011 intervention in Ivory Coast — wherein South African officials had favored mediation over military action — as more complicated and political, unlike the fairly straightforward threat in Mali.
“There were a lot of dynamics which were completely different from what you have in Mali, where you are essentially just dealing with rebels who want to overthrow a sitting government," he said. "In the African Union, we do not recognize unconstitutional changes of government or force changes of government, particularly if you are overthrowing a democratically elected government.”
Malians appear to largely support the action against al-Qaida-linked rebels who have killed, mutilated and threatened residents in their drive to impose strict Islamic law. The group has also destroyed priceless historical artifacts in the ancient learning center of Timbuktu.
South African Institute of International Affairs analyst Tom Wheeler says Mali’s willingness to bring in the French was crucial.
"The French had refused to go into the Central African Republic in terms of Hollande’s policy of not interfering in African affairs anymore, withdrawing from that sort of colonial mindset they had," said Wheeler. "In this case, it seemed to meet everybody’s needs — certainly the Mali government, which is in a bit of a disarray, and the army, which is not particularly well organized."
There has been only limited opposition to the French intervention. Egypt’s new president opposed the idea, warning it could create more regional conflict.
Analysts have said they are worried Mali’s Islamist rebels will simply melt into the vast, inhospitable Sahara desert, waiting for another chance to strike.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Yvon from: USA
February 04, 2013 2:24 PM
Why no Islamist rebel news? the news cannot reach them? or to danger for the news go with them?

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
February 04, 2013 1:05 PM
France should start with drawing troops today.
Send in the drone fleet.
Arm our side and wish them luck.

Hopefully with confidence gained by the locals
France/the West will not have to brush these criminals back next year.
It is extremely important to show the locals the West can not stay. They need to take responsibly as best they can and go for it.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs