Hollande now 'chef de guerre'

2013-01-13 18:27

Paris - Since he announced his decision on Friday to take his country to war against Islamist rebels in Mali, Hollande has won a reprieve from a relentless barrage of criticism both at home and internationally.

The organizers of a demonstration on Sunday in Paris over a government gay marriage bill watched with dismay as the biggest march in years had to compete for airtime with battle updates.

Since the summer Hollande had been under fire over his foot-dragging on the reforms needed to turn around the French economy and his flip-flopping on policy.

The images of hundreds of demonstrators protesting his "marriage for all" bill - a key campaign promise - had been expected to underscore his "embattled" status.

But "Flanby" as Hollande is nicknamed after a brand of wobbly custard has disappeared, replaced by a decisive "chef de guerre" who bit the bullet while the world wrung its hands to prevent Mali being overrun by Islamist fundamentalists.

It has not been all plain sailing for Hollande in these first few days of combat.

On Saturday he admitted that a concomitant raid to try free a hostage being held by Islamist radicals in Somalia, one of nine French hostages in Africa, had failed.

The botched raid killed one French soldier, wounded another who is believed to be in the rebels' hands and "no doubt" led the radical al-Shabaab group to kill hostage Denis Allex, according to Hollande.

It also heightened fears for the safety of the other eight hostages, six of whom are being held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. AQIM, one of the three groups that took control of northern Mali last year, began this week to push south.

Hollande, however, defended the Somali setback.

Terrorist blackmail

"This operation [in Somalia] confirms France's determination not to give in to terrorist blackmail," he said Saturday, in his second update to the nation in as many days.

For Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a deputy from Hollande's Socialist Party, the Mali intervention marks "a turning point in [Hollande's] presidency."

"Francois Hollande is effectively taking the leadership in Europe in protecting Europe against terrorism," said Cambadelis, echoing the view in France that the establishment of a terrorist state in Mali threatens Europe, as well as Africa.

African and European leaders poured praise on Hollande.

Malian President Dioncounda Traore phoned his French counterpart on Saturday to "thank him," the Elysee said.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso saluted the "courageous action of the French troops" while British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to provide logistical support and West African bloc ECOWAS bloc promised to hurry along its own intervention force.

Within France, Hollande was also enjoying a rare moment in the sun, with even the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen saying the intervention was "legitimate."

Former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who famously opposed the US-led war in Iraq at the UN Security Council in 2003, was among the few dissenters.

Wars against terrorism were a minefield, de Villepin warned in an opinion article in Le Journal du Dimanche. "In Mali, none of the conditions for success are there ... We will fight along, without a solid Malian partner."

  • Peter Zylstra - 2013-01-13 19:41

    And they say islam is a peaceful bunch but, allas. they are nothing more than a lot of terrorists wanting to rule the world.

  • Nathan Lombard - 2013-01-13 20:00

    Vive! Where do I sign up?

  • gert_swart - 2013-01-13 20:08

    Great Stuff France. Wipe out those religiots!

  • fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 21:28

    'It is Allah Who has Created the heavens and the earth,and all between them in six Days,Then He established Himself On the Throne:Ye have none besides Him, to protect or intercede (for you), Holy Quran 32:verse 4. I challenge the tuff guys to sign up to challenge that.:)

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:00

      It's interesting how you side with al Qaeda. Do you approve of the death penalty for rape victims?

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:01

      Wow! For people who have that on their side Moslems have lost a lot lot of wars.

      fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 22:01

      'So will you not then be reminded'ext of Quran32:4. I guess this should remind ,Who Rules the World.Anybody interested in taking Him on??hehehe

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:09

      Yeah I'm really not scared.

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:10

      It doesn't help to quote the Koran to someone who doesn't believe in it.

      fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 22:24

      Its strange how the Glorification of God by a mustim,always gets distorted and linked to al Qaeda.Atheists are never linked to any group neither are christians.If a Christian praises Jesus is he called a terrorist?No one asked you to be scared.But if people are worried and want to take on the 'One Who Rules the World' then dont take Islam on,take God on??And rather face your ammo in the direction of the 'Ruler',dnt u think?

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:24

      In this case the French are stopping Al Qaeda, you are defending them.

      fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 22:33

      Even if you averemel, and the whole of mankind denounced the Quran and God,it would not diminish their Power by an atom.

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:38

      It's funny how you swing from scripture to debating and back again. You can believe whatever you want, just don't try and force it on others as is being done in Mali.

      fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 22:49

      You are in the habit of shifting the goalposts and making false allegations and accusations.I only placed a verse affirming 'Who Rules' whether you believe it or not, has no relevence nor bearing on its fact.Its you who turned it into a debate,not me!

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 22:53

      You said that the French are signing up to fight Allah by going into Mali, thus al Qaeda are doing Allahs work according to you.

      fort.horseman.7 - 2013-01-13 23:17

      Again you are in the habit of putting words in peoples mouths,bad habit,anyway i read the Quran,and no where does it instruct Islam or Muslims to 'rule the world' since that would be a contradiction of our belief,since only God can rule the world.Mali is so small,i find it difficult to understand how you equate it to the 'whole world'?If anything,The Quran preaches peace and the co existence among the brotherhood of mankind.

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-13 23:26

      At no stage did I use the words "the whole world", however there are a lot of people suffering in Mali, so simple question: do you approve of Al Qaeda's actions there or not?

  • pierre.devilliers.9231 - 2013-01-14 11:04

    Surely some will come up with excellent reasons for attacking some small village in Africa, however what benefit did colonial intervention do in 100 years to Africa to compensate for the destruction. (From Uganda to Ruanda, show me a mess in Africa that did not have its origins in colonial imperialism.) Recently after the Cold War, we had a few nice years in an absence of colonial powers messing in Africa, and some real progress was emerging on the continent. Now it is all starting again. We have a socialist getting to power and the first thing he does after getting some bad criticism at home, is to send his bombers into Africa. Is he just copying the US actions of recent years? Why can’t the France live up to their ideals of Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood? Anyway the worst thing, it is working; Hollande’s ratings are suddenly all up. People are more interested in the war updates than what is wrong in their own country.

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-14 11:18

      So you support the actions of the rebels in taking over vast swathes of land and turning it into a sharia state with no rights for women or minorities? Remember, the Mali government asked for assistance. This conflict has nothing to do with colonialism and everything to do with fighting religious extremists.

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