Mali: Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Mr President of Mali, you’ve just thanked France, through me and through the government represented here. I appreciate it. I’m proud of it. But now it’s my turn to express to the Malian people my full gratitude for their extraordinary welcome.
Throughout this day – begun in Mopti, continued in Timbuktu and finishing here in Bamako – there’s been the same fervent clamour of “Long live France and long live Mali!”
Yes, it’s true: I took a grave decision on 10 January to commit French soldiers alongside Malian soldiers. It was [in response to] the appeal made to me by President Traoré. It was the duty of France, who was acting on behalf of the international community with the support of the European countries, in the framework of the United Nations. Yes, we had to respond: it was important to fight, because it was terrorism. Terrorism here in Mali, terrorism in West Africa, terrorism everywhere. By acting in this way, France was living up to her history, to the Republic, to human rights and therefore to democracy.
Since that date of 10 January and France’s intervention, the Malian and French armed forces, supported by the countries of West Africa, have finally – town by town, village by village – been restoring Mali’s unity, integrity and strength.
Yes, terrorism has been driven back, it’s been chased away, but it hasn’t yet been defeated. In your presence, I want to pay tribute to the Malian soldiers. I’m also thinking of Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, who died for freedom and of whom I have the honour of saying that many Malian parents here have named their children Damien, in memory of his sacrifice.
France stands alongside you, not to serve any particular interest – we have none –, to protect this or that faction, or in favour of this or that Malian party… No, we stand alongside you for the sake of the whole of Mali and for West Africa. We’re fighting here to ensure Mali lives in peace and democracy. And you’ve presented the best image today, through your warmth and fervour, after your pain throughout those months when fanaticism held sway in northern Mali.
We’re fighting as brothers – Malians, French, Africans – because I haven’t forgotten that when France herself was attacked, when she was seeking support and allies, when her territorial integrity was threatened, who came along? It was Africa; it was Mali. Thank you, thank you, Mali. Today we’re repaying our debt to you.
But as I’ve told you, the fight isn’t over. The terrorist groups are weakened, they’ve suffered heavy losses, but they haven’t disappeared. So what do we have to do? Continue, persevere. And France will stay with you as long as necessary – that is, as long as it takes the Africans themselves, through Afisma [African-led International Support Mission to Mali], to take over from us, to replace us. But until then, we’ll be alongside you to the end, right up to northern Mali.
But I also confess to you – because I owe you this respect – that France doesn’t intend to remain here in Mali, because it’s the Malians themselves, the Africans who will guarantee security, independence and sovereignty. That’s how I understand relations between France and Africa. Respect, democracy, transparency. It’s you who are now going to forge your destiny.
I speak here, in front of the monument to independence, to pay tribute to your history but also to tell you that your country is going to experience a new independence, which this time won’t be victory over the colonial system but rather victory over terrorism, intolerance and fanaticism. This is your independence.
France stands alongside Mali with her soldiers, but she also stands alongside Mali with her assistance and support. We’ve decided to stand alongside you to support you in the economic recovery, in rebuilding your public services: education, health and security. We’ll help rebuild Mali’s cultural sites.
We won’t do so alone: Europe is at your side. The international community is with you, and UNESCO – represented by its Director-General – is here too, because we can’t tolerate what happened in Timbuktu: holy places sadly tarnished, monuments desecrated, historic documents that have disappeared… But with you we’ll recreate them, because you’re in charge of Mali’s heritage but also the heritage of all mankind. I know the suffering caused by the occupation of northern Mali’s towns and cities.
Those who have been involved with the terrorist groups will have to answer for their crimes. There must be no judicial impunity for those acts. But it’s up to Malian justice, international justice, the [International] Criminal Court to ensure there can be fair punishment for those crimes. However, justice isn’t revenge. It isn’t acts of violence. No suffering can justify looting or acts of violence. You can’t mend one injustice with another. You must be exemplary. You’re being watched by the whole international community. Yes, we must punish the criminals, the terrorists, but we must do so – you must do so – with due respect for human rights: the same human rights that were trampled on, flouted by the terrorists.
In this spirit of confidence in Mali, I know the effort which remains to be made: to restore the whole of Mali’s territorial integrity. No city, no village must be occupied by terrorists or escape Mali’s sovereignty.
Yes, we also have to begin this Afisma-led, African forces-led process of security. Yes, you have to carry out the political transition, democracy, elections. Hold successful elections in July. Show the whole of Africa and the whole world that Mali is an example, and ensure that France can tell herself that what you are doing here in Mali is worthy of our soldiers’ sacrifice.
What’s also at stake is the relationship between Europe and Africa. We need our two continents together to secure the future. We need the international community, we need the aid which will come from everywhere for you. And we also need France and Mali united, together, two peoples who share the same foundations, the same values.
I spoke to the Malians living in France. I promised them I will come here to Bamako to tell them, to tell you that what we’ve got to do together is greater than our two peoples: to show that terrorism can be defeated, that democracy can prevail and that human rights apply everywhere, on every continent, and we are all united by the blood shed, united by the decision we took together, united with the United Nations, united together.
Malian friends, try to ensure that your new independence will remain a complete success. France is with you. France is at your side. France is proud of you.
And I want to tell you, here, that I have just lived through the most important day of my political life. Because there comes a point when a decision has to be taken which affects the lives of men and women. I took this decision on France’s behalf. It honours France, and through the clamour, the enthusiasm, the support you’re giving me, it is the whole of France you are paying your greatest tribute to.
Thank you, people of Mali. Long live Mali! Long live France! Long live the friendship between Mali and France!