France: UN ‘to vote’ on Mali force next month

The United Nations is likely to vote next month on a peacekeeping force for Mali, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced this week.

France: UN 'to vote' on Mali force next month
Photo: AFP

"We will move from the current framework… to a new diplomatic set-up, a peacekeeping operation which would probably be voted in April and implemented two months later," he told the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee.

On Tuesday Fabius said the UN force could comprise up to 10,000 troops.

Fabius said the operation "will be overseen by the UN and be funded by the UN, something which will obviously have a number of consequences for us".

Up until now, France has borne the brunt of the costs linked to its military involvement in Mali as well as the bulk of expenses related to Chad's 2,000-man contingent there.

At the end of last month, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the operation would soon have cost France more than €100 million ($130 million).

The current African force AFISMA is composed of about 6,300 soldiers and is supposed to be taking over from French soldiers. Paris is due to scale back operations in Mali next month.

"French troops were not meant to stay in Mali forever", Fabius reiterated, but said that France also in the future will be present there "in one way or another".

French forces launched a surprise intervention on January 11th in a bid to stop Al Qaeda-linked fighters who had controlled northern Mali since April 2012 from moving southward and threatening the capital Bamako.

Islamist groups have largely been forced out of the main cities in the north and are now waging a guerrilla war against French, Malian and other troops seeking to help the government assert its control over the entire territory.

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French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.