SHARE
COPY LINK

TRIERWEILER

French first lady visits Mali ‘on a mission’

French first lady Valerie Trierweiler has arrived in war-torn Mali on "a mission for children and women." This is first official engagement abroad without her partner, French President François Hollande.

French first lady visits Mali 'on a mission'
French first lady Valerie Trierweiler arrived in Mali on May 15th at the invitation of her Malian counterpart. She is said to be on "a mission for children and women." File photo: Cyclotron/Wikimedia

Upon arrival at Bamako airport the partner of President Francois Hollande said her presence was "a very good symbol" as her husband and the Malian leader attended a donors conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

At the Brussels meeting, international donors pledged a bigger than expected €3.25 billion to help the former French colony recover after Islamist rebels nearly overran the troubled country.

The French first lady will spend 48 hours in Mali at the invitation of her Malian counterpart, according to Trierweiler's aides.

The visit comes with France nearing the end of an offensive to push Al Qaeda-linked militants out of the main cities of Mali's vast desert north, from where they continue to stage guerrilla attacks.

Trierweiler, 48, is known for her commitment to education and youth issues in her native France, but the visit marks her first official engagement abroad without Hollande.

A member of her entourage confirmed a report by the @Infos140 Twitter feed that the visit was part of "a mission for children and women", adding that the plight of 457,000 people displaced by the conflict would also be discussed.

"It is at the invitation of Madame Traore (Mintou Doucoure), wife of Acting Mali Pres, that V. Trierweiler goes to Mali," the feed said.

France sent in troops in January to push back Islamist rebels who had exploited the chaos following a military coup to occupy the country's north and begin an advance on the capital, Bamako.

The international donors meeting in Brussels, co-hosted by the EU and France, had an initial target of two billion euros to cover about half the cost of a 2013-14 economic and political reconstruction programme agreed with the international community.

Donors also pledged to "look at the causes of the crisis" that led to war.

Traore is also due to meet Hollande in Paris on Friday, according to the French president's agenda.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TERRORISM

‘Terrorists’ attack French soldiers in troubled Mali

French soldiers operating in troubled northern Mali were targeted by "terrorists" in an ambush on Sunday, the third attack in the country in just days.

'Terrorists' attack French soldiers in troubled Mali
Smoke and flames ascend from an army armoured vehicle in Gao, northwestern Mali, following an explosion on Sunday. Photo: STRINGER / AFP
The ambush underscores the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to go to the polls on July 29th.
 
A spokesman for the French military said there were no deaths among the French troops but it was not known if there were other casualties in the attack, which took place in the restive Gao region.
 
“French soldiers of the Barkhane military operation were ambushed by terrorists” near the town of Bourem, a Western military source told AFP, referring to the French mission in the country. 
 
A Malian military source confirmed the incident, which came two days after a deadly attack on the Mali headquarters of a five-nation regional force known as G5 Sahel.
 
Fatouma Wangara, a resident of Gao, said the French convoy was clearly targeted by a suicide car bomb.
 
“An armoured vehicle blocked the way and the car blew up,” she said.
 
Another resident told AFP that the area around the ambush had been sealed off by French soldiers.
 
The attack came as over 40 African heads of state are meeting for an African Union summit in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott with security high on the agenda.
 
'Hit the heart' of regional security
 
On Friday, a suicide attack on the headquarters of the regional Sahel force known as G5 killed two soldiers and a civilian in the Malian town of Savare. The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, claimed Friday's bombing in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar. And on Saturday, four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle drove over a landmine in the central Mopti region.
 
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country is part of the G5 and is hosting the two-day AU summit, warned earlier that security failings were hampering the work of the Sahel force. He said Friday's attack “hit the heart” of the region's security and lashed out at a lack of international help.
 
The G5 aims to have a total of 5,000 troops from five nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — but has faced funding problems. It operates alongside France's 4,000 troops in the troubled “tri-border” area where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, and alongside the UN's 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.
 
Mali's unrest stems from a 2012 ethnic Tuareg separatist uprising, which was exploited by jihadists in order to take over key cities in the north. The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.  But large stretches of the country remain out of the control of the foreign and Malian forces, which are frequent targets of attacks, despite a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists.
 
The violence has also spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.