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POLITICS

Ex French president Hollande marries actress Julie Gayet in quiet ceremony

After a romance that made headlines around the world when it was revealed in 2014, ex-president François Hollande has married actress Julie Gayet at a low-key ceremony in his political fiefdom in central France.

Ex French president Hollande marries actress Julie Gayet in quiet ceremony
France's former President Francois Hollande and Julie Gayet, pictured in 2021. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The news was announced to La Montagne newspaper by the mayor of Tulle, Bernard Combes, with a picture of the couple showing the groom in a suit and his bride in a white dress climbing the stairs of the local town hall.

They married Saturday “in a private ceremony,” the mayor’s office in the central Correze region told the paper.

Little was revealed about the guest list beyond the presence of French singer Benjamin Biolay who worked with Gayet on a film in 2021.

Hollande, who has never married before, had an affair with Gayet while president and in a relationship with journalist Valerie Trierweiler, who was France’s de facto first lady at the time.

In January 2014, French glossy magazine Closer published bombshell photographs of Hollande arriving for a tryst with Gayet on a scooter at an apartment near his official residence in the heart of Paris.

The images, accompanied by a story replete with salacious details about bodyguards being dispatched to buy croissants for the pair in the morning, dealt a severe blow to Hollande’s credibility.

Trierweiler went on to write a best-selling tell-all memoir that recounted how she tried to commit suicide in the presidential bedroom after the media revelations.

Hollande has four children from his relationship with long-term former partner Segolene Royal, a one-time rival in the Socialist party.

Gayet has two sons with former husband Santiago Amigorena, an Argentinian screenwriter and producer she divorced in 2006.

The 50-year-old — who celebrated her landmark birthday the day before Saturday’s wedding — remained a low-key presence throughout the latter part of Hollande’s difficult time in office.

The couple agreed to their first joint photo session only in 2018 once Hollande had left office, having ended his five-year term in power with record low approval ratings.

In a rare interview the same year, she described Hollande’s time as leader as a period of “crazy violence” which included a series of jihadist attacks that cost hundreds of lives.

“I tried to give energy to the president, to take care of him, to be there to listen,” she told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

“Since I met him, it’s given me wings,” added the star of Netflix drama “The Perfect Mother” who is an increasingly influential film producer. “I love his way of thinking, of being, his humour.”

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POLITICS

France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

The last soldiers belonging to France's Barkhane operation in Mali have now left the African country, the French chiefs of staff said on Monday.

France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

French forces have been supporting Mali against insurgents for nearly a decade, but President Emmanuel Macron decided to pull out after France and the Malian junta fell out in the wake of a military takeover.

“Today at 13H00 Paris time (1100 GMT) the final contingent of the Barkhane force still on Malian territory crossed the border between Mali and Niger,” the statement said.

The army had met the “major military logistics challenge” of the pull-out “in an orderly and safe fashion”, it added.

After ties ruptured between Paris and the junta that took power in Mali in August 2020, France began to withdraw its troops in February, as jihadist violence surged in the Sahel.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why were French soldiers in Mali?

Friction developed over the junta’s delays in restoring civilian rule and escalated when Mali brought in Russian paramilitaries — personnel described by France as “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.

‘Prevented caliphate’

Macron on Monday congratulated the military on its nine years in Mali, saying it had “prevented the establishment of a territorial caliphate, and fought against terrorists that attack local populations and threaten Europe”. 

Most high-ranking members of the “terrorist groups” had been “neutralised”, he said, adding that 59 French soldiers had died in Mali in total.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally based on the findings of non-governmental organisation ACLED.

In this file photo taken on December 07, 2021 shows the French flag and France-led special operations logo for the new Task Force Takuba, a multinational military mission in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled Sahel region. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

BACKGROUND: France announces withdrawal of troops from Mali

At its peak, France’s Barkhane mission had 5,100 troops among five Sahel allies, all former French colonies — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The forces have provided key support in air power, troop transport and reconnaissance. France has an air base in Niger’s capital Niamey where it has deployed drones.

After the Malian pullout, the mission will have “around 2,500” troops, Barkhane commander General Laurent Michon said last month.

The reconfigured mission will emphasise “more cooperative operations,” he said.

Frontline Niger

France will keep more than 1,000 men in Niger, where a tactical group will continue to work in partnership with the Nigerien forces.

Niger is a frontline state in the fight against jihadism as the unstable region struggles with a string of military coups.

“The democratic regression in West Africa is extremely worrying,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told French MPs ahead of a trip to the region in July. 

“However, in spite of these events (and) the withdrawal from Mali, France will continue to help West African armies fight terrorist groups.”

Niger is one of the biggest recipients of French aid, receiving 143 million euros ($146 million) last year.

READ ALSO: France calls Mali’s exit from defence accords ‘unjustified’

The two sides will sign agreements for a French loan of 50 million euros and a grant of 20 million euros.

Niger, the world’s poorest country by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, has been badly hit by the jihadist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then swept to neighbouring countries.

Niger is facing insurgencies both on its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso and on its south-eastern frontier with Nigeria.

More than a thousand troops will be deployed in Niger, providing air support and training, according to French sources.

French troops are also in Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal, as well as in the east of Africa, in Djibouti.

READ ALSO: Macron agrees to return Benin sculptures ‘without delay’

Macron in June asked the government and military chiefs “to rethink our overall presence on the African continent by the autumn.”

He called for “a presence that is less static and less exposed” and “a closer relationship” with African armed forces.

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