Hollande: We are in “the final phase” of the operation in Mali

People waiting for humanitarian aid in Gao, Northern Mali. Photo: Flickr.com/ US Mission Geneva

People waiting for humanitarian aid in Gao, Northern Mali.
Photo: Flickr.com/ EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

On Tuesday February 19, during his visit to Athens, Greece, French president François Hollande announced to the press the death of a second French soldier in Mali since the beginning of the French Intervention, Operation Serval, in January. The Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that the man killed was 33 year-old staff sergeant Harold Vormezeele, a legionnaire of the Second Foreign Parachute Regiment (REP).

Staff sergeant Vormezeele was originally from Belgium and joined the French Foreign Legion in 1999. He was deployed as part of the 2nd REP of Calvi in Corsica. A true patriot and hero, he only recently received his French nationalization in 2010. His death is the first since the first day of the intervention, when a French helicopter pilot went missing and was announced dead.

When asked by the media, Hollande explained that these bloody clashes occurred during a Special Forces operation in the mountains of Iforhas in Northern Mali. He informed the press that “we see, now, that we are in the final phase of the operation in Mali.” It’s necessary “to go all the way to the end. That is to say the arrest of the final leaders or terrorist groups who have taken haven in the far north of Mali. It was in the context of this operation that there was this clash that has not ended and has unfortunately led to the loss of this soldier’s life.”

The president assured the French media that his death was not in vain. The serious conflict resulted in multiple terrorist deaths and only one death on the French side. In a statement from headquarters, in sum “close to 150 French and Malian soldiers [participated in] Operation Panther in the Adrar Mountains. This show of strength from the French has allowed for the location of the terrorist element in their sanctuary, to pursue them, and to neutralize more than twenty of them.”

Earlier on February 19, Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko reassured the people that the “large-bodied military operations” in Mali “would soon reach the limits of its term.” Then, outside of a press conference with the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Cissoko noted, “the situation is much better than a few weeks ago.”

Later the same day, Hervé Ladsous, Deputy Secretary General of the UN peacekeeping operations, announced that the UN Security Council should arrive on an agreement within two to three weeks about the deployment of peacekeepers in Mali. Their goal is to deploy blue helmet peacekeepers in the country before the projected elections at the end of July. Rumors of close to 6,000 blue helmets have surfaced, though the numbers are dependent on the Malian Mission internationale de soutien en Mali (MISMA), who could have anywhere up to 8,000 soldiers. To avoid aiding a de facto regime, as in Sudan, the Security Council is thoroughly and cautiously drafting their deployment plans.

With the help of the international peacekeepers, France is not alone in aiding Malians in the restoration of a democratically elected Malian government. However, deployment depends on collaboration between the UN, France, and Mali. With fears rising about an “Afghanistan-style” insurgency, many—including Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird—are hesitant about providing the soldiers that France has requested and the UN is considering providing. Minister Baird noted skeptically, “I have some concerns about providing training to a military that just incited a coup d’état and overthrew a democratically elected government.” These concerns echo fears in the international community that sending military aid could potentially aggravate the delicate political situation and result in a full-on war.


  1. […] urges the public to proceed with “extreme caution.” Hollande, who recently announced the “final phase” of Operation Serval, said in a speech on the French intervention in Mali that “information may […]

  2. […] military programing (to take place from 2014-2019), and undertook the current operation in Mali. All of this has occurred in the midst of a massive war against […]

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