Photo gallery: Hollande gets hero's welcome in a Mali fearful of future
BAMAKO (AFP) - President Francois Hollande received a rapturous welcome in Mali on Saturday as he promised that France would stay as long as necessary to continue the fight against Islamist rebels in the country's north.
As troops worked to secure Kidal, the last bastion of radicals who occupied the vast desert north for 10 months before the French army's surprise intervention, Mr Hollande told Malians it was time for Africans to take the lead but that France would not abandon them.
"Terrorism has been pushed back, it has been chased away, but it has not been defeated yet," said Mr Hollande, whose decision to intervene in Mali three weeks ago won him accolades in the former French colony.
"France will stay by your side as long as necessary, as long as it takes for Africans themselves... to replace us," he told a large crowd in the capital, Bamako, at a monument commemorating Mali's independence from France.