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Gao (Mali) November 27, 2019: A soldier collects himself in front of the coffins of his 13 compatriots killed in a helicopter crash on November 25. Armed Forces Staff / Handout via REUTERS

The President of the Republic chairs Monday afternoon the national tribute ceremony to thirteen French soldiers died in Mali after the collision between two helicopters during a combat operation against jihadists last Monday. During this ceremony, alongside Emmanuel Macron, there will be the president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

The presence of the Malian president is strong in symbol. The deaths of French soldiers brought back questions about military intervention in Mali. On the spot, manifestations of hostility to the French presence multiplied and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita called on his fellow citizens not to "bite the outstretched hand of France". By participating in the tribute to Paris, he sends a political signal and shows his gratitude for the sacrifice of French soldiers.

Thanks to the sacrifices of France, but we must not forget the 150 Malian soldiers who lost their lives in a month and a half, without any national tribute being paid them. Boureima Allaye Toure, president of the Coalition of the Malian civil society, regrets an imbalance that can be badly perceived by the population.

"France sacrificed itself in material in human lives, in knowledge, thank you ... We recognize this, assures Boureima Allaye Toure, contacted by phone. But it is this very imbalance that creates the frustration of the Malians. Because it is incomprehensible that our State does not do its duty of memory to its sons who fell on the field of honor. Better than that, we must take care of the families of these fallen soldiers on the field of honor. Unfortunately, the care is insufficient. We have many things to say to each other, Malians, here. And it is precisely this imbalance that creates and develops anti-French sentiment. And this, our authorities must perceive it to change the way of doing things, to change this practice ".

The military strategy in the Sahel to rethink

In France too, the drama has brought back questions. The leader of France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, criticized the continuation of the French intervention in the Sahel and called in a tribune published yesterday by the Journal du Dimanche , to bring back " quickly the French forces ". For the moment, his voice is isolated in the political class. The time is still mourning. But Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he planned to reconsider in the coming weeks the military strategy in the Sahel.

In Mali too, the question of the need for a presence of French soldiers in the country is raised. For Boureima Allaye Toure, the mobilization of the national community is certainly essential, but it points to gaps in the mobilization of the population. " The Malian lambda wonders about the effectiveness, the impact of this support, insecurity is ubiquitous since 2012 to date and more, even. Because we are not in a classic war (and) they do not understand that. We are in an asymmetrical war, the adversary is always hidden and even among us. And to fight against him, it also requires the mobilization of the national community. And this national community that does not receive the communication it needs is with it that we do not cooperate at all. If countries come to help us, they are welcome. But still, the strategy needs to change. That's what we say. Because, if we really do not communicate with the communities, with the people, if we do not put them at the heart of this war, I assure you, for a long time we will reject each other ".

See also : The problems and challenges of the Malian Armed Forces

The program of this tribute

Before proceeding to this stage, the Head of State will pronounce, in the courtyard of the Invalides, the eulogy of the thirteen soldiers and posthumously give them the insignia of the legion of honor.

The program of the tribute ceremony to French soldiers at Les Invalides

The bodies of the 13 soldiers should arrive around 11:30 by the bridge Alexandre III vis-a-vis the Invalides where the national homage will be returned to them.
The ceremony, chaired by Emmanuel Macron, will take place from 15 to 17h, Paris time.
Will be present alongside the French president, among others, his Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and the former presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.

The families of the victims as well as the military delegations but also the mayors of the communes which house the regiments and those of the birth communes of the soldiers will also be present in the courtyard of the monument.
Exceptionally, the ceremony will be open to the public who will be able to stand in front of the doors of the military building from 13:30. A giant screen will also be installed on the Esplanade des Invalides to follow the ceremony live.

Following will be an honor to the flag and a review of the troops, the president will praise a eulogy before giving a legion of honor posthumously to each of the 13 soldiers. Finally, after a minute of silence, the tribute will end at the rhythm of La Marseillaise.