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Malian troops to lead France's Bastille Day parade

media Soldiers from the French Serval operation with Minusma troops RFI/Pierre René-Worms

Troops from Mali and 12 other African countries will lead France’s annual Bastille Day parade in Paris, as François Hollande highlights his biggest policy success. RFI’s photographer attended the rehearsal on Thursday morning.

Malian Lieutenant Elisée Jean Dao will open the proceedings on the world-famous Champs Elysées avenue on 14 July – a role usually reserved for a French officer.

Dao is serving in Kidal, the northern town that was seized by Tuareg rebels after they broke ranks with Islamist insurgents.

Malian troops have only recently managed to enter Kidal, the Tuaregs having initially opened the town to the French and Chadians but not the national army.

There will be 232 soldiers from 13 African nationalities on the parade.

Dossier: War in Mali

Sixty of them are Malian, others come from the other countries that make up the UN force, Minusma, which the French are supposed to be handing over to.

The presence of Chadian troops has been slammed by rights groups and Chadian opposition activists.

They are the backbone of the "very bad regime" of President Idriss Déby, Abdelkerim Yacoub Koundougouni is with the National Council for Change and Democracy in Chad told RFI.

Presented as a chance to celebrate fraternal relations between French and African troops, the ceremony has also been criticised for recalling France’s allegedly neo-colonial Françafrique policy.

For Hollande, who is floundering in the opinion polls, it is an opportunity to draw attention to one of the few actions of his government that has been widely hailed as a success.

The French president received a hero’s welcome when he went to Chad as French troops led an offensive against Islamists who had taken control of the north of the country.

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