8 November 2013 Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant
Condolences continue to pour in from across Africa and France following the death of two French journalists in the remote desert town of Kidal, northern Mali, last weekend. Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, who worked for Radio France International (RFI), were forced into a car in front of the house of one of the leaders of the Touareg Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) on Saturday, 2 November, and found shot dead outside the town a few hours later.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta said he was ‘devastated’ by their deaths. ‘I find no logic in it. It is an inhumane act,’ he told reporters. RFI, which is very influential in Francophone Africa, was ‘like family’, he said. He promised that everything would be done to find those responsible. On Wednesday, local media reported that up to 35 people had been arrested in relation to the crime, although no details of their identities filtered through. Later a Mauritanian news agency reported that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had claimed responsibility for the crime.
The killing of the French journalists illustrates the volatile situation that prevails in northern Mali and especially in the Touareg stronghold Kidal, situated 1 500km north of Bamako and surrounded by desert terrain. The assassinations also come in the wake of the liberation of four French hostages, who were held by AQIM in Mali for the past three years. Many questions are still being asked about whether a ransom was paid for these hostages and, if so, whether it was justified.