French president awarded UNESCO peace prize for starting war in Mali

French President Francois Hollande has been awarded the annual Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize by UNESCO for his decision to invade Mali.

Hollande received the major prize from the United Nations’ cultural organization during a ceremony in the French capital, Paris on Wednesday.

The move has raised questions about how an armed foreign intervention can be worthy of such an accolade.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said during the ceremony that “All of us have reason to be proud of France’s decision to stand by Mali – at the request of President Traore and with the support of the United Nations – to protect the peoples and culture of that country.”

Hollande also said that “It may seem paradoxical to be awarded for peace after assuming responsibility for war.”

“But the decision I made on behalf of France had no other purpose than to end an aggression,” he claimed.

Established in 1989, Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize is intended to honor people and organizations that have made “a significant contribution to peace and stability around the world.”

Around 4,000 French troops have been deployed to Mali since France launched a war on the Western African country on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters who had taken control of northern Mali.

The French-led war in Mali has caused a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country and has displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

On February 1, Amnesty International condemned “serious human rights breaches” including the killing of “three children” in the French war in Mali.

The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters.

France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reaffirmed in April that the country would keep 1,000 troops in Mali even after the arrival of over 12,000 UN peacekeepers later this year.

Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.

Francois Hollande