On 11 January, seemingly out of the blue, François Hollande announced that France would 'respond to the request of the Malian president' and send forces to its former colony to fight 'terrorist elements coming from the north'. 'Today, the very existence of this friendly nation is at stake,' he declared. 'Military operations will last for as long as required … Terrorists must know that France will always be there when it's a matter not of its fundamental interests but the right of a population … to live in freedom and democracy.' In France, though ominous warnings did the rounds, the president's approval ratings soared from a nadir of 40 per cent to 63 per cent. Hitherto seen as weak, Hollande was suddenly perceived as a strong commander-in-chief (linguistically, it's a small step from chef d'état to chef de guerre). Abroad, despite offers from Western allies of logistical or humanitarian support (France's plea for military support from its European allies remains unanswered), many suspected that neocolonial ghosts were haunting Paris yet again. La Françafrique, that infamous amalgam of truncated African sovereignty and French interventionism in sub-Saharan Africa, seemed to have returned.