Malians welcome French intervention
In Bamako, Mali's windswept capital, people are talking of nothing else but the French intervention in the North of their country.
The operation by French forces to stop a rebel advance towards the capital has won their hearts. Before the French intervened residents of Bamako were living in fear of the rebels overrunning their country's weak army and reaching the capital in a short time.
"I salute the French for coming to our aid," Mariam Coulibally, said balancing a heavy basket of grocery on her head. "God knows where we would have been if they had not arrived in time," she added.
On one of Bamako's main streets the French and Malian flags hang side by side. Traders are also doing a brisk business selling the French flag to motorists.
And there has been a huge response to a request from Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore and religious leaders for people to support the country's weak forces whichever way they can. At a medical facility in one Bamako's suburbs people have gathered to donate blood.
Thirty-year old Fatoumatta Diallou told me "we are ready to respond to any request from our government. If it calls us to fight we will respond. We are ready to die."
Others donated money and food to the military.
Government officials in Bamako have called the French intervention in their country's north a welcome shift in the standoff. There is also a sense of guarded optimism among people here that the operation-will once again unite Mali.
Traore Ouma one of thousands displaced by the conflict in the North now lives in Bamako.
"I am very happy with the French intervention. I would like the crisis to come an end so we can go back home," she said.
Captain Amadou Sanogo the man who lead the Coup that plunged Mali into turmoil in March last year has been visiting wounded Malian soldiers in hospitals.
"I am telling the Malian people: Thank you for your support to the Malian national army. We have launched offensives without waiting for any assistance and we congratulate ourselves to have the French assistance by our side today which is playing a major role in the air support and today's operations," he noted.
The French have been bringing in more troops to Mali, about 100 soldiers arrived here on Sunday. They say their forces will stop the rebel advance and pave the way for the deployment of other soldiers from the West African bloc ECOWAS.
But ECOWAS is still in the planning phase of the deployment of its troops. Military Chiefs from ECOWAS states are meeting in Bamako on Tuesday to draw a plan for the deployment of troops to assist the French in the operation to recover the north of Mali from the rebels.
The plan drawn in Bamako will be taken before a summit of ECOWAS heads of state planned for Saturday in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan.