On January 11, 2013 France launched Operation Serval in Mali. The military air and ground assault routed armed Tuareg rebels and AQIM fighters – who had already claimed control of half of the country’s territory – and paved the way for presidential elections in July.
Originally announced as a short-term intervention, French forces maintained a significant presence in Mali throughout 2013, with 2,800 troops still on the ground in December. Throughout, undeterred insurgents continued targeted bomb attacks and in November murdered two French journalists in the country’s desert north.
> FRANCE 24’s Special Report on Mali
> More about slain RFI journalists
In March, France’s junior minister for budget Jérôme Cahuzac stepped down amid mounting tax-evasion allegations. In April he shocked the French establishment and media by confessing he had stashed away 600,000 euros in a secret Swiss bank account for years.
The revelation dealt a major blow to the Socialist government of President François Hollande, who was left red-faced for picking a tax-dodger to fix the country’s finances. In the wake of the scandal, Hollande forced all his cabinet ministers to reveal their personal assets.
> Article on shocking confession
In 2013 France became the 14th country in the world to legalise marriage between same-sex couples, but the issue sparked months of bitter political debate and violent clashes in the streets.
Anti-gay marriage groups organised some of the largest protests seen in Paris in decades before President Hollande signed the legislation into law on May 18. Less than two weeks later, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first-ever gay French couple to wed.
> More on the gay marriage protest movement
The film “Blue is the Warmest Color” – a three-hour lesbian drama – won top prizes in France and garnered international acclaim in 2013. The tale of a young woman’s sexual awakening and heartbreak won the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes in May, becoming the second French movie to do so in the past six years.
Its explicit sex scenes became the subject of much debate, while a public row between director Abdellatif Kechiche and lead actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux after Cannes tarnished the film’s image.
> Film review
> More about stars’ row
British cyclist Chris Froome was crowned champion of the centennial Tour de France in July. It was a landmark year for the cycling world’s biggest competition as it struggled to bounce back from embarrassing doping scandals.
> On Froome’s victory
The arrest of a 15-year-old Roma girl named Leonarda during a school trip, and her subsequent deportation with her family as illegal immigrants, caused outrage across France in October. After secondary school students skipped class for several days to stage street protests, President Hollande said the teen could return to France to resume her studies, but not with the rest of her family.
An official investigation concluded that police had acted appropriately, but the affair sank Hollande’s already dismal approval ratings even lower.
> More on Leonarda investigation
Four French nationals kidnapped by al Qaeda-linked militants while working at a uranium extraction site in Niger were released in late October after three years of captivity.
They were welcomed home as heroes and under the glare of the media, but questions remained about whether French authorities or the hostages’ employer, the nuclear giant Areva, had paid a ransom for their release.
> FRANCE 24’s live blog on hostages’ homecoming
A gunman sowed terror in Paris in early November after he threatened journalists at a TV news channel, and fired shotgun blasts at a newspaper and bank, seriously injuring one photographer.
After a three-day manhunt, police arrested Abdelhakim Dekhar in a parking lot near the French capital, where it appeared he had tried to commit suicide.
> More on manhunt for ‘crazed gunman’
Despite overwhelming odds, and to the great surprise of fans who had all but given up on France’s national football team, “Les Bleus” sneaked into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by beating Ukraine 3-0 in a playoff at home on November 20.
Luck shined on the French squad once more for the FIFA World Cup draw on December 6, in which the team was slotted into what is considered one of the easier groups of the tournament.
> More on ‘miracle match’ against Ukraine
> Results of FIFA draw
In December, France was credited with helping avert a possible genocide in the Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest nations, by sending over 1,000 soldiers to stem a rising tide of sectarian violence.
President Hollande promised a speedy end to the UN-backed mission, as he did for the French-led military intervention in Mali less than 12 months earlier, even as his troops found themselves largely isolated in the vast African nation.
> Video report on Central African crisis