French president Hollande's camel 'eaten in Mali'
WITH his pledge to create a morally irreproachable republic in tatters over a ministerial tax fraud scandal, François Hollande has already had to eat his hat.
Now, it emerges, someone else has eaten his camel.
The young two-humped animal, a gift to Mr Hollande for liberating Mali, has been killed and put in a stew, according to Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's defence minister.
Mr Le Drian was informed of the camel's demise by officers tracking Islamic terrorists in the former French West African colony and broke the news on to the Élysée Palace, according to Valeurs Actuelles magazine.
A local official had given the camel to Mr Hollande in gratitude for France spearheading a drive to flush out Islamic extremists from Mali. But the well-intentioned gift soon proved a liability.
The camel ruined its handover ceremony by drowning out a Malian official's speech with its screeching.
Mr Hollande's voice could just be heard over the din when he promised: "I will use it as a means of transport as often as possible."
With the animal covered in a cloak, there was also heated debate back in France over whether it had one hump or two.
Mr Hollande initially intended to have the camel vaccinated and transferred to a French zoo. But given the complex procedures required and "the rigours of the harsh French climate for a desert animal", he eventually decided to leave it in the care of a family in Timbuktu.
Mr Le Drian said the family apparently wasted no time slaughtering the animal and putting it in a traditional tagine. While mature camel is almost inedible, the flesh from young animals is said to be tender.
The camel had already embarrassed Mr Hollande when Said Toureg, a man from the Timbuktu region, claimed that it had been stolen from him after his house was destroyed in a French air raid.
An official says Mali is to send the French president a replacement camel.
While the first camel did not make it to France, many other live animals offered as gifts to French presidents have done so, among them an Asian elephant offered to François Mitterrand, two Bengal tigers given to George Pompidou and some bison presented to Valérie Giscard d'Estaing.
Most spent a comfortable retirement in Paris zoos.