How do you say winning hearts and minds in French? The French defense minister admitted “there was a risk” Mali troops were engaged in human rights abuses. From France 24:

We must be extremely vigilant, and the president of the republic (François Hollande) is counting on the Malian army’s leaders to hold themselves responsible for avoiding any abuses,” [French defense minister Jean-Yves Le] Drian told FRANCE 24.

“It is their honour that is at stake,” he added.

A French human rights group warned on Wednesday that summary executions and other abuses have allegedly been committed by Malian troops as they seek to oust the militants who control the West African country’s north. The International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH, has called for an independent commission to investigate the allegations and that those responsible be punished.

Of course the Islamist rebels, who were previously seen destroying historical landmarks, have a litany of human rights abuses of their own. France 24 continues:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also told FRANCE 24 this week that both sides are suspected of committing human rights abuses. “The stories from refugees are horrific,” said William Spindler, a UNHCR spokesman. “Some were whipped by Islamists, others saw rebels cut off hands. Children under 12 are being recruited by the rebels.”

But Spindler told FRANCE 24 that some refugees have been terrorised by Mali’s army as well. “The refugees also speak of abuses by the Malian army against people they suspect of being Islamists,” he said. “The situation is very worrying.”

Whether the government (installed via coup early last year) or the Islamists end up winning the war in Mali, the people of Mali look like they’re going to be the losers.

USAID called Mali “one of the most enlightened democracies in Africa” just last year.