In January, France sent 4,000 troops to Mali in a bid to combat rebel fighters who, after seizing control of the country's north, threatened to invade the capital city of Bamako.
Francois Hollande, the French president, justified the intervention by stressing his country's commitment to its former West African colony. "France will remain with you as long as it is necessary," he told a press conference.
For his part, Dioncounda Traore, the interim Malian president, expressed his gratitude, calling Hollande a "brother to the Malian people" and a "true friend of the whole of Africa".
But is France pursuing a neo-colonial policy in Africa? Is it continuing Francafrique , the term coined to describe the country's relationship with its former African colonies, in which it supported unpopular African politicians in order to advance and protect its economic interests?
In a recent visit to Dakar, Hollande declared the end of the Francafrique era, but is it really over?
This three-part series tells the story of 'France Afrique': a brutal and nefarious tale of corruption, massacres, dictators supported and progressive leaders murdered, weapon-smuggling, cloak-and-dagger secret services, and spectacular military operations.
The first episode of this three-part series untangles the web of political connections between France and its former African colonies.
After independence, France still needed Africa's natural resources, particularly its oil - and Africa needed French investment. This dependence allowed France to position itself as the guardian of its former colonies.
In order to ensure that it could easily reap resources like oil, gas, gold and uranium, France secured stability in these African countries.
General de Gaulle, the French president from 1959 to 1969, established an Africa unit that reported directly to him.
And Jacques Foccart, an influential businessman and ally of de Gaulle, developed a network of French and African politicians, leaders and businessmen to maintain control in the former colonies. This network, its actions and the policies it employed, became known as Francafrique .
This story reveals the lengths the former colonial power has gone to – from coups and assassinations to rigged elections and embezzlement – in order to satisfy its thirst for energy.