| 22 May 2024, Wednesday |

France’s Bastille Day parade takes place in the shadow of Covid-19

After the customary military parade along the Champs-Élysées was cancelled last year owing to the threat of Covid-19, France celebrates its national day on Wednesday, July 14.

After a one-year suspension owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, the annual march on France’s national day resumed on Wednesday.

In a symbol of President Emmanuel Macron’s military objectives, European special troops engaging in anti-jihadist operations in Africa’s Sahel region were given a prominent place in France’s Bastille Day celebrations.

The parade was headed by some 80 French and European special forces from the multinational Takuba group in the Sahel, a decision meant to send a diplomatic message from Paris.

Macron, who presided over the ceremony, is counting on Europe’s frequently hesitant partners to increase their support for Takuba.

Last month, he announced plans to withdraw French troops from the Sahel region.

Paris wants Takuba — which numbers only 600 troops currently, half of them French — to take over more responsibilities from the 5,100 soldiers in France’s Barkhane operation, who have been battling Islamist groups in West Africa alongside local soldiers for eight years.

The procession in Paris was a smaller version of the normal celebration, with only 10,000 spectators instead of the customary 25,000.

Despite the dreary weather, the annual fly-overs and military pageantry went on as planned, threatening to dampen firework displays around the country, another famous aspect of Bastille Day, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison, a crucial event in the 1789 French Revolution.

Subdued celebration, and commemoration, in Nice

Alongside the nationwide festivities the southern Riviera town of Nice will also be marking the fifth anniversary of a terror attack that saw a man kill 86 people after driving a truck through a crowd of people watching Bastille Day fireworks.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will visit the city for a ceremony at the site of a memorial for the victims, where 86 doves are set to be released as a sign of peace. Nice authorities have organised a concert for later in the evening.

At 10:34pm, the time the truck rampage began, 86 beams of light will illuminate the Mediterranean waterfront to honour the dead.

Dozens of nationalities were among the victims that day on the Promenade des Anglais.

The assailant, who is believed to have been spurred on by jihadist propaganda, was shot dead by police after a two-kilometre rampage down the seaside promenade.

  • Reuters