Mali’s Prime Minister Boubou Cisse was in the northern town of Kidal on Wednesday, making a highly symbolic visit three weeks after the army returned to the former rebel-held bastion.
His arrival in the town, which had become emblematic of the government’s failure to control large part of the country, is hoped to signal the fact that the government is reasserting authority over its vast territory.
Before their return last month, Malian soldiers had not set foot in Kidal since 2014 after suffering a bitter defeat at the hands of separatist Tuareg rebels.
Cisse was welcomed in Kidal by representatives of the group, as well as local officials and members of the UN’s MINUSMA mission.
The Tuareg rebels signed a peace agreement with the government in 2015, although the accord was fragile and the issue of Kidal especially sensitive.