Interim authorities installed in Mali's former rebel bastions
Interim authorities for Mali's troubled northern regions of Gao and Menaka were installed Thursday in a step toward improving security enough to allow local elections in former rebel strongholds.
Mali's north fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012. The Islamists sidelined the rebels to take sole control.
Although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, implementation of a 2015 peace accord has been piecemeal but the long-delayed installation of interim authorities is a key step.
Djibrila Maiga took charge as the head of the interim authority in Gao, which the Tuareg rebels had named their capital, while Abdoul Wahab Ag Ahmed Mohamed was invested as the top official in Menaka.
The creation of interim bodies in five northern regions is scheduled for this week.
There had been rumblings of discontent over the choice of the interim officials and some armed men had taken over a government building earlier in Gao this week where the investiture ceremony was due to be held. But they vacated it after mediation by local leaders.
Abdoul Wahab Ag Ahmed Mohamed, the head of the interim authority at Menaka, underscored the need for "security and social cohesion" and the return of rule of law.
The authorities will represent local people until security improves sufficiently to allow local elections.
They will also look to aid thousands of displaced people, who fled their homes during the unrest, to return.