Mali’s prime minister has become the first senior government figure to visit the north of the country since French-led forces freed it from Islamist control.
Visiting a hospital in Gao, the region’s largest town, Diango Sissoko promised elections this summer despite fears that preparations won’t be completed, bringing the risk of further unrest.
“There’s no question the elections will take place in July. All necessary steps are and will be taken,” he said.
General François Lecointre, head of the European Union’s training mission which is now underway in Mali, warned during a visit near Bamako this week that the task facing the country’s own forces will be tough.
Despite the presence of thousands of African troops, the north remains vulnerable to rebel attacks.
France, which plans to withdraw most of its troops by the end of the year, has been pushing for elections in three months.