Putting on their blue berets, the African soldiers that helped France take back northern Mali from al-Qaeda linked rebels have transformed into a UN peacekeeping force.
The transfer of command means 6,000 West African troops come under UN command, with final force figures of almost 13,000 expected by December.
The UN approved the mission following France’s military intervention in the country in January to oust Islamist rebels from the North. French soldiers will remain in Mali for the time being, to keep on the tail of rebel groups who are said to have gone to ground in neighbouring Algeria and Niger.
The move comes ahead of elections scheduled for 28 July, which will be the first test for the international troops.