Francois Hollande’s visit turned into a wonderful party. The people of Timbuktu put on their most colourful clothes, danced to and sang to music being belted out from loudspeakers and cheered the man who had delivered them from vicious Islamists.
The French president did not look like a triumphant Caesar, instead he seemed taken aback in his navy blue suit and tie and buttoned up white shirt as he was mobbed by the crowd. Journalists mused on how Tony Blair would have milked the moment.
But even as Mr Hollande’s helicopter departed after the three hours and 48 minutes trip, there were ominous signs that the breathtakingly swift 23 day campaign by French forces which had driven the jihadists back to the borders masked trouble lying ahead.
Malian soldiers were becoming casualties of land mines laid by al-Qaeda in Maghreb (AQIM) and their allies: there were ambushes on the roads to the north.: there was a stand-off between French forces and their Malian partners who were not being allowed into parts of the town of Kidal due to fears that they would take murderous revenge on the Tuareg community who had been blamed for introducing strife into the country by starting a rebellion for a homeland.