The euphoria greeting French troops who entered Mali this month after Islamist militants threatened to invade the south of the country has given way to a wariness among some who wonder what will follow.
The French, leading the way for soldiers from Malian and other West African nations, have made their way swiftly into cities and town in the north that were taken over by Islamists and Tuareg rebels 10 months ago.
The offensive began earlier in January. Now the French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the three week campaign has left the jihadists in disarray.
There have been jubilant scenes in the north, where the people are thanking the French for liberating them, but in Bamako, there are some who watch the unfolding events with more caution.
They are the refugees; those who fled their homes when the Islamists moved in and began imposing a harsh version of Sharia law.
Mohammed Ag Sabou came to Bamako from Timbuktu six months ago with his family in tow. He now lives in a house with three other families. For him, there is only wariness and little talk of a lasting peace.
“Realistically, the military will have to stay there for a long time to strengthen security and prevent revenge attacks. There are still lots of Islamists, in the cities, in the mountains, in the desert,” Ag Sabou said.
There are some who cannot contemplate ever trying to find a peace pact with those who invaded their cities and their lives.
At a busy bus downtown bus station, Suleiman Traore stands out. He is wearing a heavy grey jacket with long sleeves in the intense heat of Bamako’s midday sun.
He wears it for one sad reason.
“It is to stop me from seeing that my hand isn’t there anymore,” he said.
Traore was caught by militants last fall in Gao, accused of stealing their weapons.
For that, he said they cut off his right hand.
He rolled up his sleeve to show the stump, and pronounced what he thinks should happen to the fighters who are now retreating under fire.
“The best way to deal with them isn’t to kill them,” he said. “I think they should be mutilated too so they’ll know the pain and the difficulties of living this way.”
There are others who are more optimistic, including Mohammed Ibrahim Yattara. The father of six children he said it was frightening to be in Gao when it was invaded last spring.
“When you see people shooting gunfire in front of your house or threatening you with a gun in front of your children, in front of your wife, that’s a very scary thing,” Yattara said.
Now though he is smiling at the news that the last stronghold of the militants, Kidal, appears to have fallen. Yattara thinks the war is all but won and his country is saved.
“We think we’ll have years, centuries of security and peace.”
The fighters themselves, insist this is just a pause. Analysts suggest this may evolve into a guerrilla war with smaller scale, irregular attacks, similar to Afghanistan.
For those waiting to return home, it may not yet be safe enough. They will watch and wait in their temporary homes, not yet knowing how long they will have to be refugees in their own land.