Mali Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra. Photo by Reuters
Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra has resigned,
hours after he was arrested by soldiers while trying to leave
the West African nation.
Diarra's arrest and subsequent resignation will complicate
efforts to stabilise Mali, where soldiers and politicians
remain divided since a coup in March and where the north of
the country is occupied by al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters.
"I, Cheick Modibo Diarra, hereby resign with my entire
government on Tuesday, December 11, 2012," a nervous-looking
Diarra said in a statement broadcast on state television
early on Tuesday morning (local time).
News of Diarra's resignation came hours after he was arrested
as he tried to leave the country for France.
Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for the group of soldiers that
seized power in a March coup and remains powerful despite
officially handing power back to civilians in April, said
Diarra had been arrested for not working fully to address the
"The country is in crisis but he was blocking the
institutions," Mariko said. "This is not a coup. The
president is still in place but the prime minister was no
longer working in the interests of the country."
Mariko said Diarra had been taken to the ex-junta's
headquarters in Kati, a military barracks town just outside
Bamako, after his arrest.
Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has been repeatedly accused
of meddling in politics since he stepped down and was
officially tasked with overseeing reforms of Mali's army.
Residents in Bamako said the town was quiet in the early
hours of Tuesday morning.
There have been divisions for months between the former
junta, interim President Diouncounda Traore and Diarra, a
former NASA scientist and Microsoft chief for Africa.
Diarra was made prime minister in April after the military
officially handed power back to civilians. As the son-in-law
of Moussa Traore, a former Malian coup leader and president,
he appeared to have good ties with the military.
However, tensions became particularly acute in recent weeks,
with analysts saying Diarra, a relative newcomer to Malian
politics after years abroad, seemed keen to establish a
political base of his own ahead of any future elections.
West African leaders and Western nations have warned that
Mali's north has become a safe haven for terrorism and
organised crime, but they have struggled to draw up plans to
help the country because of the deep divisions in the
Some of Mali's politicians support the idea of a
foreign-backed military operation to retake control of the
north. Others, including much of the military, say they need
only financial and logistical support and insist that Mali
can carry out the operation itself.