Mali's PM Cheick Modibo Diarra quits after arrest
Bamako: In what spells further political instability for the West African nation, Mali’s Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned on national broadcaster on Tuesday.
Just hours after what was a little “violent” arrest, Mr Diarra addressed national TV, saying, "Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation, you are hoping for peace. It's for this reason that I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012."
A dismal Diarra dressed in a dark suit also apologized for the supposedly forced resignation, saying, “I apologize before the entire population of Mali”.
The 60-year-old astrophysicist was due to travel to Paris, before he was arrested by soldiers at his private residence by the soldiers who had led the March coup.
Diarra was arrested on the orders of coup leader Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.
The security officials said the prime minister was forced into a car and driven to the Kati military camp, the sprawling military base where the March 21 coup was launched under the orders of Sanogo. For several weeks, tension has been mounting between the officers who led the coup and Diarra, the civilian prime minister they were forced to appoint when they handed back power to a transitional government.
Diarra, an astrophysicist who previously led one of NASA's Mars exploration programs, was initially seen as in step with Sanogo. Critics lambasted him for frequently driving to the Kati barracks to see the coup leader, apparently to seek his advice long after Sanogo was supposed to have handed power to civilians. In recent weeks though, Diarra has appeared to be taking stances that sometimes conflict with Sanogo.
Last weekend for example, Diarra helped organized a demonstration calling for a United Nations-backed military intervention to take back Mali's north, which fell to Islamic extremists in the chaos following the coup.
On Monday at the United Nations, France circulated a UN Security Council resolution that would authorize the deployment of an African-led force to oust al Qaida-linked militants who seized Mali's northern half. The United States, however, wants the troops to be trained first for desert warfare, UN diplomats said.
Experts on Mali have voiced skepticism over the military intervention, specifically because the plan initially put forward by the African Union gives a central role to the Malian military, which is still in the hands of Sanogo. African diplomats who were involved in the negotiations with Sanogo earlier this year, leading to the creation of Diarra's transitional government, say the coup leader does not want foreign forces on Malian soil because it would dilute his power.
Diarra's demeanor, including his strained expression and the background against which he made the declaration, all suggest that the prime minister resigned under duress, and possibly made the declaration at the military barracks, rather than at the headquarters of the ORTM, the state broadcaster. The backdrop against which he spoke looked like a bare wall, rather than the professional studio of the national television station.