Tue, 11 Dec 2012 04:28 UTC
Mali's prime minister resigned on state television in a broadcast at 4am local time on Tuesday, hours after soldiers who led a recent coup burst into his home and arrested him.
Cheik Modibo Diarra appeared somber in his national address, saying: "Our country is living through a period of crisis. Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation are hoping for peace.
"It's for this reason that I, Cheik Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, 11 December, 2012. I apologise before the entire population of Mali."
A police officer and an intelligence official confirmed that the 60-year-old Diarra had been arrested at his private residence at around 10pm on Monday by soldiers loyal to Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, the leader of the country's recent coup.
Diarra was getting ready to leave the country for Paris and the plane that was due to take him was already taxiing at the airport. It's unclear if the trip to France was planned, or if Diarra had gotten wind of the pending arrest and was trying to flee.
The security officials said the prime minister was forced into a car and driven to the Kati military camp, the military base where the 21 March 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.
The police officer, who was on duty on Monday night at Bamako's international airport, said the plane that was to take the prime minister to France was stopped by members of the group Yerewoloton who had invaded the airport and were searching cars.
Yerewoloton is a violent citizen's movement, which is believed to be backed by the junta. In May, they broke through the security cordon at the presidential palace. Once inside, they beat up the newly appointed interim president, 70-year-old Dioncounda Traore. The beating of Traore brought immediate international condemnation and it was after the 21 May incident that coup leader Sanogo was forced to retreat from public life. He has kept a low profile in recent months, emerging only occasionally to criticise a military plan by the nations neighbouring Mali, which want to send 3,300 troops to take back Mali's north from armed Islamist groups.
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 organised 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 authorise 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.
Source: Associated Press
Comment: Doing the CIA's bidding: France and Germany to expand NATO's North African war front to Mali by sending drones, arms and agents 'in fight against al-Qaida-backed insurgents'
Destabilization of Africa: Coup in Mali
Captain Amadou Sanogo: Power is his Middle Name
Think Africa Press, 29 March 2012
Captain Sanogo, 39 (or 40 by some accounts), was working as an army English instructor prior to the coup. He had earlier served on the training staff at the Ecole Militaire Inter-Armes in Koulikoro, Mali's officer training school, but was dismissed last October along with the rest of the staff after a hazing incident that left five officer candidates dead. (Sanongo himself was not present on the day of the incident.)
In an interview with a Malian newspaper, Sanogo said he began his army career as an enlisted man, attending training at the US Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, before receiving infantry and English language training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He subsequently was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and attended further US-based training.
As described in both the New York Times and the Washington Post, Sanogo attended the Defense Language Institute (Lackland Air Force Base, Texas) and gained intelligence training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Sanogo also claims to have undergone US-sponsored counterterrorism and crisis response training in Morocco and elsewhere on the African continent.
Sanogo's experience in the US appears to have left its mark on him. Since the coup, Sanogo has appeared with a US Marine Corps 'eagle, globe and anchor' pinned prominently above the right breast pocket of his fatigues, as shown in the image below from March 22, the day after the coup, on Africable TV.