Mali’s Prime Minister Resigns After Arrest
BAMAKO, Mali — Soldiers arrested Mali’s prime minister at his residence late Monday night, signaling new turmoil in a West African nation racked by military interference and an Islamist takeover in the north.
Hours later, Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra appeared grim-faced on national television to announce his government’s resignation. A spokesman for soldiers who seized power earlier in the year — and later nominally relinquished it to Mr. Diarra — confirmed the prime minister’s arrest on Tuesday morning, accusing him of “playing a personal agenda” while the country faced a crisis in the north. The soldiers arrived at Mr. Diarra’s home around 11 p.m. Monday as he was preparing for a flight to Paris for a medical checkup, said the military spokesman, Bakary Mariko. The prime minister was taken to the military encampment at Kati, just outside Bamako, the capital, where Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the officer who led the March military coup, and others told him “there were proofs against him that he was calling for subversion,” Mr. Mariko said.
On Tuesday morning, the streets of Bamako appeared calm following what appeared to be the country’s second coup d’état in less than a year. But the new upheaval is likely to be considered a setback to Western efforts to help Mali regain control of territory lost to Qaeda-linked militants earlier in the year.
The West has watched with growing alarm as Islamist radicals have constructed a stronghold in the country’s vast north. The United Nations, regional African bodies, France and the United States have tried to aid the faltering Malian Army in a military strike to take back the lost north. Those efforts have so far not coalesced into a coherent plan, despite numerous meetings and United Nations resolutions. More meetings at the United Nations are planned for later this month.
The latest political turmoil in the capital will almost certainly slow down any campaign in the north, however. Already, the United States has expressed reluctance to provide too much direct military assistance, given the shakiness of the political order here. Those doubts are only likely to increase following the latest upheaval.
Mr. Diarra — appointed last spring as a caretaker prime minister until new elections could be organized — was known to disagree with Captain Sanogo on military policy.
He has been an advocate of immediate international military assistance to recapture the north from the Islamists. Captain Sanogo has rebuffed suggestions that the Malian military is incapable of handling the job on its own. Indeed, the captain for weeks resisted the notion that troops from other African nations should even approach the capital.
While Mr. Diarra has made the rounds of foreign capitals, pleading for help to fight the increasingly aggressive Islamists, military leaders have remained at the Kati base, grumbling.
That conflict was evident in the declarations of the military’s spokesman on Tuesday. “Since he has been in power, he has been working simply to position his own family,” Mr. Mariko said. “There has been a paralysis in government.”