DAKAR — Mali's interim prime minister resigned early Tuesday after being arrested by soldiers loyal to the military junta that overthrew Mali's elected government in March.
The Malian army, or at least a part of it, has once again taken matters of state into its own hands.
Soldiers arrested now former interim prime minister, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, at his home Monday night as he prepared to leave for France.
Hours later, Diarra resigned his post on state television. He spoke first in Bambara, then in French, and appeared to be reading from a prepared statement.
Diarra said he and his government were stepping down in the interest of peace. He asked forgiveness from all Malians suffering from this crisis. He thanked his collaborators and wished success to the "new team" that would succeed him.
He gave no specific reason for his resignation. Diarra reportedly remains under house arrest at an undisclosed location.
Mali is still reeling from a March 22 military coup. Al-Qaida linked Islamist militants have seized the northern half of the country, while the south remains mired in a power struggle between civilian and military leaders.
A spokesman for the military junta, Bakary Mariko, told VOA that Diarra had to go because he was "blocking institutions." Mali's interim government, Mariko said, cannot have two heads.
He says Mali was no longer speaking with one voice. The president and the prime minister were not agreeing on anything. He says the prime minister had two principal missions -- to liberate the North and to organize transparent elections. He says the prime minister was instead pursuing a personal agenda -- trying to stay in power and preparing his candidacy for the elections.
Mariko said Diarra's removal was not a coup d'etat. Interim President Diouncounda
Mariko says the priority now is to name a new prime minister who will, in turn, name a new government and present a roadmap for how to deal with the crisis in the North.
That could be easier said than done. It took multiple tries and months of wrangling for Malians to agree on the now former "government of national unity" put in place under Diarra in August.
Diarra worked as a NASA astrophysicist in the United States before he returned to Mali to assume the post of interim prime minister in April following regional mediation after the coup.
Diarra was seen as close to coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, and he was a divisive figure from the start. However, his resignation comes as a surprise.
Some residents told VOA they were shocked to wake up to the news of Diarra's resignation. Others said they were just worried.
The U.N. Security Council is currently considering a request from African leaders to back a regional military intervention to Mali to help the Malian army retake the North.
It is not immediately clear what, if any, impact this most recent upheaval in Bamako will have on plans for international support.
Analysts have repeatedly warned of the risks of an offensive to the north without first dealing with the political crisis in the capital and retraining Mali's chaotic and unwieldy national army.