A man holding a banner that reads 'No negotiation with rebels' joins thousands of others in Bamako on December 8, 2012.
HABIBOU KOUYATE/AFP/Getty Images
A man holding a banner that reads 'No negotiation with rebels' joins thousands of others in Bamako on December 8, 2012.

Story highlights

Diango Cissoko is named as Mali's new interim prime minster

Interim PM Cheick Modibo Diarra was arrested, then resigned on television Tuesday

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he's "troubled" by Diarra's resignation

The international community is worried that a wing of al Qaeda is expanding into Mali

CNN —  

Mali’s president has named Diango Cissoko as the country’s new interim prime minister, according to state media reports, hours after the abrupt resignation of the former prime minister following his arrest by soldiers.

Cissoko is a former public ombudsman for the republic, according to the state-owned newspaper L’Essor.

In a brief online report, the newspaper states that interim President Dioncounda Traore signed two decrees Tuesday, one removing Diarra from office and the second naming Cissoko as his successor.

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“Things happened very quickly yesterday,” the report says.

Cissoko, 62, is a longtime civil servant, according to public broadcaster ORTM, having served as secretary-general for former President Moussa Traore and his successor, Amadou Toumani Toure, who was deposed in March.

Mali’s prime minister abruptly resigned Tuesday on state television, a day after he was arrested by a group of soldiers loyal to a former coup leader.

The development is another blow to the stability of a country once hailed as a model of democracy in Africa, but one derailed by a coup and an uprising of Islamist militants.

It is not yet clear what impact the change in leadership will have on regional and international efforts to tackle advances by the militants in the country’s North.

Read more: U.N. defers decision on military intervention in Mali

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he was “troubled” by the resignation and called again for a cessation of military interference in politics. He called for Mali to hold elections and restore peace and stability.

The Economic Community of West African States, which appointed the interim president, also expressed concern over the resignation and condemned “any form of interference by the military in the political process.”

It urged the Malian president to “take all necessary and immediate measures to form a representative and inclusive government as soon as possible in order to pursue the ongoing efforts to end the crisis.”

Cheick Modibo Diarra, a former NASA engineer, who holds U.S. citizenship, was set to fly to Paris for medical care Monday, when he received notice that his bags had been removed from the plane, said a close aide, who did not want to be named.

Diarra decided to stay home, where three pick-up trucks with armed soldiers pulled up at 11:00 p.m. and took him away to military headquarters in Kati, five miles north of the capital Bamako, the official said. There he met with former coup leader Capitaine Amadou Sanogo.

Armed soldiers brought the former prime minister to broadcaster ORTM around 1 a.m., said TV technician Adama Haidara. “Mr. Diarra looked tired, worn out,” he said.

In his televised appearance on the military controlled broadcaster, Diarra did not offer a reason for his resignation, except for a vague statement that he solemnly delivered.

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“Our country Mali is going through the most difficult period in its history,” he said. “During this time of crisis, the men and women of this country – uncertain of what is going to happen to their country – find themselves in an unfortunate situation.

“That’s why I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, have resigned with all my government, on this day, Tuesday, 11 of December of 2012.”

Diarra’s whereabouts are yet unknown, but his aide believes he is still in Bamako.

“The arrest was made by a small force loyal to Sanogo,” said army spokesperson Colonel Idrissa Traore. “The majority of the military officers in Bamako were not informed about the arrest of Mr. Diarra, and no one knows what will happen now,” he said.

Mali held its first democratic elections in 1992 after decades of military rule, and had a strong democracy for the most part.

Read more: Is this al Qaeda’s ‘last chance’ for a country?

That was until March, when a group of soldiers toppled the government, which it accused of not providing adequate equipment to battle ethnic Tuareg rebels roaming the vast desert in the north.

The then-President Amadou Toumani Toure disappeared from sight.

The Tuareg rebels took advantage of the power vacuum and seized parts of the north. They have always wanted independence, and have staged several rebellions since the 1960s.

After Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed and Libya plunged into chaos, Tuaregs, who had fought by his side, took weapons to Mali to ramp up their conquest.

Read more: International leaders push for military intervention in Mali

A power struggle erupted between the Tuaregs and local al Qaeda-linked radicals – including Ansar Dine – who prevailed and seized control of two-thirds of northern Mali, an area the size of France.

The international community is also worried that al Qaeda’s north African wing is expanding into Mali.

U.S. officials have said that the wing, the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is linked to the deadly Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others.

Tuareg rebels have retreated from the well-armed militants, but have vowed to fight back and establish their own country in the north, which they call Azawad.

Read more: What’s behind the instability in Mali?

West African states and international leaders say a rapid military intervention is essential to solving the security crisis.

When soldiers seized the capital in March, the regional and international powers put pressure on them to restore democratic rule.

Sanogo conceded and transferred power in April to Dioncounda Traore, after he was put forward by ECOWAS. Traore appointed Diarra as interim prime minister.

Traore fled to a Paris hotel after being beaten unconscious in a May 21 attack that occurred in the presidential palace.

Diarra took over the country’s leadership until Traore returned.

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And as the world seeks a solution, the Islamist militants are busy applying their strict interpretation of sharia law, including the banning of music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television.

They also publicly stoned a couple to death in July for reportedly having an affair.

Public executions, amputations, floggings and other inhuman punishments are becoming common, the United Nations says.

At least four times this year, the militants have destroyed Timbuktu’s historic tombs and shrines, claiming the relics are idolatrous. The picturesque city was once an important destination for Islamic scholars for its ancient and prominent burial sites and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

CNN’s Faith Karimi contributed to this report