Dr. Cheick Modibo Diarra, chairman of Microsoft Africa, was appointed as the interim Prime Minister of Mali on Tuesday, the latest development on the crisis-battered west African nation's return to constitutional order.
The appointment, announced by the state television, was made by the junta, which toppled the President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, in consultation with the Economic Community of West African States.
The Malian astrophysicist, born in 1952, was the chief navigator of the probe "Mars Pathfinder" at NASA before becoming chairman of Microsoft Africa in 2006. He found his political party, the Rally for Mali's Development, last year to involve in politics in the country.
The appointment came after Dioncounda Traore, former president of the National Assembly, was sworn in as Mali's transition president on April 12, to organize democratic elections.
It also followed the arrests of several Malian political and military personalities by the junta between late Monday and Tuesday morning. The arrested include two of the candidates who had declared their candidature for the country's presidential elections, notably Soumaila Cisse of the Union of the Republic and Democracy (URD) who is the outgoing president of the West African Economic and Monetary Union and Modibo Sidibe, an ex-prime minister who was an independent candidate.
A source from the United Front for Safeguarding Democracy and the Republic (FDR) said Soumaila Cisse was injured when fleeing his home.
An economic operator Bany Kante who is the manager of Mali- Libya Holding, was also arrested. Officers who were arrested include General Sadio Gassama who was the interior minister during the regime of president Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), general Hamidou Sissoko (ex-army chief and head of Intelligency during ATT's regime) and the general controller of the police Mahamadou Diagouraga.
"Soumaila Cisse is in the hospital of Kati, and we are unable to access to it as the soldiers are interposed," said Ibrahima N'Diaye, vice president of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali and influential member of FDR, at a press conference.
FDR officials also announced other personalities were arrested on Tuesday afternoon, including Babaly BA, president and CEO of Bank of Mali Solidarity and Alassane Diallo Moussa, president and CEO of the National Bank for Agricultural Development. FDR spokesman Kassoum Tapo is wanted by the junta and his office was ransacked, they added.
The officials condemned the wave of arrests of politicians and military officials by the junta, and called for "immediate and unconditional release." They also expressed fears that the junta and its civilian allies are creating a "climate of terror" in the country.
They asked the soldiers to return to the barracks and do not "interfere" in the institutional process.