Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

DAKAR, Senegal–Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday appointed a new prime minister, a day after the government of outgoing prime minister, Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga, resigned in a surprise move just months ahead of presidential polls.

According to a public decree issued on Twitter, President Keita named Mali’s former defense minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga to replace Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga, who quit his post unexpectedly on Friday.

The new prime minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga has been close to Keita despite his resignation as defense minister in 2014 after the Malian army sustained serious setbacks in a fight against Tuareg rebel groups in the country’s northern region.

The president’s office provided no reason for Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga’s resignation.  Former Prime Minister Maiga, no relation to the new prime minister, had been in his post since April 2017.   Some analysts wonder why is he stepping down seven months before President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita seeks re-election.

The former prime minister “presented to the president his resignation along with that of the members of his government,” the president’s office said, adding President Keita had “accepted” his decision to resign.

As the country proceeds to the presidential election, its northern region still a playhouse of unrest almost six years after a French-led military operation tracked Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda from a province they had occupied in early 2012.

Although Mali’s army, French soldiers and a UN mission (MINUSMA) maintains some form of control over a huge zone of the country, northern Mali still faces attack in spite of a peace deal signed with Tuareg leaders in May and June 2015 with the goal of insulating the jihadists.

Outgoing Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga was President Keita’s fourth prime minister after Oumar Tatam Ly (September 2013-March 2014), Moussa Mara (April 2014-January 2015) and Modibo Keita (January 2015-April 2017).