Cheick Modibo Diarra (born 1952) is a Malian astrophysicist, businessman, and politician who was acting Prime Minister of Mali since 17 April 2012. On 11 December 2012, Diarra presented his resignation on state television in a broadcast at 4 a.m. local time, hours after soldiers who led Mali's recent coup arrested him at his home in Bamako.
Diarra was born in Nioro du Sahel, Mali. He is the son-in-law of former president Moussa Traoré. After graduating high school in Mali, Cheick Modibo Diarra studied mathematics, physics, and analytic mechanics in Paris at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie, then aerospace engineering at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He was recruited by Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA FFRDC Contractor, where he played a role in several NASA programs, including the Magellan probe to Venus, the Ulysses probe to the Sun, the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter, and the Mars Observer and Mars Pathfinder. He later became the director of NASA's "Mars Exploration Program Education and Public Outreach." Dr. Diarra also served as an executive for the Microsoft Corporation. He also obtained American citizenship.
In 1999, he obtained permission from NASA to work part-time in order to devote himself to education development in Africa, founding the Pathfinder Foundation. He took a further sabbatical in 2002 to found a laboratory in Bamako, Mali for the development of solar energy. In 2000 and 2001 he also served as a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO. In 2002 and 2003 he served as CEO of the African Virtual University, based in Kenya.
Cheick Modibo Diarra was the chairman of Microsoft Africa from 2006 until the end of 2011. Turning to Malian politics, he founded the Rally for Development in Mali, a political party, in March 2011, and he intended to stand as a candidate in the 2012 presidential election.