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Ex-Hutu Rebel Sworn In as Burundi's New President

Former Hutu rebel leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, was sworn in Friday as Burundi's new president, the country's first head of state since 1993.

Heads of state and dignitaries from across eastern and southern Africa attended the Friday afternoon swearing-in of Burundi's new president, Pierre Nkurunziza.

The swearing-in marks one of the final stages of a four-year process to end Burundi's 12-year civil war between militias from the ethnic Hutu majority and the Tutsi-dominated government army. About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict, most of them Hutu.

President Nkurunziza, 40, is among Africa's youngest heads of state. The son of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, he is expected to lead a government in which ethnic quotas are enshrined in the constitution. Sixty percent of the National Assembly and executive posts are to be filled by Hutus. Top jobs in the military and the Senate are split evenly between the two ethnic groups.

President Nkurunziza's swearing-in is the beginning of a new democratic era for Burundi, said Appollonaire Gahungu, former spokesman for Major Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi rebel leader who became interim president during the first years of Burundi's transitional government.

"Looking at what happened in Burundi this morning, [at] the number of heads of state who were invited and the number of journalists who came to cover the event. This definitely shows that everybody trusts in the newly elected president," said Mr. Gahungu. "In his speech, he also said he was going to work toward the expectations of all the Burundians who trusted him and elected him. Those are things that make me say that this is really a new day for Burundi."

President Nkurunziza's party, drawn from his former rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, was swept into power in national elections last month.

As president for the next five years, Mr. Nkurunziza faces the daunting task of rebuilding a country impoverished by civil war, said Mr. Gahungu. "He's going to work towards economic development by fighting corruption and by fighting economic embezzlement," he said, "and also he urged all the Burundians to get to work. Laziness is finished, because the economy of the country [is] really in disarray."

Many in Burundi say they hope with stability and development will come new roads, access to clean water, electricity and life without fear of attacks by armed gangs.