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Burundi Establishes Power-Sharing Transitional Government - 2001-11-01

A transitional power-sharing government has been inaugurated in Burundi. Regional leaders hope it will pave the way to peace in the troubled central African country.

Burundian President Pierre Buyoya was the first to be inaugurated in a private ceremony in the capital, Bujumbura. His swearing in was followed by that of his new vice president, Domitien Ndayizeye.

The two men - from different ethnic groups and different political parties - will lead the ethnically balanced power-sharing government that is supposed to help end Burundi's eight year civil war and move the country toward democracy.

Mr. Buyoya is a Tutsi who has run the country since he seized power in a coup in 1996.

His deputy, Mr. Ndayezeye, is a Hutu who heads the opposition party known as FRODEBU, short for Front for Democracy in Burundi. Open elections are scheduled to take place after three years of rule by the transitional administration. Mr. Buyoya will remain in power for the first 18 months. He will then hand over power to a Hutu - probably Mr. Ndayezeye - for another 18 months, and a Tutsi will take up the vice presidency. The cabinet posts are roughly evenly divided between the two ethnic groups.

For most of its 29 years of independence, Burundi's government and military have been dominated by members of its Tutsi minority. A brutal civil war erupted in 1993, after the assassination of an elected Hutu president at the hands of Tutsi soldiers. More than 200,000 people have died in eight years of fighting.

Despite the inauguration of a new government, there is still no ceasefire in that war. Burundian politicians and regional analysts say the new administration is doomed if the two main Hutu rebel groups do not sign onto the peace process.

But there may be a breakthrough on that front. Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who mediates peace talks, says both rebel groups have told him they are willing to negotiate at last.

Mr. Mandela told reporters he has no doubt the peace process will succeed.

More than 700 South African troops are in Burundi to support the peace process. Their job is protecting the mostly Hutu politicians who have returned from exile to take part in the transitional government. Troops from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal are due to join the peacekeeping force later.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was on hand for the inauguration ceremony. So were the leaders of Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi.