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Decision to Extend Burundi Transitional Government Draws Mixed Reaction

The recent decision to extend the term of Burundi's transitional government for another four months because of delayed elections has drawn mixed reactions.

This is the second time the transitional government has had its term extended. It was supposed to hand over power to an elected government late last year, as outlined under a peace agreement signed five-years ago.

But the deal also stipulated a constitutional referendum followed by elections, which were delayed several times because of political and logistical wrangling.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week chaired a regional summit meeting, also attended by the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia, and South Africa's deputy president.

They agreed to extend the transitional government's term until the end of August, when elections are to be held.

Burundi's main ex-rebel group, Forces for the Defense of Democracy, was reportedly upset with the delays and called for the regional summit not to extend the transitional period.

The chairman of the Tutsi political party Rally for Democracy and Economic and Social Development, Joseph Nzeimana, tells VOA the priority is to have successful elections, and there is no problem if more time is needed to work out the kinks.

But, says Mr. Nzeimana, he has a problem with neighboring countries making decisions for Burundi. "They should give advice only, because [Ugandan President Yoweri] Museveni has more difficulty than Burundi," he said. "Burundi is not coming to his home affairs."

Mr. Nzeimana and the chairman of Burundi's largest Tutsi political party, Uprona, Jean-Baptiste Manwangari, both say the constitution specifies that the transitional government must remain in power until there are elections, so they do not consider Friday's decision to be an extension.

Mr. Manwangari says he also has no problem with the many delays, but is worried about the elections. "We have a lot of problem[s], because some political parties have to use violence [and] intimidation. I think that is a very great problem, because it is possible that [the] election will not be free," he said.

The spokesman for the special representative for the U.N. secretary-general on the Great Lakes, George Ola-Davies, says the delays are understandable. "Finding a solution, or finding peace, is not an easy task. It takes time and it takes its own toll," said Mr. Ola-Davies. "Now, they have worked things over the months, over the years, and I think they are getting there. There is no impatience."

Burundi is struggling to recover from an 11-year civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. The war claimed 300,000 lives.