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Tutsi Party Pleased with Appointment of Interior Minister in Burundi

Burundi's main Tutsi political party says the appointment of a new interior minister this week will help the country to better prepare for upcoming elections.

The head of Burundi's largest Tutsi political party, Uprona, Jean-Baptiste Manwangari, tells VOA the interior minister's appointment this week will go far in ensuring that elections scheduled for August will occur.

According to the terms of a peace deal signed five years ago to end Burundi's long-running civil war, a transitional Hutu-Tutsi power-sharing government was supposed to have handed over power to an elected government late last year.

The elections were postponed several times, and are now set to be held in August.

Mr. Manwangari says he has faith that the new interior minister, Jean-Marie Ngendahayo, will make this happen.

"There is some problem of security, some problem in the electoral campaign with the parties," he said. "And I think the role of the minister of interior is very, very important to make compromise, to have discussion on the days when necessary. I think that it is a good thing that he has been appointed."

Mr. Manwangari also says the interior minister's appointment has brought the fractured government back together again, enhancing the peace process.

The power-sharing Burundi government includes members of the former Hutu rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy.

At the end of last month, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy announced that it would no longer participate in government meetings because President Domitien Ndayizeye rejected the group's candidate for interior minister.

The Forces for the Defense of Democracy wanted a Tutsi to fill that position. The president said a Hutu needed to be appointed as per the requirements of an earlier power-sharing accord in which 60 percent of cabinet positions are reserved for Hutus and 40 percent for Tutsis.

The president ended up going along with the Forces for the Defense of Democracy wishes, appointing an interior minister who is a Tutsi.

The Associated Press quoted the Forces for the Defense of Democracy spokesman as saying their ministers will now participate in government meetings, ending their boycott.

Burundi is struggling to recover from an 11-year civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, which had claimed more than 200,000 lives.