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Burundi Establishes Power-Sharing Transitional Government - 2001-11-02

A new transitional government has been installed in Burundi - aimed at ending eight years of civil war. More than 200,000 people have died in the war.

After five years of negotiations, Burundi has a new transitional government made up of 17 political parties. It is the central African country's greatest chance for peace in years.

Although the majority of Burundians are ethnic Hutu, the country's government and military have been dominated by members of the Tutsi minority ever since independence almost 40 years ago.

When a Hutu was elected president in 1993, he was killed a short while later by Tutsi soldiers. It was this death that triggered the civil war that has so far taken 200,000 lives.

But after years of peace negotiations presided over by former South African President Nelson Mandela, the various factions in Burundi have agreed to participate in the peace process, with the exception of two Hutu rebel groups.

Pierre Buyoya, who was sworn in Thursday as president, says negotiating a ceasefire with the rebels is a priority for his new government.

Jan van Eck, an analyst at South Africa's University of Pretoria, says that if Mr. Buyoya fails, his government may not survive. "The government that has been created understands the need to create a ceasefire. They know that their legitimacy, their credibility will depend on bringing an end to the war, to Burundi and the people. The international community, that includes the South African facilitators, have to create a ceasefire process that is genuinely viable, that is full-time, that has the confidence of the three belligerents - the government and the two armed movements. Unless all three parties have confidence that the ceasefire process is worthwhile, they will be reluctant to participate," he said.

Mr. van Eck says he is confident the rebels will make concessions once they are brought to the negotiating table. In the meantime, he says, the international community must give financial support to the peace process. He says the new government needs money to create something Burundi has never had - a more ethnically balanced government.