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Peaceful Transfer of Power Completed in Burundi

In Burundi, a new president has been sworn in as part of an ambitious peace plan that seeks to end a decade of civil war. Burundi's new leader pledged to fight ethnic conflict in the tiny central African country.

There was loud applause as President Pierre Buyoya handed over power to his deputy, Domitien Ndayizeye, in Burundi's parliament.

The two men hugged as a crowd of dignitaries looked on. Among them was South African former president Nelson Mandela, who has been the engine behind Burundi's painfully labored peace process.

Burundi has been plagued by ethnic massacres since independence in 1962, with the minority Tutsi ethnic group, who dominate the government and army, on one side and the majority Hutu on the other.

In 1993, Hutu rebels took up arms against the government, beginning a civil war that has killed 300,000 Burundians.

Under Mr. Mandela's mediation, more than a dozen Burundian political parties signed the Arusha peace accord in 2000, setting in chain a three-year transition to democratic elections.

The transfer of power from a Tutsi, President Buyoya, to a Hutu, President Ndayizeye, is one of the most significant stages in this process.

At the ceremony, President Ndayizeye swore to work for the good of all Burundians, to fight genocide and exclusion and to pursue the application of the Arusha accord.

Another key task for the new Hutu president will be to persuade Hutu rebels fighting the government to lay down their arms.

The continuation of the conflict has made many ordinary Burundians cynical about the peace process. On Monday, eight civilians were killed in a rebel ambush just outside the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.

There is anxiety as to whether President Ndayizeye will have a chance to fulfill his promises.

Burundi's only other Hutu president, who was elected in 1993, was assassinated by Tutsi extremists after just four months in office.

President Ndayizeye will have to work hard to win support from both the Hutu rebels and the nervous Tutsi hard-liners.

Burundi's African neighbors are behind him. Last week, about 3,000 soldiers from the African Union started arriving in Burundi to monitor the implementation of the peace accord and to organize the demobilization of former fighters.