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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 03:19 GMT 04:19 UK
Power to be shared in Burundi
Tutsi militia
The conflict has raged for nearly a decade
Burundi President Pierre Buyoya is to remain head of state for the first 18 months of a new three-year transitional government in a deal aimed at ending the country's bitter civil war.

Burundi's President, Pierre Buyoya
President Buyoya: Seized power in 1996
The breakthrough comes after leaders of the country's 19 political parties attended peace talks in Pretoria chaired by former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is mediating in the conflict.

Mr Buyoya, a member of the minority Tutsi community, will have a Hutu politician as his vice-president, before the roles are reversed half-way through the three-year term.

He launched a coup in 1996 which triggered fighting between his Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebels in which thousands of people on both sides have been killed.

This is a fixed decision - we have succeeded in moving forward

Nelson Mandela
Efforts to implement a peace accord signed last year had been stalled by wrangling among the main parties over who should hold the first rotating leadership.

A majority of Burundi's politicians had rejected Mr Buyoya as the Tutsi leader, but they could not agree on a replacement.

Mr Mandela, however, said that obstacle had now been overcome. "This is a fixed decision," he told reporters after lengthy talks in Pretoria.

"We have succeeded in moving forward because we have listened to the reservations of political parties."

Hutu leader Domitien Ndayizeye will serve as vice-president for the first 18 months. The presidency and vice-presidency for the second 18 months are still to be decided.

Burundi's Hutu rebels are not party to the peace agreement, but Mr Mandela said he remained optimistic they would "come on board".

Terms of accord

The Tutsi minority make up only 15% of the population of Burundi.

Correspondents say they have long been fearful of the Hutu majority - especially after the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda where the balance of the two ethnic groups is identical.

Mr Buyoya is reported to have agreed to abide by 11 conditions laid down by Mr Mandela and his team, amongst them:

  • Return of refugees

  • Release of political prisoners

  • Integration of rebel groups into the army.

Most importantly, Mr Buyoya must leave office at the end of the 18-month term.

A regional summit is scheduled for 23 August, before which he must commit himself to all 11 conditions.

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See also:

09 Jul 01 | Africa
Mandela sees Burundi solution
23 May 01 | Africa
UN talk up Burundi peace
25 Aug 00 | Africa
Burundi's deadly deadlock
02 Mar 01 | Africa
50,000 flee Burundi fighting
02 Feb 01 | Africa
Burundi hunger crisis warning
26 Feb 01 | Africa
Burundi peace talks fail
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Burundi
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