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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Princess for president in Burundi
Esther Kamatari
The princess is not known for her modelling work back home
A top fashion model and exiled Burundian princess has announced she is running for president back home.

Esther Kamatari, who has spent much of her life modelling on Parisian catwalks, says she wants to restore the monarchy to heal ethnic divisions.

Burundi's last king was killed in 1972 and the country was locked in a brutal civil war for much of the last decade.

Under a South African-brokered peace deal elections are due to be held next month, but no date has yet been set.

Ms Kamatari's Abahuza party, whose name means bringing people together, officially registered on Monday and subsequently chose the princess as its presidential candidate.

Father of the people

Ms Kamatari fled Burundi in 1970 after members of the royal family were killed.

Poor people will vote for me, maybe not the intellectuals
Esther Kamatari
Burundi's post-independence history has been dominated by tensions between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority.

According to the princess, Burundi's problems only started after the king's assassination.

"Burundi was a kingdom for 500 years... Burundi was peaceful at that time. The king was the father of the whole people," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The princess would like a referendum to be held so people can choose if they want a monarchy or republic.

"If we return to a monarchy... maybe it's possible to find peace."

Not known for her modelling work back home, it is her royal status and humanitarian work that will win her votes, she said.

"Poor people will vote for me, maybe not the intellectuals," she said.

Living most of the time in Paris, the princess says she will return to Burundi when campaigning officially starts.

Country profile: Burundi
14 Jul 04  |  Country profiles



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