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Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Monday, 8 May 2006 18:40 UK

Burundi launches 'race for peace'

By Robert Walker
BBC News

Pierre Nkurunziza
Former rebel Pierre Nkurunziza came to power last year

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has kick-started the "Race for peace" campaign to mark the end of a 12-year civil war.

The president, a former sports coach, ran the first kilometre, along with the 60 athletes who will run around the country over the next five days.

At every stop, trees will be planted to improve the environment - some 5,000 new trees are expected overall.

The runners will also be carrying the "Light of peace" torch.

Mr Nkurunziza said he hoped the campaign would "consolidate the peace process" and encourage sporting activity.

The BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge in the capital, Bujumbura, says sports remains one of the rare unifying activities in a country emerging from a decade of ethnic conflict.

An estimated 300,000 people were killed as ethnic Hutu rebels fought to end years of control by the Tutsi minority.

Mr Nkurunziza, a Hutu, former rebel, heads a power-sharing government but one group - the National Liberation Forces - remains outside the peace process.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: Burundi
26 Feb 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Burundi
31 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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