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The BBC's Chris Simpson
"The news comes as little surprise"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 12:15 GMT
Rwandan president quits
Pasteur Bizimungu
Bizimungu was one of the few Hutus in government
Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu has resigned, following increasing conflict with other government members.

Mr Bizimungu, who has been head of state since the 1994 genocide, was one of the few Hutus in a largely Tutsi administration.

"From today, 23 March 2000, I resign from the post of president of the Republic of Rwanda," Mr Bizimungu said in a statement.


Vice-President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
Vice-President Kagame has warned of inevitable changes at the top
Government officials say National Assembly speaker Vincent Biruta will act as president until the 18-member cabinet and the 70-member parliament jointly choose a successor.

Although Mr Bizimungu said he had resigned for "personal reasons", his position is believed to have become untenable following recent differences within the government.

He reportedly came close to resigning on Saturday after a disagreement with colleagues over the appointment of new government members.

Colleagues persuaded him to stay on temporarily, but on Monday Mr Bizimungu went public with a series of grievances against the government.

Corruption allegations

At the swearing-in of new government members, the president used his speech to defend himself against allegations of corruption.

He accused parliament and the newly sworn-in cabinet of disobedience and failing to respect his choice for ministers.

Mr Bizimungu led a government dominated by members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF, the Tutsi-led former rebel organisation.

The RPF toppled the hard-line Hutu administration which presided over the killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

Officials have acknowledged that the departure of the most important Hutu in the country could cause difficulties a government which is widely perceived as being dominated by the Tutsi minority, in a country which remains polarised along ethnic lines.

But they say they are ready to deal with whatever criticism may arise.

The last few months have been a turbulent period in Rwandan politics, with the departure of both the Hutu Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema, and the Tutsi speaker of parliament, Joseph Sabarenzi.

Vice-President Paul Kagame - widely seen as the man who wields the real power in Rwanda - has warned that the country is going through a period of transition and some changes at the top are inevitable.

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See also:

20 Mar 00 | Africa
Rwandan cabinet shake-up
06 Mar 00 | Africa
'Assassination' in Kigali
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