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The BBC's Chris Simpson
"Not yet clear whether Kagame will put himself forward"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 17:43 GMT
Rwanda seeks new president
Pasteur Bizimungu
Bizimungu was one of the few Hutus in government
Rwanda's government and parliament have begun the process of nominating a new head of state, after the resignation of President Pasteur Bizimungu earlier on Thursday.

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

His resignation followed growing tensions with other members of the government.

The new president is expected to come from within the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which is the main political movement in Rwanda.

According to constitutional procedure in Rwanda, the RPF will have to select two presidential candidates.

The final choice will go to the government, which will consult with the Rwandan parliament.

Senior RPF officials say they are confident everything will be handled smoothly, but it is not yet clear whether Vice-president Paul Kagame will put himself forward for the presidency.

Mr Kagame, who is also RPF chairman and minister of defence, has long been seen as the man wielding the real power in Rwanda.

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.

Grievances

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


Vice-President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
Vice-President Kagame: Could seek presidential nomination
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.

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.

Turbulent times

The RPF assumed power in Rwanda after toppling 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.

Mr Kagame has warned that the country was 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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