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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 19:58 GMT
Analysis: Why Bizimungu mattered
Pasteur Bizimungu
Bizimungu: Part of a delicate political balance
With the resignation of President Pasteur Bizimungu, the Rwandan Government loses its highest-ranking Hutu member - possibly with critical consequences for the delicate balance of power in a country still bearing the scars of genocide.

Mr Bizimungu was one of those Hutus who distanced themselves from the excesses of the Hutu regime which ruled Rwanda until 1994, and whose members openly encouraged the slaughter of Tutsis and of Hutu moderates.

He was prompted to join the rebels in 1990 after his brother - a colonel in the former Hutu-dominated army, was assassinated, apparently on the orders of the ruling Hutu government.

RPF rebels
Bizimungu joined the rebellion against the Hutu hardliners
Mr Bizimungu had earlier denounced the then government of Juvenal Habyarimana for its record of nepotism and ethnic discrimination.

He joined the RPF just as the movement was beginning its push into Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda.

After holding a series of senior posts in the RPF, Mr Bizimungu was named president of Rwanda when the movement took power in July, 1994.

Periferal figure

But despite enjoying a high public profile, the president has always been a slightly peripheral figure, with most Rwandans believing that the real power resides with Vice-president Paul Kagame - who is also party chairman - and a clique of advisers.

Paul Kagame
Kagame: Seen as Rwanda's most powerful politician
In recent days, Mr Bizimungu made it clear he had long felt marginalised and mistreated, showing particular contempt for those opponents who had accused him of corruption.

On Monday, the president accused MPs of unfairly targetting former Hutu Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigyema, who resigned on 28 February following accusations of corruption.

But senior party members said Mr Bizimungu was playing the ethnic card in defending a fellow Hutu, to try to deflect accusations of corruption which he himself was facing.

Recent accusations reportedly made against Mr Bizimungu include:

  • registering two trucks in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo to avoid paying Rwandan taxes
  • failing to pay compensation to people he evicted from land where he is putting up a new building
  • blocking laws that would allow parliament to censure ministers.
The RPF has always resisted attempts to characterise the movement as being dominated by the Tutsi minority - making the loss of such an important Hutu figure particularly awkward for the ruling party.

The division of power between the English-speaking Tutsi Kagame and the French-speaking Hutu Bizimungu was a delicate balancing act intended to symbolise Rwanda's post-genocide reconciliation.

Pasteur Bizimungu's critics have stressed that his departure was prompted by political and personal differences with his colleagues, and taken care to play down any suggestions of an ethnic dimension to the resignation saga.

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23 Mar 00 | Africa
Rwanda seeks new president
20 Mar 00 | Africa
Rwandan cabinet shake-up
06 Mar 00 | Africa
'Assassination' in Kigali
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