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The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"Now he has taken on the top job"
 real 28k

Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Rwanda's Kagame sworn in
Paul Kagame
Kagame: Has effectively ruled for six years
Rwanda's new President, General Paul Kagame, has been sworn in in front of a crowd of 25,000 people.

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Burundian President Pierre Buyoya attended the ceremony in the Amahoro stadium in the capital, Kigali.

Rwandans have rejected ethnic divisions

Paul Kagame
Mr Kagame swore before the country's Supreme Court Chief Justice Simeon Rwagasore to "observe the constitution and support the interests of the Rwandan people in respecting all laws".

Mr Kagame, who has effectively ruled the country for six years, was appointed acting president following the resignation of President Pasteur Bizimungu last month.

He said his appointment represented the first time in the history of Rwanda that a change in the national leadership of had taken place peacefully.

Mr Kagame - who is the country's first Tutsi head of state - also sought to deflect criticism that the presidency has not been awarded to a member of the Hutu majority.

"People said the replacement of Rwanda's president should be carried out along ethnic lines," he told the gathering.

"But Rwandans have rejected ethnic divisions, and they've rejected divisions along regional and religious lines."

He called on those Rwandans who fled in 1994 - most of them Hutus fearing Tutsi reprisals after the genocide - to return home.

Rebel leader

Resentment against the Tutsis - regarded since colonial times as a powerful elite - prompted the systematic attempt by extremist Hutus to eliminate the entire Tutsi population.

General Kagame was commander of the rebel movement, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which overthrew the former Hutu regime.

But having taken power, General Kagame sought to appease the Hutus by installing as president one of the prominent Hutu activists in the RPF, Pasteur Bizimungu.

Discreet leadership

With Mr Kagame as vice-president, the two men helped maintain an ethnic balancing act that was meant to continue until the end of the transition in 2003.

But last month Mr Bizimungu resigned following disagreements with other government members, and General Kagame opted to have himself approved as president.

Observers say that this poses a political risk, but fears of a Hutu uprising against him are tempered by the broad respect that Mr Kagame commands.

His declared goal is to steer Rwanda towards a future whose citizens place their common national identity ahead of their ethnicity.

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17 Apr 00 | Africa
Kagame wins a one-horse race
22 Apr 00 | Africa
Kagame: Speech highlights
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