New government inaugurated, dawn of a new era

President Pierre Buyoya was sworn in on Thursday to head a three-year power-sharing government in Burundi that mediators hope will return peace to the country after eight years of civil war.

His spokesman, Apollinaire Gahungu, told IRIN that the presidents of Mali, Rwanda; Burundi negotiator Nelson Mandela; South African Vice-President Jacob Zuma and OAU Secretary-General Amara Essy had arrived for the inauguration. Other invited guests were the presidents of Zambia, Tanzania, the vice-president of Uganda, and the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Also invited were guests from countries that had been closely monitoring the evolution of the peace process such as Belgium and France; those of the Great Lakes region; Ethiopia, Eritrea and countries that might send peacekeeping troops - Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal; as well as the EU.

Formation of the new government, which will for the first 18-months from Thursday be lead by President Pierre Buyoya, has been negotiated by Mandela. Within the new administration, the majority Hutu will share power with the minority Tutsi who have dominated politics for most of the country's 39 years of independence from Belgium. In the new cabinet, announced on Tuesday, 14 of the 26 portfolios will go to Hutus and 12 to Tutsis. General Cyrille Ndayirukiye of the pro-Tutsi UPRONA party heads the Ministry of Defence. Foreign Affairs goes to Therence Singunguruza (UPRONA) and the Finance Ministry to Eduard Kadigiri, a Tutsi, of the Alliance Burundo-Africaine pour le salut, or ABASA. A Hutu, Salvator Ntihabose, holds the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security.

Tension between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi population have existed since before independence, resulting in one group killing the other. The Twa, who form 1 percent of the country's 6.3 million people, have been largely sidelined from the political process. The new transitional administration is an attempt calm ethnic tensions and allow Burundians time to form a workable process of government and, analysts say, the challenges for are daunting.

"The greatest task will be to negotiate and secure a cease-fire," Gahungu said.

Provision exists in the peace agreement for this but a breakaway faction of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD) - the CNDD-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), and the Parti pour la liberation du people Hutu-Forces nationales de liberation (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) - have not signed this document. Over the next three years efforts must be made, he said, to get them on board.

"We are really optimistic that a cease-fire negotiation is possible because there is no reason for the anti-government forces to continue fighting, " Gahungu said.

Underpinning this view was Mandela who on arrival in Bujumbura said the two main rebel movements were "ready to negotiate with the new government", AFP reported.

The CNDD-FDD split in two after Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye was ousted as its leader on 14 Oct. He rejects cease-fire negotiations while Pierre Nkurunziza's faction of the CNDD-FDD supports the talks. Nkurunziza's spokesman, Jean-Marie Ngendahayo, told IRIN that his party supported the creation of the power-sharing government and expected it to pay off.

"We are definitely confident that in forthcoming weeks and months we can speed up the peace process and prepare elections which will open a new democratic era," he said from South Africa.

Nkurunziza's party also supports cease-fire talks with the government, under the auspices of Gabon's president, Omar Bongo, and the South African vice-president. For that process to succeed, Ngedahahyo said, there would have to be an immediate end to abuses in Burundi. The transitional government must, he added, end the activity of army death squads, end gross human rights violations, ensure freedom of speech and begin to empower the poorest of the poor, for example, by paying peasant coffee farmers market prices for their crops. The Burundi League of Human Rights, ITEKA, largely supports this view but added that Burundi civil society must learn from past mistakes and "confront dangers and threats".

However Professor Phillip Nyinguro, the acting chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Nairobi, told IRIN that the success of the government depended how Buyoya balances the various contending groups. In such an "ethnically charged" government, he said, political groups would most likely be sizing each other up. "The onus is on Buyoya because if he sends wrong signals to any group the government will flop," Nyinguro said. "His other problem is that he has to convince Tutsis in the army, Tutsis in general, and his partner clients - which includes Hutus - that he is not selling them out."