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Burundi's main Hutu party pulls out of government

Written by: Staff

BUJUMBURA, Mar 25 (Reuters) Burundi's main opposition Hutu party said today it was withdrawing from a national unity government, dealing a blow to reconciliation efforts after a civil war but unlikely to disrupt the ruling coalition.

The Hutu FRODEBU party accused President Pierre Nkurunziza's coalition of failing to abide by a constitutional agreement on power-sharing and failing to promote democracy.

Nkurunziza's election in August 2005 was a crowning moment in peace plan signed in 2000 to end 12 years of conflict between rebels from the Hutu majority and a Tutsi elite that has controlled the state for most of the post-independence years since 1962. Some 300,000 people were killed in the civil war.

''FRODEBU party has decided to stop any cooperation with the government that is not keen to return the country to the rule of law and democracy,'' FRODEBU's chairman Leonce Ngendakumana said after a meeting of senior party officials.

FRODEBU's main complaint is that Nkurunziza has dominated his cabinet with ministers from his party, the former rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), going against the constitution which encourages a broad-based government.

When he formed his cabinet last August, Nkurunziza gave 12 ministerial posts to FDD members and three to FRODEBU, despite its coming second during elections.

Although Nkurunziza gave Hutus 60 percent of cabinet posts and 40 percent to Tutsis as stipulated in the constitution, FRODEBU says most of the Hutu posts went to FDD members.

FRODEBU says it was entitled to five posts, including vice president which Nkurunziza gave to the largest Tutsi party UPRONA.

''This government does not respect the country's constitution which is a social contract between the ruling party and the other partners,'' Ngendakumana said.

Minister of communication Karenga Ramadhani said the government would study FRODEBU's complaints before giving its position.

FRODEBU also accused the government of authoritarianism and lacking the will to promote peace and reconciliation.

''We have noticed that everyday there are arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of people accused of collaborating with FNL,'' the chairman said, referring to the Hutu Forces for National Liberation, the last remaining group of rebels. ''This is unacceptable.'' Reuters PDS VP0112

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