Rwandan President takes office, honouring genocide victims

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The Independent Online

Paul Kagame took the oath of office yesterday as Rwanda's first popularly elected president since the 1994 genocide.

Swearing to uphold and protect the new constitution, he officially brought an end to the transitional government set up in July 1994 after his rebels ousted the extremist Hutu government that orchestrated the slaughter of more than 500,000 people, most of them minority Tutsis like Mr Kagame.

The President dedicated his inauguration to those killed during the 100-day slaughter and in subsequent battles with remnants of the former government. "Today we honour the courage of Rwandans who lost their lives trying to stop the spread of the genocidal ideology," Mr Kagame told nine African heads of state, including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and some 38,000 countrymen packed into Amahoro stadium, where thousands of Tutsis sought refuge in 1994.

He pledged to invest "heavily" in development of rural Rwanda where more than 60 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day each. He also said his priorities were fighting Aids and malaria, developing tourism, integrating Rwanda into regional economic groups and building an economy based on scientific research and technology.

Mr Kagame, 46, won 95.05 per cent of the vote on 25 August, in Rwanda's first multiparty presidential elections since independence from Belgium in 1962.

His main challenger, Faustin Twagiramungu, who received 3.62 per cent of the vote, has recognised Mr Kagame as the legitimate President after the Supreme Court rejected his plea to declare the election void due to irregularities.