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Rwanda allows multi-party democracy

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- Rwanda has legalized multi-party politics, replacing the tiny African country's one-party state, government-run Radio Rwanda said Tuesday.

President Juvenal Habyarimana signed a new constitution late Monday legalizing the formation of opposition parties, said the radio, monitored in Nairobi.

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Rwanda, like other developing countries, has been under heavy pressure from Western donors of financial aid to end the one-party political system.

The radio said the new constitution paves the way for 'free and fair elections,' but did not say when they would be held.

Habyarimana on Sunday reorganized the central committee of the sole ruling National Revolutionary Movement for Democracy, or MRND. He dropped 20 senior people, including four ministers and four military aides.

Plans for multi-party reforms by 1992 were accelerated by October's invasion of Rwanda by about 1,500 rebels of the Rwandese Patriotic Front.

The rebels, who since that time have staged intermittent attacks on the country from Uganda in the north, have lived as refugees in the neighboring nation for nearly 30 years.

They escaped tribal warfare at home in the 1960s and have accused Habyarimana of tribalism, mismanagement and human rights abuses.

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Habyarimana, a major general, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1973. Two years later, he founded the MRND, the sole, army-controlled party.

The fourth smallest country on the African mainland, landlocked Rwanda is a Maryland-sized nation of 10,169 square miles in east central Africa.

Poor, overpopulated and overcultivated with a subsistence economy, Rwanda depends heavily on foreign aid. Agriculture and mining provide most of the nation's employment and export earnings. Coffee is the main crop, tin the principal mineral.

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