updated 1/6/2005 8:46:38 PM ET 2005-01-07T01:46:38

Burundi’s president signed a law creating a commission to investigate atrocities committed during the civil war and to find ways to reconcile the country’s Tutsi ethnic minority and the Hutu majority, an official said Thursday.

The 25-member Truth and Reconciliation Commission has two years to investigate perpetrators and victims of the violence committed since this tiny Central African nation gained independence from Belgium in 1962, said Euphrasie Bigirimana, the chief of staff for President Domitien Ndayizeye.

The commission, however, will not investigate atrocities committed after rebels signed a peace deal with the government in 2000, Bigirimana told The Associated Press.

An international judiciary commission will review the finding of the truth commission and determine which abuses were crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, Bigirimana said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was originally supposed to be set up three months after the 2000 peace deal was signed in neighboring Tanzania, and the international judiciary commission six months after the peace agreement.

There were no immediate explanations for the long delay.

The commission will include representatives of political parties, religious organizations, women’s associations and other non-governmental groups. It will be nominated by Ndayizeye, but will operate independently, Bigirimana said.

Burundians hope that the commission will provide a measure of justice to victims of the conflict between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebel factions in the country of about 7 million people.

Civil war broke out in Burundi in October 1993 after Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country’s first democratically elected leader, a Hutu.

More than 260,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

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