KIGALI, Rwanda — A former rebel leader whose forces stopped the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was chosen president Monday, becoming the nation's first Tutsi leader since it won independence from Belgium in 1962.
Emerging as the formal head of a country he has controlled as vice president and defense minister for six years, Paul Kagame, 43, was selected by the parliament and the Cabinet in an 81-5 secret ballot. He had previously declined the presidency for fear of antagonizing the nation's 85% Hutu majority.
Kagame, who had been acting president since last month, won out over Charles Muligande, also a leader in the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the country's major political force.
Kagame provisionally replaced the president, Pasteur Bizimungu, in March when Bizimungu, a 49-year-old Hutu, stepped down amid accusations of incompetence and rumors of conflict with the Patriotic Front.
After the result of Monday's vote was announced, the new president received a rousing ovation from lawmakers and government officials in the National Assembly building in Kigali, the capital.
Kagame was scheduled to be sworn in Saturday by the Supreme Court as Rwanda's fifth president since independence.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front is made up of Tutsi exiles who won power in 1994 after stopping an extremist Hutu government's slaughter of more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
Since 1994, the Patriotic Front and seven other political parties made up of both Hutus and Tutsis have ruled Rwanda in a transitional government, appointing the Cabinet and the 70-seat National Assembly under a power-sharing formula.
Last year, the government put off elections and extended the transition period to 2003, arguing that ethnic tensions stemming from the mass killings remained too high for a free election to take place.
Kagame helped Yoweri Museveni seize power as president of neighboring Uganda before leading the Patriotic Front to victory in Rwanda.