Buyoya's primary domestic policy concern since regaining power has been establishing law and order in Burundi. He has attempted to accomplish this by appeasing the Hutu and by using force extensively. Immediately after the coup, Buyoya suspended the Constitution and dismissed the National Assembly. He then appointed Hutu to his government. In September he lifted a ban on political parties and restored the National Assembly. Members of FRODEBU refused to participate, however, as long as the Constitution was suspended. Buyoya also announced a three-year transition back to democracy, designed to allow time to establish order and adopt a new Constitution.
In the weeks following Buyoya's return to power, Bujumbura remained relatively calm, but in the countryside the military launched an operation to root out guerillas. Since the CNDD guerillas were based in DROC, this operation was targeted primarily against Hutu civilians considered sympathetic to the rebels. According to Amnesty International and the United Nations (UN), more than 10,000 civilians were killed in the first three months after the coup. Thousands of other Hutu civilians fled into Tanzania, Rwanda, and DROC. Given this extensive use of military force, few Hutu were wooed by Buyoya's political overtures.
In 1998, Buyoya's regime reached a political agreement with the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which adopted a Transitional Constitutional Act and a transitional political platform. This agreement brought the predominantly ethnic Hutu opposition party FRODEBU into the Cabinet. Buyoya holds power in conjunction with a political power structure dominated by members of the Tutsi ethnic group, and political parties operate under significant restraints. The judiciary is controlled by the ethnic Tutsi and is not impartial.
In addition to bringing an end to the ethnic violence, Buyoya faced the challenge of harnessing the runaway economy. With inflation running at 30% in 1997, dropping to 12% in 1998, and then spiraling back to exceed 25% in 2000, Buyoya was finding little success. Still, he pledged to curb inflation, and set a target of 7% for 2004.
In 1999, the government struggled to impose curfews and other regulations aimed at curbing attacks by rebels and warring ethnic factions. Peace talks, initiated in Tanzania in January under the leadership of Julius Nyerere, appeared promising, but the death of Nyerere in October stalled the process. The efforts were largely unsuccessful, however, as the country continued to be ravaged by violent civil unrest. Thousands of refugees are homeless or living in makeshift camps while malnutrition and disease overwhelm them.
In his 2003 New Years address, Buyoya pledged to continue a mission to preserve the citizens and property of Burundi from armed robberies, which had become increasingly frequent.