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Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza is dead

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Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo Curtesy

Pierre Nkurunziza is dead

Nkurunziza died unexpectedly due to cardiac arrest on 8th June 2020 at the Fiftieth Anniversary Hospital in Karuzi aged 55. His death occurred after the 2020 elections but ahead of the projected hand-over of power in August. A week-long period of national mourning was announced.

It had been intended that he would continue to remain prominent in public life as the “Supreme Guide of Patriotism”. A week earlier, it had been reported that his wife had been flown to Nairobi for coronavirus treatment.

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo Curtesy

He was a member of the Hutu ethnic group and began a career in physical education before the outbreak of the Burundian Civil War which brought him into the moderate rebel organization National Council for the Defense of Democracy—Forces for the Defense of Democracy, (CNDD–FDD).

Becoming president of the CNDD–FDD, he advocated a political solution to the conflict and was elected president in 2000 and controversially held the office for three terms rather than the two permitted in the constitution, sparking significant public unrest in 2015. In 2018, he announced he would not stand for a fourth term and died of a cardiac arrest shortly after the 2020 general elections.

He leaves behind a nation dotted with the unmarked graves of his political opponents, an economy in tatters, and a question mark over whether infighting over his succession could divide the country’s powerful generals and security chiefs.

Burundi is largely cut off by international donors after the United Nations documented the widespread rape, torture, and murder of political opponents by ruling party activists and the state security forces. Independent journalists are largely in exile or in jail.

Felicity Gitonga

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