Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, has died of “cardiac arrest,” according to the government source. He was 55 years old.
Mr Nkurunziza who had been in power since 15 years was admitted in the hospital on Saturday after feeling unwell. His condition was said to have improved, but before his release, he had a cardiac arrest on Monday, and all efforts by the medical team to save his life proved abortive, the government says.
President Pierre Nkurunziza was due to step down in August – with a $540,000 (£440,000) retirement payout and a luxury villa – and hand over power to the newly elected President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who won the May Presidential elections.
Although the official statement has it that President Pierre Nkurunziza died of “cardiac arrest,” his wife Denise Nkurunziza, has been receiving medical treatment in Kenya since last week for allegedly the Coronavirus, a disease President Nkurunziza had downplayed and insisted the May Presidential elections must take place, despite advice and warnings from health experts against the move. Worse still, Mr Nkurunziza expelled the World Health Organization representatives from Burundi.
President Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 following the country’s 10-year bloody civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi, which claimed more than 300,000 lives. He was a rebel leader during the war. Two years after the war, he was appointed minister of interior affairs and later the parliament elected him president in August 2005. Although Nkurunziza would like to be seen as the custodian of peace in Burundi and was to be addressed as the “supreme guide to patriotism” after leaving office in August, he was accused of overseeing gross human right abuses, including “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, disappearances, extortion and intimidation” under his watch, according to Human Rights Watch.
His decision to seek for a third term in 2005, against protests from opponents, who questioned the legitimacy of the third-term bid, plugged Burundi on fire and eventually led to the loss of thousand lives. To actualise his wish, the country had to change its constitution to enable him to achieve his third-term ambition.
Mr Nkurunziza, who obtained a degree in sports education, and worked as a teacher and assistant lecturer at the University of Burundi before the civil war, was a football addict. He once coached the army football team and had his football club – Hallelujah FC – as President.
According to the country’s constitution, if the President dies in the office, the president of the national assembly, currently Pascal Nyabenda, should succeed him. However. Evariste Ndayishimiye, who won the of May’s presidential election, is due to be sworn in as president in August.
The question is: Will Burundi manage to sail through its tempestuous political sea in the absence of President Pierre Nkurunziza or will his death herald yet a new political tsunami in Burundi?