Pierre Nkurunziza Dies Two Months before Stepping Down as Burundi’s President

Pierre Nkuruzinza, the 55-year-old President of Burundi is dead. 

Nkurunziza’s death was announced through his twitter account this afternoon. He was due to step down as the president in August after last month’s elections that saw his ruling party; the National Council for the Defense of Democracy candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye triumph. 

According to available information, Nkuruzinza was full of life on Saturday. He actually watched his favorite game of football at a local Stadium in the capital Bujumbura. But later in the evening, he was rushed to hospital after he was taken ill. 

On Sunday he became better again. But the following day, Monday his situation deteriorated and was taken in the intensive care unit after he suffered a cardiac arrest which doctors failed to resuscitate him from. He was pronounced dead this afternoon. 

Social media in Burundi is abuzz with stories that the President could have died of the coronavirus. 

According to the Burundian constitution, the speaker of parliament will take over as president up to August when Ndayishimiye assumes the presidency.  Flags around Burundi are going to fly on half-mast for seven days as the country mourns the passing of the president. 

Although Nkurunziza had agreed to step down from the presidency, he was to remain the ‘Supreme Guide to patriotism,’ a title that almost puts him above the president. 

He was to also remain as the chairman of the CNDD-FDD party. Nkurunziza rode to power in 2005 after fighting a 10 year long civil war which ended in 2003 with the signing of a peace deal. Subsequently, a new constitution was promulgated that limited to two, the terms of the president. 

However, Nkurunziza plunged his country into fresh unrest in 2015 after he tried and successfully ran for a third term claiming that the first five years were not covered in the new term constitution.  

He later engineered a constitutional amendment that dealt away with the term limits but he surprised the world when in 2019 he announced that he was not going to seek reelection despite of not having any legal limitations. 

In the region, Nkurunziza has had a rough working relationship with all but one-Uganda of his neighbors. Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzanian leaders all couldn’t look eye to eye with Burundian leaders led by Nkurunziza. He always accused Rwanda’s Paul Kagame as always out and about to oust him from the presidency by supporting dissidents in Burundi. 

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