*The Late Burundi President, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza
By Editor (with agency report)
Sad news engulfed the entire country of Burundi on Tuesday June 9, 2020 as the country’s President, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza passed on at the age of 55 years. Reports from the government in Burundi said he died after suffering a cardiac arrest. The information has it that he was admitted to hospital on Saturday after feeling unwell, his condition improved but on Monday he had a cardiac arrest and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, officials say.
Prosper Ntahorwamiye, a government spokesman, called for calm and announced seven days of mourning during which flags would be flown at half-staff. “Burundi has just lost an honorable son of the country, a president of the republic, a supreme guide of patriotism,” Ntahorwamiye said in a statement, referring to the official title Nkurunziza would have adopted once he stepped down. After 15 years in power, Nkurunziza was due to step down in August. In 2015, the announcement that he would run for a third term plunged the country into chaos.
It sparked anger as some questioned the legality of a third-term bid. There was a failed coup attempt, hundreds of people died in clashes and tens of thousands fled the country. After a change in the constitution, he was able to run for a further term in last month’s election, but he decided to retire and was to be known as the “supreme guide to patriotism. Last month, the secretary general of the governing party, Evariste Ndayishimiye, won the presidential election after Nkurunziza said he would not seek a new term.
Opposition parties and human rights organizations said the vote was marred by irregularities. His successor was set to be sworn in August for a seven-year term. Until Ndayishimiye can be inaugurated, the president of the national assembly, Pascal Nyabenda, will lead the government, in accordance with the country’s constitution. Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, came to power in 2005 at the end of Burundi’s civil war, during which 300,000 people were killed. Elected by lawmakers, Nkurunziza, a former sports instructor, faced the daunting task of maintaining peace and lasting stability, while bringing economic development to a country facing dire poverty and persistent epidemics.
His sudden death is likely to have a significant impact on Burundi’s regional and global relations, said Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, who studies the African Great Lakes region. Bisoka said that the president-elect could help mend relations with Rwanda, which have deteriorated in recent years. While Burundi has accused Rwanda of masterminding the thwarted coup in 2015, Rwanda has accused Burundi of sheltering rebels associated with the genocide that ripped Rwanda apart in 1994.
Ndayishimiye might face resistance from the generals and leaders within the ruling party, said Mr. Bisoka. But he also has the chance to pitch himself as the man to unite Burundi and lead it out of its political and economic isolation. “The future of this party and Burundi will depend on Evariste Ndayishimiye’s ability to reassure the generals and key cadres,” Bisoka said in an interview.