Burundi: Pierre Nkurunziza, the man who loved power too much

Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, died yesterday, Monday June 8, officially following a “cardiac arrest”, announced the government, which declared a national mourning for 7 days.

“The Government of the Republic of Burundi announces with very great sadness to Burundians and to the international community the unexpected death of his Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi, occurred at the Cinquantenaire hospital in Karuzi, following a cardiac arrest, “the statement said.

Information confirmed by Willy Niamitwe, Principal Advisor to the Presidency of the Republic, in charge of the press. “Very saddened by the unexpected death of HE@pnkurunziza, President of the Republic & Supreme Guide to Patriotism. Contrary to rumors, he suffered a cardiac arrest. The @BurundiGov announces a 7-day mourning and sends its condolences to the family and to the Nation “, he commented on the social network Twitter.

It should be noted that persistent and insistent rumors about his death had been circulating for a few days. Several sources explain that he would have been positive for Covid-19, his wife still being hospitalized in Kenya since last week for the same reason, despite the denials of the authorities.

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It would all have started on the day of Saturday, June 6: after attending a volleyball match, the head of state “felt uneasy and quickly went to Karuzi hospital for treatment” on the night of June 7.

But then “on Sunday, his health improved and he spoke with the people who were next to him,” the statement said. “To everyone’s great surprise”, in the morning “Monday June 8, 2020, his state of health suddenly changed with cardiac arrest”. Can we read in detail.

“Despite intense, continuous and adapted treatment, the medical team was unable to recover the patient,” added the press release, adding that the multidisciplinary medical team tried for “several hours” to revive him.

Read also Burundi: with the new Constitution, Pierre Nkurunziza assumes full powers

President of Burundi by “divine will”

Born on December 18, 1964 into a wealthy family Pierre Nkurunziza presided over the destinies of Burundi, one of the poorest countries on the planet, since 2005.. In 1972, his father, an MP, was killed in interethnic massacres which decimated the Hutu elite. “Nkurunziza, like most of the leaders of the FDD rebellion” formed at the start of the long civil war (1993-2006), “is an orphan in 1972”, explains a senior official. At the end of high school, he wanted to become an officer or an economist: impossible, due to the restrictions against Hutus established by the Tutsi power at the time. In 1991, he finally became a physical education teacher.

He joined the rebellion in 1995. Severely wounded, he survived four months in swamps. From there dates his conversion to evangelism, because God, he says, would have appeared to him to tell him that he would one day rule Burundi. Nkurunziza indeed believes that he is President of the Republic by divine will and “therefore organizes his whole life and his governance” accordingly. Each year, during major “prayer crusades”, the president and his wife, an evangelical pastor, preach before the citizens and high officials of the country.

Alexis Sinduhije, an opponent in exile, does not believe in this displayed piety: “Poverty has increased, human rights violations are the rule and corruption has become widespread since Nkurunziza came to power. ”

His candidacy for a very controversial third mandate in 2015 had plunged his country into a major political crisis which left more than 1,200 dead and forced 400,000 Burundians into exile.

The presidential election of May 20 was held despite the epidemic of new coronavirus: thousands of supporters had flocked to campaign rallies and on election day voters crowded together in rows waiting, without any real preventive measure.

Whatever happens, Pierre Nkurunziza remained in power until the end. Ironically, his candidate and friend, Évariste Ndayishimiye, was proclaimed on May 25 victorious in the presidential election of May 20, a result immediately qualified as “electoral masquerade” by the party of his main adversary Agathon Rwasa. Pierre Nkurunziza was to hand over power to the newly elected president in August.

Read also Burundi: Évariste Ndayishimiye, heir to a country with countless challenges

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