Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza has died, aged 56

Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a coronary heart attack, the nation’s government says.

Nkurunziza, 56, died of a coronary heart attack at a local hospital on June 8, according to an announcement released via the government’s Twitter account. Nkurunziza’s passing comes two weeks after presidential elections to choose his successor. He was due to be replaced in August by Evariste Ndayishimiye, a political ally who won the May 20 elections.

Upon leaving office, Nkurunziza was due to be given $530,000, a luxurious retirement villa and be conferred with the title of “supreme leader,” according to a proposed legislation already passed by Burundi’s parliament. He was additionally due to obtain a lifetime salary.

Yet, lavish severance and retirement package aside, Nkurunziza’s determination to finally leave office ended a political crisis which kicked off in 2015 when he unconstitutionally chose to contest for a 3rd term in office. The move sparked protests which were met with force by local law enforcement resulting in weeks of violent unrest and a failed coup. Regardless of the riots and a widespread boycott by opposition parties, Nkurunziza contested and simply received a 3rd term in office. Amid his third term, a brand new structure handed in 2018 allowed Nkurunziza potentially stay in power till 2034.

However his third term was not extensively supported and there have been numerous types of major and minor resistance together with three school girls who had been arrested for doodling on the face of the embattled president in their textbooks have had the case against them dropped. They were later released after the story went world wide and a social media campaign with new doodlings went viral.

Nkurunziza’s passing additionally comes amid the coronavirus pandemic which has seen the nation’s first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza reportedly hospitalized in Kenya’s capital after being airlifted from Burundi amid restrictions.

However given weak government response which appeared to prioritize polls over public security, specialists consider the nation’s handling of the pandemic has been questionable. These fears had been heightened when, weeks before the presidential elections, the government kicked out a WHO coronavirus response task-force.

 

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