Burundi's leader dies of "heart attack", or possibly coronavirus

Thursday, 11 Jun, 2020

Nkurunziza was forced to step aside after 15 years in power by opponents within the country's ruling CNDD-FDD party, but was to become "supreme guide" with wide if ill-defined power.

Tributes have been pouring in for the deceased leader from Africa and beyond.

He died at age 55.

First lady Denise Bucumi, who had been recovering from the coronavirus in a Nairobi hospital, flew back to Bujumbura late Tuesday, a source in the presidency told AFP on condition of anonymity. He was re-elected in 2010.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has died after suffering what the government said was a heart attack, two months before he was scheduled to leave office.

The deadly turmoil that followed badly damaged ties with the global community, and Burundi became the first country to leave the worldwide Criminal Court after it started investigating allegations of state-sponsored crimes including murder, rape and torture.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement on Tuesday, said Mr. Nkurunziza leaves a legacy of "ruthless repression" in Burundi.

Announcing the national morning, Nkurunziza's senior adviser said he was "very much saddened" by his boss' "untimely death".

His political ally, Evariste Ndayishimiye, had since been declared the victor of the recent presidential election held May 20 and was to take Nkurunziza's place in two months.

Nkurunziza's political significance seemed cemented when he was awarded the title of "Paramount Leader, Champion of Patriotism and Leadership Core" by the ruling CNDD-FDD party previous year - along with a generous pension. His reelection sparked waves of political violence that pushed the country into what many global observers described as genocide and civil war.

Burundi's last civil war, which ended in 2006, left roughly 300,000 people dead.

Four experts from the World Health Organization, who had reportedly questioned the government's response to the pandemic, were expelled from Burundi last month. A picture of him signing in the condolences book at Ntare House was shared early today.

Burundian government has declared a seven-day mourning.