The outgoing president of Burundi was felled by a sudden illness, officially described in a government release as cardiac arrest.
The 55-year-old was due to step down in August at the end of his third term which he won amidst unrest and violence, particularly blamed on the authorities and the Imbonerakure — the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD. His victory triggered donor sanctions against the country.
Analysts say Pierre Nkurunziza left a divided nation. Burundi’s last civil war, which ended in 2006, left roughly 300,000 people dead.
Born in Bujumbura, the largest city in Burundi, Nkurunziza grew up in the northern province of Ngozi to a Tutsi mother and Hutu father. A former teacher and former leader of a Hutu rebel group, he was a born-again Christian and football fanatic.
His father served as governor of two provinces before he was murdered in 1972 during ethnic violence that resulted in the killing of more than 100,000 people of the Hutu ethnic group and more than 10,000 Tutsis.
Nkurunziza studied at the University of Burundi in Bujumbura in 1990, where he graduated with a degree in physical education. He served as a high school teacher and assistant lecturer at the university.
When a civil war broke out in 1993 between Hutu rebel groups and the Tutsi-dominated army, Nkurunziza escaped death during a 1995 army attack on the university campus that left some 200 people dead.
In 1998, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a Burundian court over his rebel activities but was later granted immunity from prosecution for war crimes.
In March 2018, Nkurunziza was granted the title of “eternal supreme guide” by the CNDD-FDD.
In January this year, Burundi’s parliament voted to pay $530,000 to Nkurunziza and provide him with a luxury villa when he left office.
Besides awarding him a lifetime salary, the legislation called for elevating Nkurunziza to the title of “supreme leader” upon leaving office.
Health experts have warned that Burundi remains the only country in Africa which has not enacted any policy to curb the spread of COVID-19 — based on the claim “God is protecting the country”.
Official reports indicate Burundi has so far recorded 83 cases and one death.
SOURCE: Global Information Network