Tuesday of June 8th 2020 will for a longtime be a day of mixed feelings and emotions, it was on this day that news broke out that the country’s outgoing president had succumbed to a mysterious heart attack which had made him confined in a hospital for the last few days before he finally breathed his last. This news caused mixed reactions among the local Burundians as well as the larger international community since people had varying views about President Nkurunziza which stem from his leadership style and legacy.
Who is Pierre Nkurunziza?
Born on December 18 1964 to Eustiche Ngabisa, a politician from the Hutu clan of Catholic, Nkurunziza began his career in physical education before the outbreak of the Burundian Civil War which brought him into the moderate rebel organization National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD–FDD). Becoming president of the CNDD–FDD, he advocated a political solution to the conflict and was elected president in 2005, and controversially held the office for three terms rather than the two permitted in the constitution, sparking significant public unrest in 2015. These protests were brutally quelled by the armed forces and many people lost their lies due to the brutality exercised by the army and the police on orders of the president. This, in turn, forced the International Criminal Court to launch investigation into the police and the military acts, something which angered Nkurunziza and he withdrew Burundi as signatory to the ICC.
People thought that Nkurunziza would stand again for presidency come 2020, However, in a strange twist of events, in June 2018 he announced that he would not be standing for a fourth term and that he would consequently stand down in 2020. That same year, he was given the title of “Permanent Visionary” by the CNDD–FDD a title that came with many benefits attached to it including a luxurious mansion, a huge monthly salary and also having a lot of say in the politics of the country.
The death of Nkurunziza
Nkurunziza suffered a sudden death caused by a heart attack on 8 June 2020, aged 55, at the Fiftieth Anniversary Hospital in Karuzi according to a report by the Burundian government. However, critics in the media suspect he could have succumbed to COVID-19. A week earlier, The Standard news agency in Burundi reported that Nkurunziza’s wife had been flown without him to Nairobi for COVID-19 treatment.
By the time of his death, Nkurunziza was at loggerheads with the international community again which criticized him for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Burundi. This is because amidst the coronavirus scourge Nkurunziza gave the green light to the national presidential elections to take place and worse still Nkurunziza expelled members of the international community from observing the 2020 electoral process in Burundi as well as those from within the East African Community.
Bucumi- Nkurunziza wife returns to Burundi
According to reports by BBC, the now widow of the late Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza, Denise Bucumi, returned to the country on Tuesday evening following the death of her husband.
Her return came just hours after the Burundian government announced that her husband and outgoing president Nkurunzinza had died of a heart attack. The BBC, quoting an unnamed source, reports that the First Lady was discharged from the private hospital in Kenya on Tuesday.
Denise Nkurunziza had been airlifted to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, last month for medical treatment. Kenya’s Daily Nation, reports that Mrs. Nkurunziza was being treated at the Aga Khan University Hospital for COVID-19 and an underlying condition.
Mrs. Nkurunziza, a mother of five and devout Christian, is popular in the country for her philanthropic work through her foundation called Buntu. On Tuesday, Burundi’s government announced the sudden death of Pierre Nkurunziza at the Karusi Fiftieth Anniversary Hospital following a cardiac arrest.