On Thursday 11 June 2020, Burundi’s cabinet held an emergency meeting following the sudden passing of sitting President, Pierre Nkurunziza, to chart a path forward. Nkurunziza reportedly suffered a heart attack after a short illness. The president passed a few days after the electoral victory of his party’s candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye.
There is a level of uncertainty, however, as to the strength of the president elect’s claim as some quarters state his ascension was supposedly propped by the now late Nkurunziza . According to the Constitution of the land, the president of the National Assembly should serve as interim leader until the swearing in of the president elect. As it stands, the decision now rests with the Constitutional court to declare the presidency ‘vacant’.
With this in mind, here’s a short obituary of Nkurunziza’s time in power.
Nkurunziza, a military man, was elected into power in 2005 when the country had just endured ten years of civil war and significant loss of life. His election was facilitated by parliamentarians and was very welcome at a time when the nation had known instability for a decade. By some accounts, the first ten years of his tenure were popular. The president adopted a raft of populist policies including sending troops to assist in the fight against terrorist groups in the region and disarming rebel groups at home.
It is in anticipation of his third term (2010) that fissures in his tenure manifested. His bid to run for a third time sparked national protest in Bujumbura and across the country. The pushback to his tenure was also within his ranks as a former general led a coup attempt coup to usurp Nkurunziza’s presidency. The coup failed but emboldened the resistance to his presidency. His party in turn instituted a violent pushback that led to years of unrest and the deaths of no less than a thousand citizens. This crisis drew the attention and condemnation of the international community. In his last term, the late president’s foreign policy avoided contact with the international community.
Nkurunziza announced he would not seek to extend his tenure to a fourth term, an unexpected occurrence especially with the radicalisation of his rule overtime and the effort to consolidate it. Nevertheless, his passing leaves a dearth in the halls of power as he was due to hand over his seat in August. He leaves Burundi isolated and in crisis with unconfirmed reports that he died of the coronavirus after he had controversially expelled World Health Organization officials from his country and his administration adopted the notion that God would protect the country from the pandemic. May his Soul Rest in Peace.