Burundi’s government has announced its outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza, 55, has died of a heart attack.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, the government announced “with great sorrow to the citizens of Burundi and the international community” the passing of the president.
According to the statement, Nkurunziza had attended a volleyball match on Saturday afternoon and was taken to hospital that evening after falling ill.
Although he appeared to recover on Sunday and spoke to those around him, his condition suddenly deteriorated on Monday morning. He then suffered a heart attack and despite an immediate resuscitation attempt, doctors were unable to revive him. Nkurunziza died at a hospital in Karuzi, eastern Burundi.
The government said there would be a period of national mourning for seven days from Tuesday. The flags would also be flown at half-mast.
The stated cause of Pierre Nkurunziza’s death has however been met with scepticism among some Burundians on social media and elsewhere. As it would be recalled, about 10 days ago, Denise Nkurunziza, the first lady of Burundi, flew to Nairobi seeking medical treatment. The reason for that treatment was officially undisclosed.
A lot of local press in Nairobi reported that she was suffering from Covid-19. With that news, there is a lot of speculations from Burundians in the diaspora about the claim that Nkurunziza had a heart attack.
Ndayishimiye’s Tribute to Nkurunziza
In power since 2005, Pierre Nkurunziza was due to be replaced by political ally Evariste Ndayishimiye, who won the elections.
In a Twitter post, Ndayishimiye said “He leaves us a legacy that we will never forget. We will also continue the high-quality work that he has done for our country, Burundi”.
Nkurunziza was chosen to lead the country following a 1993-2005 civil war that killed about 300,000 people. He and Ndayishimiye fought alongside each other as rebels in the conflict.