Pierre Nkurunziza
Pierre Nkurunziza

OBINNA EZUGWU

Long serving Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza has died of heart failure, the government said Tuesday. He was aged 55.

“The Government of the Republic of Burundi announces with great sadness the unexpected death of His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi following heart failure on June 8, 2020,” a statement posted on official Twitter account reads.

Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 when he was selected by parliament. In 2015, his third term bid led to a political crisis in the country leading to the death of over 1200 people, while hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Despite the crisis, however, he ultimately succeeded and remained in power.

His death comes on the heels of elections on May 20 in which his hand-picked successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye, secured a seven-year term as president — a result confirmed by the constitutional court last Thursday.

Ndayishimiye was due to be sworn in in August.

A statement from Burundi’s presidency on Tuesday said Nkurunziza was hospitalised over the weekend and that his health “abruptly changed” on Monday.

It said the country would observe seven days of mourning beginning Tuesday.