Burundi’s outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza dies

Burundi’s outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza has died, the government of the central African nation announced in a statement posted on Twitter.

He passed away on Monday at the Karusi Hospital in central Burundi, aged 55,and the Burundian government has declared seven days of mourning.

An evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to rule the East African nation, Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, when he was selected by parliament. 

His controversial and ultimately successful bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

Nkurunziza was due to stand down in August, when retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye, who successfully stood for the ruling party in last month’s elections, was due to take over. The opposition said the elections were marred by rigging and violence, charges the government denied.

“As I learn of the passing of Pierre Nkurunziza, I think of the thousands of lives that his regime cut short. The families that won’t see justice,”

tweeted Thierry Uwamahoro, a democracy activist and prominent government critic who lives in exile.

The statement released by the government on twitter said he had watched a game of volleyball on Saturday but fell ill that night and was taken to hospital. even though his health improved on Sunday. Heart failure took his life the following day as the Doctors provided “cardiopulmonary resuscitation” over the course of many hours but were unable to save him.

Nkurunziza and his wife began to make the divine origin of the president’s power a central tenet of their speeches. In 2019, he changed the country’s motto from ‘Unity, Labor, Development’ to ‘God, King, Burundi’.