Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza dies aged 55

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Nkurunziza in 2014 (Image: US Department of State)

Pierre Nkurunziza, the President of Burundi, died at the age of 55 on Monday. The government of Burundi on Tuesday announced his death and announced the cause of death as a cardiac arrest. Nkurunziza became president of the African nation in 2005 and was due to stand down in August.

The government statement, which was posted on Twitter, announced the President's death "with great sorrow to Burundians and the international community." Nkurunziza was taken ill on Saturday evening, after attending a volleyball game, and taken to hospital. Despite signs of recovery on Sunday, he suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday and died, government officials stated. They also declared seven days of national mourning.

As of Tuesday, his widow, Denise, was being medically treated in Kenya. An Al Jazeera reporter in Kenya noted local news reports said she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nkurunziza was currently serving his third term as president after first being elected in 2005. His decision to run for a third term led to tensions and a failed coup in the country in which hundreds died. The constitution was changed again, allowing him to run for a forth term, before he announced he would stand down. His presidential term was to end in August, in favor of his elected successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Burundi had twelve years of civil war leading up to Nkurunziza's presidency. Around 300,000 people were killed in the conflict, during which Nkurunziza served in the CNDD-FDD, the group that would eventually become the nation's ruling party.