Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza has died of heart attack, the government has confirmed. He died at the age of 55. A statement confirming his demise says he succumbed on June 8.
He was seeing out his 15-year-rule ahead of handing over to president-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye. The former general was declared winner of May 22 elections which the opposition unsuccessfully challenged.
The first lady was recently flown to the Kenyan capital Nairobi for medical reasons with some media alleging that she had contracted COVID-19.
Nkurunziza himself had become subject of virus speculation. A media outlet that focuses on the country reported that he had been hospitalized for the virus.
Inside Nkurunziza’s retirement package
Lawmakers last year approved legislation on emoluments for outgoing president Pierre Nkurunziza. The package included a one-time payment of one billion Burundian francs (estimated to be about $530,000).
Nkurunziza agreed to leave the presidency after the May 2020 elections despite a controversial referendum that allowed him to remain in power till 2034. His ruling CNDD-FDD party selected Ndayishimiye as candidate for the elections and were set to celebrate his swearing in in the coming months.
The former rebel leader has led Burundi since 2005, his third mandate plunged the East African country into chaos, opponents called it unconstitutional.
Some of the perks Nkurunziza was set to receive included;
- A luxury villa built with public funds in the location of his choice within five years.
- A one-off allocation of one billion Burundian francs” ($530,000).
- Benefits equivalent to those of a serving vice-president for seven years after he steps down
- A lifetime salary equal to that of a lawmaker.
A man of lofty titles
The title of ‘supreme leader’ will also be bestowed upon the 55-year old leader. Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, a spokesman for the presidency, tweeted that the Cabinet took the decision to make President Pierre Nkurunziza “Paramount Leader, Champion of Patriotism and Leadership Core.”
Lofty titles have been given to Nkurunziza before. In 2018 the ruling party called him “the eternal supreme guide,” a description mocked by some of the president’s critics.