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Bikes, balls, boots with Nkurunziza: Burundi's sportsman president

Bikes, balls, boots with Nkurunziza: Burundi's sportsman president


<p>Pierre Nkurunziza on June 8 joined the list of African leaders who <a href="https://www.africanews.com/2017/09/19/exit-on-duty-african-presidents-who-died-in-office-2/">died whiles in office</a>. He entered the category at a time he was lacing – maybe unlacing – his boots to leave office. Death caught him in office.</p> <p>Aside the news of his loss to cardiac arrest according to the <a href="https://www.africanews.com/2020/06/09/burundi-president-pierre-nkurunziza-dies-of-heart-attack-govt/">official government account</a>, you are likely to find conspiracy theories about what exactly led to his demise, some <a href="https://nypost.com/2020/06/10/burundis-pierre-nkurunziza-may-have-died-from-covid-19/">reports pointing to <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19</a>.</p> <p>Nkurunziza articles have since 2015 being synonymous with his refusal to step down, the controversial third term, the ensuing chaos – bloodshed and displacement, a 2018 referendum and his decision to quit even when he could have carried on.</p> <p>But in this article, we sit out the over-reported politics of Nkurunziza over his 15-year reign but focus rather on the lighter side of the president – sides which have often been mired in some amount of controversy – we look at the rider and footballer in the former president.</p> <style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/AquwElZ-LLI' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div> <h2 style="font-size:16px;"> Young sporty president rises to power </h2> <p>Ascending to power at the age of 40, he was undoubtedly one of the youngest across the continent at the time. He rose to the role from being a rebel leader but one that came in with sporting credentials.</p> <p>Nkurunziza was a former sports teacher at a university. <a href="https://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN23G2CQ-OZATP">A Reuters report</a> described him as a lifelong fitness coach and football enthusiast. As president, he still played football and coached his team, Halleluya FC. He often wore the club’s track suit during outings.</p> <p>But that came with its own set of controversies, a key one being how in 2018 a number of opponents in a football match were picked up for <a href="https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/43265299">rough tackling the president</a> .It was also during his tenure that <a href="https://www.africanews.com/2019/03/24/burundi-secures-first-african-cup-of-nations-qualification/">Burundi qualified for her first African Cup of Nations</a> in Egypt 2019.</p> <p><img src="https://static.euronews.com/articles/112/28/1122833/1024x576_bonus-Nku.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Football, Pierre’s passion, actually sought to intervene in the post-2015 political crisis after it emerged in 2016 that the then <span class="caps">FIFA</span> president <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36104168">Sepp Blatter had offered Nkurunziza a top post</a> in exchange for quitting the presidency.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">Au Stade <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Urukundo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Urukundo</a> de Buye (<a href="https://twitter.com/NgoziProvince?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw"><code>NgoziProvince</a>), Halleluya FC avec <a href="https://twitter.com/pnkurunziza?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw"></code>pnkurunziza</a> vient de battre l'équipe des Chinois vivant au <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Burundi?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Burundi</a> (8 -1) <a href="https://t.co/EnZbGodAgN">pic.twitter.com/EnZbGodAgN</a></p>— Ikiriho (@Ikiriho) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ikiriho/status/838076131047780352?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 4, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <h2 style="font-size:16px;"> A president who loved his bike </h2> <p>To the cycling tracks, Nkurunziza undoubtedly loved his bicycle. It was often his preferred mode of transport when he was going to cast his ballots – during 2010 vote, the 2018 referendum and in the last elections.</p> <p>He was also a patron of the Tour de Burundi event during which he usually pedaled off the competition – a typical case in point being in 2018. But beyond the voting booth, he is on record to have cycled to his farm and to other events – of course under heavy security.</p> <style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/zF5GoKBVWTM' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div> <p>In 2017, photos were shared on social media showing the president out cycling with an armed convoy driving behind him. Wearing his helmet, Nkurunziza was pictured on what seemed to be a major road with some residents watching him from the sides of the road.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fafricanews.channel%2Fposts%2F3181180428612449&width=500" width="500" height="856" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <p>One can think of a few other African leaders being as sporty as Pierre. In the region, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni often <a href="https://www.africanews.com/2018/09/10/why-ugandans-have-nicknamed-their-president-bosico-katala/">rides his bike to farm</a> and recently shared keep <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9mbHq8LhzY">fitness tips for citizens under lockdown</a>.</p> <p>South African president Cyril Ramaphosa often goes for walks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018 engaged <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZB8N-5L2Co">rioting soldiers in a press-up contest</a>, Tanzania’s John Magufuli, five years ago, did press ups on the campaign trail; we wait to see if re-election will push him to offer a new round.</p> <h2 style="font-size:16px;"> Burundi in political flux navigating post Nkurunziza-era </h2> <p>The government statement announcing his death confirmed that he watched a game of volleyball on Saturday, June 6 – pictures were shared by national broadcaster – but fell ill that night and was taken to hospital in Karuzi in central Burundi.</p> <p>His health improved on Sunday but “surprisingly, on morning of Monday June 8, 2020, his health suddenly deteriorated and he had a heart attack.” Doctors provided “cardiopulmonary resuscitation” for hours but were unable to save him. </p> <p>His last cabinet meeting was on May 27, his last tweet was a day before. A message posted in French congratulating Evariste Ndayishimiye, the president-elect who was due to take over from him in August. A week of national mourning is underway, cabinet is seeking judicial interpretation on who leads the transition but for ordinary citizens it is time to look into the post-Nkurunziza era.</p> <p>One thing is sure, that Pierre for all the zigzag that characterized his 15-years in charge was one of, if not Africa’s most sporty leader by a mile. If fitness was a measure of how long a leader stayed, Pierre would outlive a sizeable number of those still in charge.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The late Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza playing football like a pro..<br /> Video//Courtesy <a href="https://twitter.com/BurundiGov?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw"><code>BurundiGov</a> <a href="https://t.co/Avsyppchu8">pic.twitter.com/Avsyppchu8</a></p>&mdash; Odhiambo (</code>ema_odhiambo) <a href="https://twitter.com/ema_odhiambo/status/1270597667383644161?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 10, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><em>Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban</em><br /> <em>Digital journalist, Africanews</em><br /> <em>alfa.shaban@africanews.com</em><br /> <em>@AlfaAfrican</em></p>
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