Thousands of Burundians on Friday lined the road to the capital Gitega as the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his sudden death earlier this month.
Nkurunziza, who was president for 15 years, died at the aged 55 of what the government said was “heart failure.” Tanzania’s former president Jakaya Kikwete and the current prime minister as well as Zambia’s first lady were among thousands of people present at Friday’s ceremony.
The funeral proper took place at the Ingoma stadium in the capital Gitega, the same venue where the new president was sworn in last week. President Evariste Ndayishimiye and top government and ruling party officials were in attendance.
The transfer of H.E NKURUNZIZA Pierre mortal remains to the Ingoma Stadium of— J.C Karerwa Ndenzako (KarerwaNdenzako) June 26, 2020
Gitegawas greeted by a farewell hedge from the populations of the neighborhoods, joined by crowds from other nooks and crannies of #Burundi along the Karusi-Gitega route pic.twitter.com/z5Ikv7mqrL
The funeral ceremonies began with the paying of last respects from his wife, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, his children and close associates in an intimate gathering at the hospital in the central city of Karuzi where he died on June 8.
“I personally have lost my love, children have lost their parent. I thank God for giving us strength to be standing in these hard times, after suddenly losing someone you love,” Mrs Nkurunziza said in her tribute.
Nkurunziza will be interred in Gitega in a special mausoleum that was built in the two weeks since he died.
Presidential spokesman Karerwa Ndenzako posted on Twitter that there were also military tributes and prayers, a convoy of honor and farewell around the stadium.
It was followed by a moment of meditation as the convoy passed by. “These moments were punctuated and accompanied by gospel music,” he added.
Nkurunziza died shortly after an election won by successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last week. An investiture that was pushed forward from the original date of August.