The government of Burundi announced on Tuesday, June 9, that President Pierre Nkurunziza had died suddenly of a heart attack, several days after being admitted to hospital with suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19) symptoms. Nkurunziza is reported to have died on Monday, June 8, at the Cinquantenaire hospital in the eastern city of Karuzi. The president's death comes at a critical time for Burundi, less than two months before he was due to hand power to his successor Evariste Ndayishimiye following May's controversial presidential election.
The government declared seven days of national mourning for Nkurunziza on Tuesday. It is currently unclear whether any measures will be in place during this period, but government and commercial services are likely to be disrupted. No date has yet been set for Nkurunziza's funeral.
Given the current political tensions in Burundi, a heightened security presence is likely across the country in the near term. Nkurunziza's death may also bring an elevated risk of political violence in some areas, including in Bujumbura.
May's poll was the first competitive presidential election to be held in Burundi since the country's 1993 civil war, with President Pierre Nkurunziza stepping down after his controversial third term in office. Nkurunziza's victory in the previous 2015 election cast the country into a long-running and violent political crisis which has seen at least 1200 people killed and over 400,000 displaced. However, opposition groups, including the main National Council for Liberty (CNL) opposition party, had questioned whether the president really intended to transfer power to Ndayishimiye, his hand-picked successor.
Individuals in Burundi are advised to remain apprised of the political situation, avoid all public demonstrations and events as a precaution, avoid discussing sensitive politically-sensitive topics in public, and heed all directives issued by the local authorities.
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