Thousands of security personnel are expected to be deployed across Burundi on Friday, June 26, as the funeral of former president Pierre Nkurunziza is held in the capital Gitega. A funeral cortege is scheduled to transport Nkurunziza's body to the capital from Karuzi, where he died on June 8 from a heart attack linked to suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19) symptoms. Authorities have banned all traffic along the route and urged people to line the sides of the road for the 50km (30 mile) journey.
Friday has also been declared a public holiday, and officials have stated that they expect the public to show due reverence to the divisive former leader. An increased security forces presence is expected across the country on Friday, particularly in Gitega and Bujumbura, and travelers are likely to face an increased risk of harassment at checkpoints.
Nkurunziza had been expected to step down in August after his controversial third term in office, transferring power to his handpicked successor Evariste Ndayishimiye following May's presidential election. 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.
Those in Burundi are advised to maintain a low profile on Friday, 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. Any harassment from security forces during property searches or vehicular stops should be reported to the relevant consular authorities.
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