“Supreme Guide” has passed away!

At the start, everyone was talking about “fake news”. Then the news was confirmed. Iwacu recounts these incredible hours and the reactions following the “unexpected” death of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The government has declared seven days of national mourning.

The news was like a bomb. In the afternoon of Tuesday 9 June 2020, the Government of Burundi announced, by way of a press release, the “sudden death” of the Head of State of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, which occurred the day before in Karusi Hospital “due to cardiac arrest.”

The morning of June 9 had been marked by rumors of that bad news. At Iwacu newspaper, that “information” was even talked about during the morning editorial meeting. The topic seemed sensitive and delicate. The editorial staff decided to follow it and remain vigilant.

Throughout the day, messages fell on the “probable death of the president” but Iwacu decided not to publish them.

Paradoxically, government communication officers who are usually very talkative lapsed into complete silence.

At 2:30 p.m., Ambassador Willy Nyamitwe, Senior communication advisor to the president, finally responded evasively to the rumors: “Pay attention to what the street says on Burundi since the manipulation of information has become modus operandi .
We are a country of brave men and women ready to overcome all the obstacles inspired by the Great Builder Pierre Nkurunziza. ”

An hour later, Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, spokesman for the President, followed him. In a tweet, he wrote in praise of his father who died the same day in 1996. Some said it was “just a distraction”.

In the morning, in the midst of rumors, he had promised the BBC to speak about the health of the Head of state. He said he was going to Karusi where it was said “Nkurunziza was hospitalized.”

In their tweets, the presidential communication officers fueled rumors.
An hour later, the official tweet of the Government of Burundi confirmed the death of the president of Burundi.

Taken aback after the reading of the statement, some said it was “a fake tweet to continue fueling the rumors.”

Over the hours, the news became true: the Burundian president had indeed died. There was panic in the economic capital Bujumbura. Many people left their things to hurry back home.

A very sober press release

The government spokesperson returned to the circumstances preceding his death. Everything goes back in the afternoon of Saturday June 6, 2020 in Ngozi. President Nkurunziza had gone to watch a volleyball match in the framework of the finals for the president’s Cup.

It was during the night of June 6 to 7 that President Pierre Nkurunziza felt discomfort. He was taken to Karusi Hospital for emergency care.

It seemed his health condition would have improved. On Sunday, the Head of state would have spoken with people at his side.

The situation would have gone “worse afterwards.”
“In the morning of Monday June 8, 2020, his state of health suddenly deteriorated, with cardiac arrest,” indicates a source on condition of anonymity.

The government assured that doctors have tried to do their best but to no avail,” The resuscitation was undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of doctors for several hours with a cardio-respiratory assistance. Despite continuous intensive care, the medical team was unable to recover the patient.”

As he was a Supreme Guide to patriotism, the government declared a national mourning of seven days from Tuesday 9 June 2020.

From the next day, several dignitaries and representatives of the diplomatic corps went to “Ntare Rushatsi” palace to sign in the visitors’ book. A formula returns. RIP. Requiescat in pace. Rest in peace.


Anatole Kanyenkiko, his former Minister of Public Works: “A man of the people passes on”

“I am very sad. I am in disarray. Frankly, President Nkurunziza is my younger brother. We come from the same commune, same hill,” said Anatole Kanyenkiko, former Minister of Public Works (2007-2010), after sgning this Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in the visitors’ book at Ntare Rushatsi presidential palace.

For him, it is a president who came to power through the Arusha agreement and elections.” We achieved many things thanks to him. We must also recognize that as a man, there are surely things that he could not achieve,” he regrets. In a shocked tone, he said: “I appreciate his approach. He was a man of the people. He was easy to contact.”

This former minister recognizes that the late President Pierre Nkurunziza gave a place to the founders of Burundi. He gives the example of the Ntare Rushatsi Presidential Palace. He also granted important positions to the country’s heroes namely Prince Louis Rwagasore and the hero of democracy Melchior Ndadaye.

However Mr. Kanyenkiko recognizes that there are projects that President Nkurunziza could not carry out. “But it is completely normal. And the task falls, this time, to his successor.” He implores the Almighty to grant him Grace on what he could not achieve or what he poorly achieved. “We ask his relatives, the Burundians to remain calm and to accompany him with dignity.”

Tatien Sibomana: “Sadness and disappointment”

“I offer condolences to his biological family and to the Burundians. Because after all, he ruled Burundi for fifteen years,” says Tatien Sibomana, a politician.
As to the late president’s achievements, he does not hide his disappointment: “I remember him initially as a rebel, as a president who did a lot behind the scenes. Because everything that was done, he did not assume, it was said that it was done by others.”

According to him, he had promised many things, but ultimately realized very little. He gives the example of the fight against corruption: “Whenever he was sworn in, he did not fail to emphasize that he was going to reserve “zero tolerance for corruption.” But he leaves all sectors of the Burundian life plagued by corruption up to the top of the institutions.”

He also cites other failures: the underdevelopment of the country, the fact that Burundi has lost its image on the international and regional scene, the deterioration of relations with other countries, etc. “I’ll keep in him the image of someone who was on the sidelines especially in the management of security services precisely the police and the National Intelligence (SNR).”

In that sector, Mr Sibomana says that there has been a lot of abuse, people were murdered, and others reported missing, etc.
During his regime, the country recorded a large number of political prisoners, refugees and the Arusha Agreement was dismantled.
He sums up: “I see in him the image of a Head of state with a very negative assessment.”

Reverend Nicodème Ahishakiye: “A great loss”

“Positive values have guided our beloved President who has just left us. A patriotic president who loved Burundi and the Burundian people,” responds Reverend Nicodème Ahishakiye, president of the National Council of the Burundian Churches.

In shock, he affirms that the achievements of the deceased will guide Burundi towards development. For him, his departure is a great loss for the country. He argues that he united Burundians and fought for peace. He implores the Almighty to bless and protect Burundi and its people.

CECAB: “Let’s combine our efforts to honor his memory”

In a letter released this Wednesday, June 10, the Catholic Bishops of Burundi sent a message of condolence after the unexpected death of President Pierre Nkurunziza. “We extend our sincere condolences to all Burundians and friends of Burundi, but especially his family and the government he led. We know there is no one else who can comfort them properly, except God. ”

The Catholic Bishops of Burundi thank President Pierre Nkurunziza “for the many good things he has accomplished for Burundi throughout his work as President of the Republic”.
They urge all Burundians to combine their efforts in order to continue to honor his memory by safeguarding the legacy he leaves behind giving priority to God in everything and consolidating unity and peace.
“May God keep us in peace at this time of grief caused by his death, today and in the days to come.”

Léonce Ngendakumana: “I keep of him the image of a personality very resistant to pressure”

The Vice-president of Sahwanya-FRODEBU party and veteran Burundian politician Léonce Ngendakumana speaks of a huge loss for Burundi and the entire nation.
“I keep of him the image of a personality that is very resistant to pressure, firm in his decision-making, proud of himself and who loved prayer and sport,” said Mr. Ngendakumana.
To the people of Burundi, the former presidential candidate of Sahwanya-FRODEBU party demands them “to take note of this tragic death, to remain united, serene and avoid any form of speculation during this moment of meditation.”

Domitien Ndayizeye: “He hardly adapted to the management of political affairs”

For the former President of the Republic, Domitien Ndayizeye, the death of President Nkurunziza is a surprise. “We had the image of a young and sporty president. We were not expecting this sad news!”

During his time as president, says Mr Ndayizeye, “Pierre Nkurunziza has kept the country above water despite a fairly troubled international context.”

However, the former president says that the years Pierre Nkurunziza spent in the forest as a rebel had a lasting impact on his exercise of power. “He hardly adapted to the management of political affairs”. Domitien Ndayizeye hopes that the elected successor will be able to make up for the failings of the deceased president.

Adolphe Rukenkanya: “A man of unparalleled friendliness”

The former professor and thesis director of the late president says he will always remember the late president as a man with outstanding leadership, a quality that was quickly noticed upon joining the University. “He was quickly made the representative of his class.”
Mr. Rukenkanya says he also remembers his strong character: “When he did not understand something, he did not hesitate to ask for further clarification.”

One day, he says, in full demonstration on how to throw the javelin, I used a spear. “All furious, he came to me and asked me why I did not launch an object other than this spear. The scene left me in awe, because I was not accountable to him as a teacher.

More importantly, remembers former sports minister, when he had an idea in mind, he expressed it thoroughly. He alludes to his determination to see his dream come true. “The sports complex he built at his home in Buye “.

Invited as an educator during the celebration of his 50th birthday, Mr. Rukenkanya remembers the friendliness and simplicity of the late president.

“Unlike the other leaders of this customary world of celebrations with great fanfare, and whose guests are carefully selected, I was surprised to find a number of guests made up solely of his primary and secondary school teachers, and his neighbors. I was the only member of the government.”

The record of President Pierre Nkurunziza

Born in Buye (Ngozi) in December 1964, Pierre Nkurunziza held a BA degree in physical education and sports he obtained in 1991 at the University of Burundi.
After a brief career in secondary education, he was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Burundi (1992-1994). In 1995, he joined the rebel movement after escaping an assassination attempt.

In the rebel movement, he quickly moved up the leadership ladder. In 1998, Pierre Nkurunziza was appointed Secretary General and President of the CNDD-FDD movement in 2001. Following the cease-fire in November 2003 with the transitional government, the CNDD-FDD was approved as a political party in 2004, still chaired by Pierre Nkurunziza. Upon his return to Bujumbura, he became the “super minister” of state in charge of good governance.

During the 2005 elections, Pierre Nkurunziza was elected President of the Republic by indirect universal suffrage and succeeded Domitien Ndayizeye on August 26.
In 2010, after an election boycotted by the opposition, he was reappointed to this post of president.

In 2015, despite the Arusha Agreement limiting the number of presidential terms to two, he ran again for president. A candidacy which causes a serious social and political crisis whose consequences are still felt.

He was the president of the highly respected committee of Wise People, a restricted body which inspires the management of the CNDD-FDD.

In March 2018, President Nkurunziza was even elevated to the rank of “permanent visionary “. The same year, he promulgated a new Constitution which is still not fully in force and which grants an unprecedented place to the “Almighty” in Burundian institutions.
He passes away when in February 2020; the Parliament had just proclaimed him the Supreme Guide to Patriotism. As a reminder, August 20 would mark the end of his 3rd term. President Nkurunziza was 55 years old.

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana