Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 55, according to official announcement.
Nkurunziza’s death was announced Tuesday by the government. In a Twitter statement the government announced “with great sorrow to Burundians and the international community” his demise.
Earlier this year, the eastern African country’s parliament voted on a draft law to make Nkurunziza the country’s “supreme leader” when he abdicated the presidency, which was supposed to be in August with a lifetime salary.
He would also be earning $530,000 with a luxurious villa when he left office per the law.
Nkurunziza surprised the world in 2018 when he announced that he would not be vying for the presidency after he was named “Eternal Supreme Guide” by his political party.
Nkurunziza’s decision not to seek political office this year was a shock to the world considering that the country passed a new constitution that would see him be president until 2034.
In a speech on Burundi’s state television, the president said: “This constitution was not modified for Pierre Nkurunziza as the country’s enemies have been saying. It was amended for the good and better future of Burundi and the Burundian people.”
The pronouncement was met with a cynical welcome by the opposition leaders.
“I think he just want(s) to calm internal public opinion and the international community,” Léonce Ngendakumana, the deputy chairman of the opposition FRODEBU group told Reuters.
Burundi fell into chaos when Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in 2015. The violence not only resulted in the death of more than 400 people but also the displacement of at least 400,000 people, most of whom sought refuge in neighboring Tanzania.
The new legislation, which was passed by 98 lawmakers and opposed by two, would benefit former presidents but only those who were democratically elected.
“A president who came to power via the simple consensus of a group of politicians does not have the same regard as one who was democratically elected,” Justice Minister Aimee-Laurentine Kanyana told the national assembly, news agency AFP reports.
Nkurunziza per the new measure will also get the same benefits as a serving vice-president for seven years after he steps down, according to report.
Earlier this year, Nkurunziza announced the setting aside of six days to commit the country into the hands of God, saying that would help in finding solutions to the country’s myriad of challenges.
Born on December 18, 1963, Nkurunzia, who was once a Burundian educator and former leader of a Hutu rebel group, became president of Burundi in 2005.
His ascension to power has led to some challenges in various sectors of the economy, social lives, education, among others.