Pierre Nkurunziza, the outgoing President of Burundi, has died of a heart attack aged 55, according to a government statement issued on social media on Tuesday.
Burundi’s government said Nkurunziza was taken to Karusi hospital on 6 June when he first took ill. His condition subsequently improved and he was able to meet with people close to him.
However, his condition changed “rapidly” on Monday coupled with the heart attack, the government added. Doctors attempted to revive him to no avail.
Due to step down
“The government of the Republic of Burundi presents its heartfelt condolences to the people of Burundi in general and his family in particular,” the statement said.
The government further urged its citizens to remain calm and announced a seven-day mourning period starting on Tuesday.
Nkurunziza was President of Burundi for 15 years and was due to step down in August following national elections held in May.
General Evariste Ndayishimiye, from Nkurunziza’s ruling party CNDD-FDD, won 68 percent of the vote. Although the result was disputed in court, Burundi’s Constitutional Court upheld it last week.
Nkurunziza and South Africa
Nkurunziza last visited South Africa in November 2014 on a state visit hosted by former President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma and the late President Nelson Mandela acted as facilitators of the peace process that led to Burundi’s first democratic elections in 2005. Nkurunziza was first elected President in those elections.
South Africa also deployed the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) on a peacekeeping mission in Burundi until 2009.