Bujumbura, Jun 9 (efe-epa).- Burundi’s outgoing president Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a heart attack at the age of 55, the government said Tuesday.
According to an official statement, Nkurunziza, who has ruled since 2005 and was set to be replaced this year, died from cardiac arrest in a central Burundi hospital on Monday.
“It is with great sadness that the government of Burundi informs Burundians and the international community of the unexpected death of His Excellence Pierre Nkurunziza,” a government statement said.
He had been due to hand over the reins of power to his political heir Evariste Ndayishimiye following elections in May this year, in which he did not run.
He was, however, appointed “eternal supreme guide” and guaranteed a lifelong salary after he stepped down.
The government statement on Tuesday said the president had attended a volleyball match in the city of Ngozi on 6 June and had taken ill later that night.
He was taken to hospital on 7 June where he showed signs of improvement and was talking with medical staff.
At midday on 8 June, Nkurunziza’s health rapidly deteriorated and he went into cardiac arrest, according to the statement. Doctors tried to resuscitate for several hours but were unsuccessful.
The Burundi government has declared a seven-day period of national mourning.
Nkurunziza’s presidency was marked by controversy.
In 2015, he announced he would seek re-election for a third time in what critics described as a breach of the Constitution, which only allowed a president to serve for a maximum of two terms.
His allies in the governing CNDD–FDD party argued that his first election to office in 2005 had been undertaken by Parliament rather than by popular vote.
The decision to push for a third term sparked deadly protests in the landlocked East African nation.
The unrest culminated in an attempted coup by Burundi army Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, who announced his rebellion when Nkurunziza was attending an event in Tanzania.
The political turmoil lasted years and forced almost 400,000 Burundians to flee, according to the United Nations as of 2017.
He was eventually elected in a controversial vote, which the opposition boycotted. EFE-EPA