An unidentified dignitary pays her respects after signing the book of condolences in front of a photograph of the late President Pierre Nkurunziza, at the presidential palace in Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Burundi's government said Tuesday, June 9, 2020 that President Pierre Nkurunziza had died of a heart attack. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza)
An unidentified dignitary pays her respects after signing the book of condolences in front of a photograph of the late President Pierre Nkurunziza, at the presidential palace in Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Burundi's government said Tuesday, June 9, 2020 that President Pierre Nkurunziza had died of a heart attack. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza)

Burundi begins official mourning period for President Pierre Nkurunziza

By Reuters Time of article published Jun 10, 2020

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Nairobi - Burundi began an official

period of mourning for President Pierre Nkurunziza on Wednesday,

a day after the announcement of his death from a heart attack

aged 55 shocked the impoverished East African nation he had

ruled with an iron grip.

Wearing face masks and gloves to prevent the spread of the

new coronavirus, senior government officials, foreign

ambassadors and religious leaders lined up to sign a condolence

book opened in his memory at the presidential palace.

Nkurunziza's wife, Denise Bucumi, appeared to be absent. Air

ambulance service AMREF told Reuters they had flown her to

Nairobi on May 21 for medical treatment, but declined to confirm

widespread reports in Kenyan media that this was for treatment

for Covid-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Calls seeking comment on Bucumi's health to Willy Nyamitwe,

Nkurunziza's close ally and adviser, went unanswered.

There was little public show of mourning on the streets.

"He leaves behind a country whose economy is in a very bad

shape," said a hospital employee who asked not to be identified

for fear of reprisals.

Burundi's economy is mired in poverty and cut off by

international donors after the United Nations documented the

widespread rape, torture and murder of political opponents by

ruling party activists and state security forces.

It remains unclear whether the powerful cabal of army

generals and security chiefs who propped up Nkurunziza during

his 15-year rule remain united over the succession.

Nkurunziza had been due to stand down in August, making way

for retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye, who won an election

last month that the opposition said was marred by violence and

rigging. The constitutional court last week rejected the rigging

charges.

Pascal Nyabenda, a civilian who heads the national assembly,

is now meant to take over until Ndayishimiye, his former rival,

starts his seven-year term at the end of August.

Authorities have not commented on the succession or

Nkurunziza's burial date.

Burundi expelled the representative of the World Health

Organization (WHO) last month amid criticism of the government's

handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It has carried out very

few tests and held large rallies during the election period. 

Reuters

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