The Burundi government has announced a one week of mourning starting Tuesday, following the death of the country’s out-going president, Pierre Nkurunziza.
His death came as a shock and surprise to many after being seen in public on Saturday, seemingly healthy, watching a game of volleyball in the countryside.
“He started feeling unwell on Saturday evening and was rushed to a hospital in Karusi province,” said government spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye in a statement late Tuesday.
According to the government, Nkurunziza was recovering well on Sunday.
But “his health deteriorated on Monday morning and he got a cardiac arrest as the doctors did everything possible to save his life,” said Mr Ntahorwamiye.
He said that during the nationwide mourning, all flags will fly at half-mast.
President Nkurunziza’s death comes as his wife, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, is still undergoing treatment in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. She was flown there two weeks ago and no official statement has been given over what she is ailing from.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel took over the office in 2005, ruled the country for 15 years, making him the first Burundi president to rule this long.
“The death had robbed East Africa of a prominent leader whose contribution to the integration and progress of the region shall be sorely missed,” reads the message of condolences from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Nkurunziza was expected to finish his third term this August when president-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye is expected to be sworn in.
“I will remember him for his leadership efforts for peace development and democracy,” tweeted Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli.
“We are really surprised by the news of his death,” said Ndagijimana Charles, a citizen in Bujumbura.
According to Burundi’s 2018 constitution, Article 121 indicates that “In case of vacancy caused by resigning, death or any other cause, the Speaker of the National Assembly (parliament) takes over the interim until a new president takes over.”
The Burundian government said that further communication will be made in regard to Nkurunziza’s funeral.