On the afternoon of Saturday, June 6, 2020, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, 55, was chauffeured to a volleyball match in Ngozi, his hometown.
The area, which is located in north-central Burundi, boasts a government hospital as well as places of worship.
A road to the south links Ngozi with Gitega town, Burundi’s new capital city.
A former lecturer and sportsman, Nkurunziza would spend some of his weekends playing football or watching local sports games.
On returning home after the volleyball match on Saturday, Nkurunziza started complaining that he was not feeling well.
“It was during the night of June 6 going to Sunday, 7 June that the president got uneasy and quickly went to the Karuzi hospital for treatment,” the Burundian presidency said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
Nkurunziza was expected to hand over power on August 20 to his successor Gen Ndayishimiye.
Nkurunziza participated in several campaign rallies across the country to mobilize support for Ndayishimiye.
At the time, the international community was alarmed by Burundi’s decision to allow social gatherings and political assemblies in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nkurunziza’s widow, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza was recently airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment after reportedly showing symptoms of COVID-19.
But presidential advisor Willy Nyamitwe was quick to dismiss speculation that Nkurunziza could have succumbed to COVID-19.
“Pay close attention to what the street says about Burundi because the manipulation of information has become some people’s modus operandi. We are a country of brave men and women, ready to brave all obstacles, inspired by the great leader, Nkurunziza,” said Nyamitwe.
Nevertheless, on Saturday night, Nkurunziza was rushed to Karuzi hospital for treatment.
The presidency said he was “admitted to hospital for feeling ill.”
A source in Bujumbura said word made rounds on Saturday night that Nkurunziza had been admitted in critical condition.
“We prayed for him that night. The situation was not good at all,” a very close associate of the departed president told ChimpReports on Tuesday night.
“Actually we were surprised that his condition would deteriorate very fast in a short period of time.”
Surprisingly, on Sunday morning Nkurunziza responded well to treatment.
“His health improved and he spoke with the people who were next to him,” the presidency said in a statement.
On the same day, Nkurunziza responded to a few messages from his friends who were deeply concerned about his situation.
The presidency said “to the great surprise, in the morning of Monday June 8, 2020, Nkurunziza’s state of health suddenly changed with a cardiac arrest.”
Immediate resuscitation, according to government, was undertaken by a “multidisciplinary team of doctors for several hours with cardio-respiratory assistance. Despite intense, continuous and adapted treatment, the medical team was unable to recover the patient.”
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, served as President for 15 years.
His last five years have been turbulent.
He survived a coup in 2015 as he was attending a regional leaders’ summit in Tanzania.
Since then, Nkurunziza opted to reduce his foreign trips considering that the failed coup was executed by senior military officers whom he had promoted and entrusted with sensitive positions.
His last term of presidency also faced increased insecurity as rebels continued to attack Burundi.
Meanwhile, condolences are pouring in from different parts of the world.
Former Somali President, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed mourned the deceased.
“My deepest sympathies and condolences to the @BurundiGov & the People of the Republic of Burundi, following the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza. In this moment of sorrow, my thoughts go out to his family, his relatives,” Ahmed Tweeted.
Nkurunziza was among the few African leaders who deployed troops in Somalia to fight Al Shabaab.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the outgoing Burundi leader as an “outstanding regional counterpart who served his country with distinction as Head of State and Government, and worked tirelessly for the peace and stability of his country and the Great Lakes Region.”
Kenyatta further said “death had robbed East Africa of a prominent leader whose contribution to the integration and progress of the region shall be sorely missed, and prayed for God’s calming comfort as the family, people of Burundi and East Africans mourn their departed leader.”
East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko mourned: “My sincere condolences to the family of HE President Pierre Nkurunziza, to the Government and people of Burundi. Its star will always inspire the thoughts and actions of those who demand respect and sovereignty for Burundi.”
Tanzanian leader John Pombe Magufuli said he was “shocked by reports of the death of the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza. I will remember him for his strong leadership and his efforts to fight for peace, development and democracy.”