Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has died after suffering what the government said was a heart attack.
The central African nation says Nkurunziza died at the Karusi Hospital in eastern Burundi late on Monday, two days after he reported feeling unwell and was taken to the facility.
VOA’s Central Africa service reported there was a heavy military presence around the hospital Tuesday.
Nkurunziza’s wife Denise was airlifted to a hospital in Kenya’s capital 10 days ago after contracting COVID-19, triggering rumors that the president had caught the disease as well.
Nkurunziza, 55, was sworn in as president in 2005, at the end of Burundi’s civil war. His decision to run for a controversial third term in 2015 set off protests and violence that left hundreds dead and prompted hundreds of thousands of Burundians to flee the country.
In a statement Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Nkurunziza ruled Burundi through fear and crushed dissent.
He was due to step down on August 20 after his chosen successor, General Evariste Ndayishimiye, won the presidential election on May 20.
According to Burundi’s constitution, if the president of the country dies, he is replaced by the president of the National Assembly. There was no immediate word Tuesday on when the National Assembly leader, Pascal Nyabenda, might take office.
Source: Voice of America