An African President, who recently gained online popularity for his stance on COVID testing in his country has died.
President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi died of heart failure just weeks after a crucial election to choose a successor to replace him.
President Nkurunziza went viral after memes starting popping up on social media claiming he had fruit and a goat tested for the virus which both came back positive. Sparking curiosity regarding whether or not the virus was real or a “conspiracy.”
Authorities in Burundi have been accused of deliberately playing down the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 197,000 people on the African continent and has killed more than 5,000.
The country of Burundi reportedly refused to follow most other African nations in imposing a lockdown and publicly expelled the World Health Organization’s expert team designated to work on the coronavirus.
A former rebel leader, Mr. Nkurunziza ruled the country with impunity for 15 years, arresting opponents, stifling media outlets, and cracking down on dissent. During his rule, The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into whether his government committed crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, rape, and disappearances.
Reports state that Nkurunziza died after he fell ill and was hospitalized after attending a volleyball game.
Following his death, speculations began to arise about the cause of his death. The speculation grew as unconfirmed reports began coming out that his wife was flown to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, 10 days ago after contracting Covid-19.
While his death is surprising, very many citizens of the country have deep memories of the violence and oppression Nkurunziza implemented during his time as President.
“As I learn of the passing of Pierre Nkurunziza, I think of the thousands of lives that his regime cut short. The families that won’t see justice,” tweeted Thierry Uwamahoro, a democracy activist and prominent government critic who currently lives in exile.
Reports state that Journalists and human rights workers in Burundi are routinely targeted. The deceased president was cited with having four journalists sentenced to two and a half years in prison after they traveled to investigate reports of unrest in the north-west region of the country.
It is unclear what the legacy of the deceased president will be. But one thing is for sure; the country is hopeful it’s next leader will turn things around and get them on the path to prosperity.