Panafrican News Agency

Rwandan papers highlight passing of Burundian President Nkurunziza

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) -  The untimely death of Burundi's leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, earlier Monday hit front pages of Rwandan newspapers this week, with major dailies focusing on messages of condolence by various leaders across the region.

The private English daily 'Taarifa' reported that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was among leaders who had conveyed their condolences to the people of Burundi and the family of the late Nkurunziza.

Pierre Nkurunziza died at the age of 55, three weeks after the election of his successor, General Evariste Ndayishimiye, from the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD).

Meanwhile, Taarifa quoted a tweet quoting an authoritative source in Bujumbura as saying that before he died, the outgoing president was a very sick man after he tested positive to the coronavirus.

Prior to this revelation, Nkurunziza was on record for saying that there was no COVID-19 in his country, and had disregarded outright all measures announced by World Health Organisation (WHO) aimed at stopping the spread of the pandemic.

According to the newspaper, the outgoing first lady, Denise Nkurunziza, was also reportedly recovering at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

“She sent a recorded audio message saying she was responding very well to treatment," the newspaper said.

Prior to the death of President Nkurunziza, Taarifa said that the top leadership and elite people of Burundi also did not show any regard for measures against COVID-19 during the campaigns.

Health experts argue that Burundi may be headed for another massive disaster due to community contagion that may have occurred during campaigns, the newspaper said.

In another article, the English daily 'The New Times' reported that President Nkurunziza passed away on June 8, saying a statement from the government of Burundi revealed that he succumbed to cardiac arrest.

Under the title "What next after the death of Burundi’s Nkurunziza?", the newspaper reported that Nkurunziza had attended a volleyball match on Saturday but started feeling unwell soon after and was rushed to hospital when his condition deteriorated, according to the statement.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political analyst based in Rwanda, told the newspaper that Nkurunziza’s departure was most likely to be a continuity of his party’s leadership.

“CNDD-FDD won the elections. So there is a degree of continuity there,” the political analyst told The New Times.

What may change, he adds, will depend on the inclinations of the new president.

Whether Burundi can heal from the turbulent leadership under Nkurunziza, Golooba says, will depend on whether the new president shares the aspirations and ideological orientation of Nkurunziza.

"This is a kind of victory to all the victims of Nkurunziza’s leadership who have been saying ‘you are not a good president, we have economic problems, corruption problems, health problems’ that came as a result of his leadership,” Golooba-Mutebi was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The political analyst was referring to unconfirmed reports that Nkurunziza could have succumbed to Covid-19, which different Burundian officials have denied.

The newspaper underlined that if Nkurunziza died of Coronavirus, experts say, it was because he didn’t put in place minimum health measures and guidelines, as well as awareness and educational programmes for the population to combat the global pandemic.

The private-owned daily, ‘The Chronicles', reported that since 2015, Burundi had repeatedly accused Rwanda of involvement in the 2015 coup. Rwanda has ignored Burundi’s accusations.

President Kagame and President Nkurunziza last met on 13 April, 2015, in Huye district (South) in Rwanda.

The holding of the bilateral summit in Huye bordering Burundi, instead of Kigali, was the first clear indication of deteriorating relations, the newspaper said.

However, things changed so fast earlier this month after Rwanda, through the foreign affairs ministry, joined countries lining up to send congratulatory messages to Burundi’s president-elect Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye.

According to the newspaper, the message from Rwanda was shared publicly on Twitter by the Burundi ruling CNDD-FDD party of the president.

For the other regional leaders, according to 'The Chronicles', Rwandan President Kagame himself had first sent them messages via Twitter by tagging them.

This is usually followed up by the message from Rwanda’s foreign ministry to that country but also containing a quote of President Kagame, the newspaper said.

In another article, the semi-private owned 'KT Press' reported that Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled late Friday this week that the country’s newly elected leader Maj Gen. Ndayishimiye was rapidly sworn in to end the power vacuum in the country.

Ndayishimiye emerged victorious in the 20 May presidential poll and was expected to take over from Nkurunziza in August when his term was supposed to end, the newspaper said.


-0-     PANA    TWA/RA 13Jun2020