|“||The government gives one month to those who illegally possess arms to hand them over. Beyond this period, whoever is caught with arms will be punished.||„|
|~ Pierre Nkurunziza|
Pierre Nkurunziza (December 18, 1964 - June 8, 2020) was the President of Burundi from 2005 until 2020. A member of the Hutu ethnic group, Nkurunziza taught physical education before becoming involved in politics during the Burundian Civil War as part of the CNDD-FDD. After his election as president, he sparked significant unrest in 2015 after announcing his intention to serve a third term. Before his death, he was the longest-serving president of the country.
Pierre Nkurunziza was born on 18 December 1964 in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, shortly after the country's independence from Belgian rule in 1962. His father, Eustache Ngabisha, was involved in nationalist politics and was elected to the National Assembly in 1965. However, he was soon killed in 1972 during the genocide known as the Ikiza.
Nkurunziza attended school in Ngozi and studied at the prestigious athénée in Gitega after his father's death. He later attended the University of Burundi and studied physical education, which he got a degree in when he graduated in 1990. He initially taught PE and later became a lecturer at the university. He also taught at the Higher Institute for Military Cadres where he made important personal contacts with future leading rebels.
After President Melchior Ndadaye was murdered in 1993, sparking the Burundian Civil War, Nkurunziza continued to teach at the university until 1995 when hundreds of Hutu students were killed by Tutsi insurgents. He joined the resistance group known as the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and was sentenced to death in absentia for planting land mines. By 1998, he had been appointed General Secretary of the group and was in charge of the military and political wings. He was appointed as president of the group in 2000. During the Civil War, in which all his siblings were killed, he gained the nickname "Pita".
Nkurunziza became the president of the CNDD–FDD on 28 August 2000 and presided over the movement as it moved towards a political compromise with the government. A series of agreements in 2003 paved the way for the CNDD–FDD to enter national politics, and allowed Nkurunziza to be reunited with his wife Denise and surviving family members.
Nkurunziza was elected President of Burundi in 2005, and adopted several popular policies. These included successfully demobilising the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People and allowing it to become a legitimate political party.
However, his reputation was tarnished by his growing insecurity and corruption. In 2008, a high-ranking member of his party was imprisoned for insulting him. Despite his unpopularity, he won a second term in 2010. Nkurunziza became even more insecure after this, banning outdoor jogging in 2014 because he thought it might be used as a cover for political meetings. Things reached their peak when he announced his intention to run for a third term, which violated laws on term limits. The Constitutional Court ruled on 5 May that the projected third term was legal, resulting in widespread protests and dozens being killed by security forces.
On May 13 2015, an armed revolution was launched by Godefroid Niyombare. Extensive fighting broke out and the revolution was crushed. Nkurunziza wreaked revenge on the people of Burundi, leaving 400 people dead. Opposition leaders and critics of the regime were killed, and reports surfaced of security forces using rape and torture against detainees, likely under orders from Nkurunziza's government.
Nkurunziza's third term saw the country's increasing isolation in light of international condemnation of the repression which accompanied the 2015 unrest. The African Union feared that a genocide would soon break out and tried to send peacekeepers, but Nkurunziza blocked their request. He then waged another war against the people, killing around 1,700 civilians. Nkurunziza withdrew Burundi from the International Criminal Court in 2017 and advocated constitutional reforms which would allow longer presidential terms. However, he announced that he would not seek a fourth term and later resigned.
Nkurunziza died on 8 June 2020, aged 55, at the Fiftieth Anniversary Hospital in Karuzi. While the government claimed he died of heart failure, it's possible he contracted COVID-19 from his wife, who is known to have been sick with it shortly before his death.