Burundi’s dictatorial president Pierre Nkurunziza dies of heart attack

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Burundi’s government on Tuesday announced the death of their President Pierre Nkurunziza. He died at 55.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the government of the central African nation said President Nkurunziza had been well enough Saturday to assist during a volleyball match in his home district of Ngozi but was admitted to a hospital in a neighboring district on Sunday. They said his condition improved Sunday night but took a sudden turn Monday when he suffered a heart attack and died.

Nkurunziza had recently agreed to step down after a 15-year rule characterized by brutal crackdowns and economic stagnation. His chosen successor won an election last month that was marred by irregularities.

Pierre Nkurunziza seen campaigning for his party’s candidate in last month’s presidential election

According to the country’s constitution, the president of the legislature should take control of the government until the inauguration of Évariste Ndayishimiye, scheduled for Aug. 20, who won the election.

Burundi, a country of 11 million people wedged between Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s deepest lake, suffered through a 12-year civil war that mirrored some of the dynamics of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, with which it shares a similar language and ethnic makeup.

A former rebel leader, Nkurunziza took power after the war, which resulted in around 300,000 deaths, but subsequent crackdowns by his government on dissident groups caused hundreds of thousands of others to flee the country.

Nkurunziza extended his mandate on power in 2015 in a move seen as unconstitutional by his opponents, and more than 1,200 were killed by state security forces and a quasi-official militia known as the Imbonerakure during an ensuing uprising, according to the United Nations. Almost all of the 400,000 who were displaced by the violence remain in camps, mostly in Tanzania.

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