18th December of 1964 wasn’t an ordinary day for politician Eustache Ngabishu and his Hutu nurse wife. A blessing in the form of a son graced them in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura. This son Pierre Nkurunzinza would later become Burundi’s ruler for fifteen years. Pierre Nkurunzinza lost his life due to cardiac arrest, according to an official statement released by Burundi. This comes a few days after his wife Denise Nkurunzinza was airlifted to Kenya for treatment at Aga Khan hospital.
Pierre’s life was tangled with ethnic violence and brutal conflict. His father was killed in 1972 in ethnic violence and he lived through the 29th October 1993- 15th May 2003 Burundian civil war that saw to it the violation of human rights as an approximated 300,000 people lost their lives and many children used by civil war perpetrators.
Having survived the 1995 attack aimed at students, Pierre decided to join the Defense of Democracy Group (FDD). While in FDD, Pierre was sentenced to death in absentia over the planting of landmines that led to the death of many people. This is because he violated the stipulations of The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or often simply the Mine Ban Treaty, aims at eliminating anti-personnel landmines around the world. A convention that took effect in 1999 but was drafted in September 1997.
The signing of the Arusha Agreement in 2000 saw an end to the brutal conflict that massacred thousands of people. Subsequently, Pierre Nkurunzinza became minister of good governance and later in 2005 the president of Burundi after the election by legislators.
While held in the turmoil of anarchy and instability, Pierre strived to achieve peace in his country hence garnering a successful and peaceful ten-year term until 2015. He achieved this by revolutionizing infrastructure, achieving disarmament as well as contributing to AMISON in 2007.
This peaceful ten-year regime, however, is overshadowed by the 2010 election that saw ten of Pierre’s forfeiting over alleged fraud. Pierre’s bid to seek a third term in office threw Burundi in a frenzy as it violated the Arusha Agreement of 2000. This led to an uprising that tainted the face of Burundi.
– More than 400,000 people sought refuge in other countries.
– The economy of Burundi grappled as donors cut off links with her while others-imposed sanctions.
– Freedom of the press was revoked as independent media entities were deterred from reporting.
– In 2017, Pierre withdrew Burundi from the International Criminal Court (I. C. C) hence being the first country to do so.
Despite all this sodden thing that surrounded Pierre’s life, he had a beautiful side. He loved football and had ever coached a team. He even owned a football club called the Hallelujah Football club. He’s reported to be a God-fearing man who preached and did well.
It is sad to lose a loved one and I condole with the Burundian family. Pierre’s death however has been met by a myriad of reactions. Some people and the international community express their sorrow for the loss of an able leader, while others outrightly grieve the lives of Burundians that died in the course of his regime. Click here to read the social media reactions.
While Africans stand with Burundi in seven-day mourning, I hope Denise, Pierre Nkurunzinza’s widow gets better. I also hope that the sun will shine on Burundi and it will live up to its slogan and become a nation of happy people.