Pierre Nkurunziza had been the president of Burundi since 2005. In his earlier years, he was a school teacher and an assistant coach for Muzinga FC. Which is one of Burundi's top-level soccer teams.

Nkurunziza rose to power in the central African nation following the Burundian Civil War. Over the years, he would gain a loyal following of supporters and a slew of fierce opponents. His time in office was set to end soon, but it has ended sooner than had been planned.

Died on Monday

Nkurunziza died in a hospital in the city of Karuzi on Monday. He had been admitted over the weekend. His condition had reportedly been improving before taking a drastic turn for the worse.

CNN indicates that cardiac arrest was the cause of death.

Burundian officials announced a week-long period of mourning. The country's flags are also to be flown at half-mast in Nkurunziza's memory.

For several years, Nkurunziza enjoyed a very popular standing in his country. He was seen as a uniting figure. One who presided over a robust economy and a time of peace following a bloody civil war. But then things started to change. A number of his new policies were very unpopular. One of them was a ban on outdoor jogging. This was supposedly done out of fear that group exercising could be a cover for political meetings.

But probably the biggest turning point came at what was supposed to be the end of his political career.

Burundi's Constitution set term limits on the Presidency. However, a change was made to the Constitution to allow Nkurunziza to run for another term. Protests broke out leading up to the election. In some cases, things took a violent turn and many would pay with their lives. An attempted military coup arose while Nkurunziza was in the neighboring country of Tanzania that ultimately failed.

The president would secure a third term in office, but the controversies did not end. In 2019, a UN Human Rights office located in Burundi closed after considerable pressure from the government.

His chosen successor is to take over in late August

Nkurunziza was not a candidate for re-election in the presidential election that was held last month.

The BBC reports that he was to receive $540,000 and a luxury villa in his retirement.

Evariste Ndayishimiye was Nkurunziza's favored candidate to replace him. Ndayishimiye had previously been his minister of the interior and public safety. Other posts he's held include president of Burundi's National Olympic Committee. The election results show a landslide victory for Ndayishimiye over his opponent, Agathon Rwasa. Although some have questioned the legitimacy of those results.

Until the new president's term begins, Pascal Nyabenda is to serve as the acting president. Nyabenda is the president of the National Assembly of Burundi. A position comparable to speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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