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Burundi’s constitutional court to decide interim leader after the president’s death

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Burundi’s constitutional court will decide who takes over as interim leader following the sudden death this week of President Pierre Nkurunziza, the government said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the constitution the speaker of the House is supposed to take over, but there has been uncertainty as to who is in charge. The government announced on Tuesday that Nkurunziza, 55, had died of a heart attack although it was not clear which day he died.

Nkurunziza had been due to hand over power in August to President-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye, who successfully stood for the ruling party in elections last month.

The cabinet decided at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the constitutional court should guide the country and “show modalities of filling the post,” the government statement said. 

Burundi watchers have been keen to see whether the country’s powerful cabal of army generals and security chiefs who propped up Nkurunziza during his 15-year rule remain united over the succession.

Nkurunziza was a former rebel leader whose rule was marked by widespread brutality and repression against his opponents. The economy is also in tatters after donors, whose aid was a key source of government revenue, shunned it amid the human rights violations.

Authorities have not yet announced a date for Nkurunziza’s burial.

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