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Burundi’s president-elect to take office soon following death of former leader

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Burundi’s Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that the country’s newly elected leader Evariste Ndayishimiye be rapidly sworn in following the sudden death of President Pierre Nkurunziza earlier this week.  

Ndayishimiye, who won the May 20 presidential poll, had been expected to take over the presidency from Nkurunziza in August when the latter’s term ends. However, Nkurunziza’s sudden death due to a heart attack on Monday created a possibility that the speaker of the Burundian National Assembly, Pascal Nyabenda, to become an interim leader before the swearing-in of Ndayishimiye in line with the Constitution. 

An extraordinary meeting of the council of ministers on Thursday decided to turn to the Constitutional Court to decide on the vacancy according to the Constitution. Ruling party presidential candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye queues to cast his vote in the presidential election, in Giheta, Burundi, May 20, 2020.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (C) and presidential candidate of the ruling party Evariste Ndayishimiye (R) attend a campaign rally at the Bugendana Stadium in Gitega Province, Burundi, April 27, 2020. /Reuters

Ndayishimiye, 52, won the election with 68.7 percent. Opposition claims of widespread fraud were dismissed by the Constitutional Court. He will serve a seven-year term in office and can renew the term once. 

Born in 1968 in central Burundi’s Gitega province, Ndayishimiye held several senior positions in the government including minister of Home Affairs and Public Security, senior advisor in the office of the president in charge of military affairs and that in charge of civil affairs, successively, before being elected as secretary general of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) in 2016. 

After the news of Nkurunziza’s death, Ndayishimiye vowed to “continue his high-quality work that he has done for our country.”  

The Burundian government has yet to announce a date for Nkurunziza’s funeral, but is marking a seven-day period of national mourning, during which it has banned music in bars, nightclubs and karaoke, a statement said Thursday. 

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