55-year-old President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi died of heart failure on Monday, just weeks after a crucial election to choose a successor to replace him.
Nkurunziza ruled the small Central African nation for 15 years with an iron fist, arresting journalists, stifling media outlets and cracking down on the opposition.
Mr. Nkurunziza’s death was announced by the government on Tuesday on Twitter. He died at a hospital in eastern Burundi after he fell ill and was hospitalized over the weekend.
A government spokesman, Prosper Ntahorwamiye, called for calm and announced seven days of mourning during which flags would be flown at half-mast.
“Burundi has just lost an honorable son of the country, a president of the Republic, a Supreme Guide of Patriotism,” Mr. Ntahorwamiye, said in a statement, referring to the official title Mr. Nkurunziza would have adopted once he stepped down. His successor was set to be sworn in in August for a seven-year term.
On Tuesday, activists said Mr. Nkurunziza would be remembered for overseeing an administration that crushed dissent and committed human rights abuses.
“His death highlights the urgency for the many victims to know the truth about the crimes committed during his presidency and who was responsible,” said Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“As long as these abuses go unpunished,” he said, “this dark legacy will hang over Burundi for many years to come.”
Culled from nytimes.com