Burundi’s citizens turn to court seeking guidance to fill vacant position after president’s death

Its president dead, Burundi turned to the constitutional court on Thursday to help fill the power vacuum ahead of the president-elect ‘s expected August swearing-in in May ‘s election.

President Pierre Nkurunziza ‘s abrupt death this week from what the government called a heart attack has left East African nation with new uncertainty after a fifteen-year rule marked by deadly repression.

Evariste Ndayishimiye won the election as the ruling party candidate but Nkurunziza’s preferred successor was said to be Pascal Nyabenda, the national assembly speaker.

As interim president Nyabenda could be installed until August. Ndayishimiye may be immediately sworn in, but “this is a question that was not provided for by the constitution” and one the court could consider, said Burundian lawyer and activist Janvier Bigirimana.

The Council of Ministers’ emergency meeting on Thursday agreed to formally inform the court of the vacant post and await its course.

Nkurunziza died Monday after falling ill on Saturday, the government said, and hours of attempts to revive him failed. He was last seen in public on Saturday watching a volleyball match.

The government has not addressed questions on whether Nkurunziza died as a result of COVID-19. His administration had been accused of not taking the pandemic seriously, citing “divine protection” and permitting large campaign rallies before the election.

Images from the meeting on social media posted on Thursday showed the country’s ministers not wearing face masks.

The ministerial council acknowledged the seven days of official mourning in Burundi and agreed that operations would proceed as normal “everyone should understand the particular circumstances in which the country finds itself.”

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