Burundi convened an extraordinary cabinet meeting Thursday to discuss a way forward after the sudden death of long-serving ruler Pierre Nkurunziza left many anxious over the future of the troubled country.
Nkurunziza, who died on Monday aged 55, had been due to step down in August after his surprise decision not to run in an election last month won by the ruling party’s handpicked successor.
But his death has raised uncertainty and fears of a power struggle in a country that has witnessed violent political upheaval, a refugee exodus and a bloody civil war in its recent history.
The government called a ministerial meeting to discuss “the management of the situation following the unexpected death” of Nkurunziza, who according to the government died of a heart attack after feeling unwell for two days.
“We will in particular sign the referral to the constitutional court to declare the presidency definitively vacant,” a ministerial source told AFP on condition of anonymity. The meeting will be chaired by the first vice-president, Gaston Sindimwo.
Under the constitution, the president of the National Assembly, Pascal Nyabenda, should take over on an interim basis before president-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye’s swearing-in in August.
The path forward will be determined not by the ministers but an innermost “crisis committee” answering to the president’s office, the source said.
This group is made up of powerful generals who like Nkurunziza, who ruled for 15 often tumultuous years, emerged from the ethnic Hutu rebellion during Burundi’s long civil war which ended in 2006.
“In reality, it is not the council of ministers that will decide what will happen… everything has been decided within the crisis committee that sits with the presidency,” the source said.