The huge turn-out of mask-less mourners in defiance of WHO advice, cements the view by Nkurunziza’s successor that COVID-19 is a myth
The former President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza who died about two weeks ago was yesterday laid to rest at a special Muusoleum in the capital Gitega.
Nkurunziza’s burial was witnessed by high-ranking Tanzanian officials including former President Jakaya Kikwete, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and Zambia’s first lady Esther Lungu.
According to reliable medical sources, the former president of Burundi succumbed to respiratory complications similar to those found in COVID-19 patients. The fact that his wife Denis, his mother in law and his sister had been admitted to Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi and treated for COVID-19, left many with the conclusion that Nkurunziza died of COVID-19.
Despite these persistent rumours, observers say that the new government of President Evariste Ndaiyishimiye appears to be hold up the view that Coronavirus is a myth and have therefore not encouraged people to embrace any social distancing measures.
For example, before the burial, the government organised a public procession that took the casket for the late President Nkurunziza from Karusi City hospital to Ingoma Stadium in the country’s administrative city of Gitega for the state funeral.
Those who accessed Ingoma stadium never bothered to observe the required distance inside. Some foreign diplomats who came wearing masks removed them. Almost no one in the fully packed stadium wore a mask. The diplomats felt “ridiculous and removed the masks they had worn ” according to AFP news agency.
This continuing views of denial perhaps, explain the fact that no sitting president from the East African Community block, with whom Nkurunziza interacted for many years, managed to gather the courage to fly in to pay their last respects.
The event was marked by the all-white dresses donned by thousands of mourners, a symbol of ideological standpoint of faith in God in overcoming challenges facing his country.
Pierre Nkurunziza died at the age of 55 after ruling Burundi for almost 15 years. During the funeral ceremony attended mostly by ordinary people in Burundi, no social distancing was maintained and most people looked very unconcerned and unbothered.
Clad in white and some holding their cheeks in mourning, most Burundians accessed Ingoma stadium with no face masks worn. However hand washing was common place outside the Gitega stadium.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye, whose installation was fast-tracked following the untimely death of Nkurunziza, was the chief mourner.
Ndayishimiye told mourners that he had lost a friend he knew for years, a father and a saviour. Ndayishimiye said Burundi had lost one of the most Godly men in the world.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the roads from Karusi to a Gitega where the funeral ceremony of the late Pierre Nkurunziza was held.
Despite the fact that people in Burundi have heard that there former president might have died from Covid-19, they maintained no social distancing while lining streets from Karusi to Gitega.
Nkurunziza was pronounced dead on June after being briefly admitted at a hospital. He left behind a country deep in both political and economic turmoil. Burundi is among the three poorest countries on earth. Burundi is today a very isolated country, internationally after its former leader pulled Burundi out of the International Criminal Court in 2017. He had until his death grown increasingly distant from his colleagues with in the East African community.
Following Nkurunziza’s sudden death, the country’s constitutional court ordered for the immediate swearing in of the country’s then newly elected president, Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Ndayishimiye was sworn in on June 18, 2020 in a ceremony held in the same stadium in Gitega where the man who endorsed him to succeed him was seen off, in a well attended funeral ceremony held on Friday June 26, 2020.
Pierre Nkurunziza was a fervent Evangelical Christian at the time of his death. He often publicly said it that he was chosen by God to lead Burundi. Before he died, Nkurunziza had convinced Burundians that Covid-19 could not kill them.
Nkurunziza believed COVID-19 was killing only those who were disobedient to God. He believed since Burundians knew God, COVID-19 could not kill them.
A medical source at the hospital where Nkurunziza died told AFP news agency that Nkurunziza died from respiratory illness.
While speaking to the mourners during the funeral, Denise Nkurunziza, the late Nkurunziza’s wife, now a widow, said it was purely God’s will for her husband to die. She quoted bible saying “there is nothing she could do.” “We must accepted God in everything, ” Denise Nkurunziza said.
Pierre Nkurunziza was announced dead on June 9, 2020. A week of national mourning was declared in Burundi. According to the statement released by the government in Burundi, Nkurunziza died from heart failure.