Burundi’s constitutional court on Friday ruled that the country’s newly elected leader Evariste Ndayishimiye be sworn in as soon as possible following the sudden death of President Pierre Nkurunziza earlier this week.
“No interim necessary, the president-elect …. must be sworn in as soon as possible,” presidential advisor Willy Nyamitwe wrote on Twitter of the court’s announcement.
Nkurunziza’s death on Monday aged 55 came just days after the election of his successor Ndayishimiye, who was meant to be inaugurated in August.
The unusual situation raised questions over how the transition would be managed, with the constitution calling for the speaker of the national assembly to step in if the president dies.
“The constitutional court has made its ruling… there is no point to an interim period, the president-elect must be sworn in as soon as possible,” wrote ruling party information secretary Nancy Ninette Mutoni on Twitter.
It had meanwhile been feared that the path forward would be determined not by the courts or his ministers, but by an innermost “crisis committee” answering to the president’s office.
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.
Nkurunziza had wanted speaker of the national assembly Nyabenda to succeed him, but powerful army generals he runs the country with opted for Ndayishimiye who won the May 20 election. While also a general, Ndayishimiye is not a regime hardliner and Nkurunziza was expected to continue to play a significant role.
His 2015 run for a third term in office sparked protests and a failed coup, with violence leaving at least 1,200 people dead while some 400,000 fled the country.
A climate of fear marked by a crackdown on the opposition and media settled over Burundi in the years after.
Rumours swirled on social media about his death, with some suspecting he had been infected by coronavirus.
His wife, first lady Denise Bucumi, who was reportedly recovering from the coronavirus in a Nairobi hospital, flew back to Bujumbura late Tuesday.