By Jean Gatera
Former Burundian head of state Pierre Nkurunziza who died this week succumbed to Covid-19, emerging revelations – including an audio recording of his wife Denise – are showing. An official communiqué by the Government of Burundi claimed that Nkurunziza, who died this Monday 8th, succumbed “to cardiac arrest”.
But sources internally in Burundi, and internationally confirm Nkurunziza died of Covid-19. An audio recording from Bujumbura that surfaced this Saturday, 13 has testimony by Denise Nkurunziza – who herself on 27th last month was evacuated by air ambulance to Nairobi for treatment at an exclusive private facility – saying she had Covid-19, and that “she was more seriously ill of it than her husband”.
Kenyan media broke the news of her Covid-19 status the very day an AAR aircraft flew her to Nairobi. According to the website of Citizen News, one of the prominent Kenyan media houses, bodyguards that accompanied Madam Nkurunziza also tested positive – a development that led to the conclusion that it was highly likely President Nkurunziza was infected.
In the audio, Denise Nkurunziza recounts how she was informed of the death of Nkurunziza, and how she broke the news to her children from abroad. She repeatedly stresses how she was more seriously ill than her husband, which according to an analysis of the words is actual confirmation they all had Covid-19.
The Burundi Government communiqué in claiming that Nkurunziza died of a heart attack, added that this followed some sort of “malaise” on Saturday, 6th June. It did not elaborate on what type of “malaise” that was. It only continues that, “his condition improved on Sunday”, but that he suffered the “fatal cardiac arrest” the next day. News that has come to light is that from his province of birth Ngozi, Nkurunziza was rushed to neighboring Karuzi Province and admitted at the “Hopital du Cinquantenaire” medical facility.
Although the government did not communicate the cause of the “malaise”, SOS-Media of Burundi reports that a helicopter was dispatched to collect the ventilator from Bujumbura Roi Khaled Hospital to the upcountry hospital where Nkurunziza was admitted. “This indicated that Nkurunziza’s malaise was a respiratory based one,” according to SOS Media. “They just yanked someone from the respirator, the only one in the country, and flew it away.”
Local sources that broke the news of his death —a day before the government did— confirmed sighting of the emergency helicopter, and the hasty transfer of the ventilator. “It was the only ventilator at Roi Khaled University Hospital”, our source said. “Of course we noticed the platoon of presidential guards who took it by force,” he added as he narrated the chaotic scene. “The doctor was also ordered aboard the helicopter and initially we thought he was being arrested!”
The website of the Daily Mail – a UK-based newspaper with a massive worldwide readership – too reported on the events at the Bujumbura Hospital and how the only respirator was taken ‘in the name of the president’. The Daily Mail – in an article of this Saturday 13 June titled “Burundi President becomes world’s first head of state to die of Covid, despite government officials insisting death was due to heart attack” – also cites medical personnel at the Karuzi Hospital who confirmed, “the President was in ‘respiratory distress.’”
According to everyone that knew Nkurunziza, he lived “a very active lifestyle with no history of heart trouble; and none that any medical checkup ever detected.” He was frequently seen riding his bicycle and was an enthusiastic footballer. He often vigorously danced at evangelical gatherings and would exert himself for hours, praying at the top of his voice. “Nkurunziza had health issues, but nothing to do with heart trouble,” as a former close aide remarked. “In September 2010, he went to India for a surgical procedure,” the aide recalled. “At the time we were told it was a minor procedure to remove shrapnel he had from his days in the bush.”
Two years ago, following a football tackle, Nkurunziza was seen limping for months. Back then, the speculation was that he suffered from diabetes, cancer, or something that made it difficult for him to recover. According to the World Health Organization Covid-19 is fatal to those with underlying health issues, especially those with “a compromised immune system.”
The government of Burundi under President Nkurunziza publicly downplayed the dangers of the global pandemic. Officials went as far as publicly proclaiming that “the air in Burundi was blessed by God, therefore Covid-19 was not a problem to Burundi and Burundians!” World Health Organization (WHO) personnel who contradicted the official narrative were thrown out of Burundi and declared persona non grata for reporting cases of Covid-19 in Burundi. Large crowds kept gathering in complete disregard of social distancing norms adopted globally.
During that period Nkurunziza and his entourage frequently attended mass crowd events: prayers, campaigns, football games and so on, all with not the slightest concern for social distancing, or precautions like wearing masks, as images showed.
“The government of Burundi just kept mocking the rest of the world for imposing lockdowns, and other anti-Covid measures,” a Burundian journalist remarked on Twitter. “So, it would be difficult for the same officials to announce that their president died of Coronavirus; the very same disease they openly mocked!”