June 18, 2020 / 8:07 AM / 16 days ago

Crowds begin to gather for inauguration of Burundi president

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Crowds began to gather in the central Burundi province of Gitega on Thursday for the inauguration of Evariste Ndayishimiye as president following the sudden death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza.

Ndayishimiye, 52, a retired army general, won last month’s presidential election of behalf of the ruling party, defeating the opposition’s Agathon Rwasa and five others. He was due to be sworn in this August, before Nkurunziza died earlier this month.

The constitutional court ruled on Friday that Ndayishimiye should be sworn in immediately following Nkurunziza’s death, resolving worries that powerful generals might dispute the succession.

The court also dismissed challenges to the election result from the opposition, which alleged violence and intimidation. Ndayishimiye was confirmed as the winner with 69% of votes.

Ndayishimiye headed the department of military affairs under Nkurunziza, and served as minister of the interior and security. The United Nations said that under Nkurunziza’s rule state security forces and the ruling party’s youth wing routinely gang-raped, tortured and killed political opponents.

The East African nation of 11 million people is one of the world’s poorest countries. It became an international pariah after Nkurunziza violently quashed protests triggered by his decision to run for a third term in 2015, a move his opponents said violated a peace deal that had ended a civil war a decade earlier.

Donors cut off funding and Nkurunziza shut the United Nations human rights office and withdrew from the International Criminal Court. Last month he expelled representatives from the World Health Organization despite concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Peter Graff

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