The death of the self-proclaimed Eternal Guide and Visionary of Burundi carries poetic justice to some and confusion to others.
Pierre Nkuruziza, the President of Burundi since 2005, suddenly died on June 8, 2020. 15 years after his reign, Nkuruziza had decided to graduate from a mere elected president to become the Eternal Guide and Visionary of the Republic.
His plans to rule forever, unelected and unlimited by constitutions were faulted by death. To his supporters, shock is an understatement.
For 15 years, Nkuruziza entertained a potent personality cult laced with an obscure spirituality whereby “He” was believed to be divine.
Nkuruziza openly claimed to talk to God and issued directives from the Almighty; he also blessed harvests, cursed enemies and foretold the future.
When he decided to illegally overstay in power on a third mandate in 2015, he claimed it was God’s will and brutally repressed those who opposed it. Non-believers were picked up, tortured and killed.
A practice known to few, “the baptism” —the river dumping of a live, tied-up victims— became common practice by his security forces. But as spirituality was not enough to galvanize his rule, Nkuruziza added tribalism to his ideological manuals.
He used Burundi’s painful past previous experienced with the scourge of tribalism to revive extremism and bigotry.
This resulted in a macabre theocratic apartheid regime with a Spiritual Leader at the helm.
Since 2015, the personality cult peaked, and “Peter” as Nkuruziza was commonly called began to his transformation to make himself “the father” of the nation.
For example, In one of his multiple national crusade, he instructed every to write his words on rocks and place them in streets, seating rooms and even bedrooms.
What followed were miniature rock monuments everywhere. Peter was no longer a mere President, and he had become too important to seek a popular mandate. His mandate was from a “Mushobora” God!
In 2018, Nkuruziza revised the constitution to reflect his “God” centered governance but surprised everyone with the announcement that he would not be seeking a 4th term.
He would instead be the Eternal Guide of the ruling party. What better way to establish eternal rule in a one party controlled Republic? And so Ndayishimiye Evariste (NEVA in acronym) was fronted for the 4th term on clear terms that the Eternal Guide would have the final word.
NEVA was elected on May 20, 2020, scheduled to take office on August 20, 2020.
But as faith would have it, Peter suddenly died on June 8, 2020, Ndayishimiye will become President and never have an eternal guide!
The Eternal Visionary didn’t see that coming.
Patrick Nzambimana is a Burundian refugee. His views are not necessarily those of the publication.