By Spy Correspondent
Gitega, Burundi: Thousands of Burundians lined the road to the capital, Gitega, on Friday as the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his death earlier this month.
Nkurunziza succumbed to heart failure after an election won by his handpicked successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last week.
Friday was declared a national holiday for the funeral. School children in uniform and citizens lined the roads waiting for the funeral convoy to pass.
The stadium in Gitega where the funeral ceremony was held was packed with citizens from across the country, all dressed in white at the request of authorities.
Burundi’s former First Lady Denise Nkurunziza has told mourners at Gitega’s football stadium that her late husband Pierre Nkurunziza did “noble deeds”, and had “a good end and a peaceful death”.
Mrs Nkurunziza had to leave her hospital bed in Kenya, where she was being treated for an undisclosed illness, a day after the government announced her husband’s death from a cardiac arrest on 9 June.
She told the nation she was thankful to God for giving her and her five children strength.
“I personally have lost my love, children have lost their parent. I thank God for giving us strength to be standing in these hard times, after suddenly losing someone you love.” Mrs Nkurunziza said.
Later, Nkurunziza was buried at a monument recently built in Gitega at the site of another structure which was to be dedicated to victims of the country’s various crises over the years, but was never inaugurated.
Nkurunziza, a devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to lead Burundi, left behind a deeply isolated country in political and economic turmoil.
His 2015 run for a third term in office sparked protests and a failed coup, with violence leaving at least 1,200 dead while some 400,000 fled the country.
Burundi was plunged into a political crisis in 2015 when Nkurunziza sought a controversial third term in office.