President Pierre Nkurunziza promised the citizens of Burundi recently that he negotiated divine protection from the pandemic for the country. Nkurunziza was both murderous despot and born-again Christian. His wife is an ordained minister. She visited Australia last year for the opening of a consulate at Margaret Court’s church. Now, his wife is recovering, and he is dead from COVID-19.
Nkurunziza proclaimed his country safe from coronavirus because Burundi, “signed a special covenant with God, whether you believe it or not.”
He encouraged mass gatherings, dismissed the need for masks and expelled the representative of the World Health Organisation. Now, he lies dead from COVID-19.
Just three weeks ago, the murderous strongman and born again Christian told a rally that God purified the country’s air. His claims sound rather like those of Margaret Court’s church early in the pandemic.
“We are in agreement that this Convid-19 (sic) will not come near our dwelling or our church family. We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the Blood of Jesus.”
In fact, Margaret Court’s Victory Life Centre hosts a Burundi consulate on its premises. Court’s husband Barry also acts as the local consul for Burundi. The Courts set up the consulate despite investigations into the regime for crimes against humanity. Nkurunziza’s wife attended the opening of the consulate without her husband. He could not leave Burundi because of the risk of arrest by the International Criminal Court.
Nkurunziza ruled Burundi with an iron hand for 15 years. The country’s constitution only allows a president two terms of office, but Nkurunziza ran for a third term in 2015. He won re-election through tactics that included killing opposition politicians and critics. Protestors against his regime were tortured and raped. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country.
Despite earlier plans to stay in power indefinitely, Pierre Nkurunziza did not contest recent elections. He ‘retired’ to become the country’s ‘supreme eternal guide’ with a parting gift of half a million dollars and a luxury villa. The retired general he endorsed and campaigned for consequently won an election marred by violence and vote-rigging.
LGBTIQ+ rights in Burundi
Nkurunziza criminalised same-sex sexual activity for men and women in 2009 with penalties of up to two year’s jail. However, LGBTIQ+ people in Burundi also face discrimination in employment and housing and the constant risk of violence and even murder. In 2017, the police conducted a ‘hunt for homosexuals’. Many LGBTIQ+ Burundians flee to the relative safety of Kenya.
Perhaps the ongoing demonisation of LGBTIQ+ people by the former Australian tennis champion attracted the despot to her. Burundi uses Margaret Court’s church’s bible school curriculum in its education system.
Court’s husband Barry defended engaging with the murderous regime because of the potential economic benefit to Australia.
Dead from COVID-19
Despite the deal Pierre Nkurunziza negotiated with God to protect his country, COVID-19 recently struck his family. Although his regime offered no explanation for his wife’s stay in a Kenyan hospital, sources in Nairobi confirmed she and three of her bodyguards were receiving treatment for coronavirus.
Nkurunziza himself fell ill this week with symptoms of coronavirus. However, when he died, the government attributed the death of the 55-year-old to a heart attack. Diplomatic and media sources in Burundi confirm the actual cause of death as COVID-19.
For Nkrurunziza’s epitaph, we turn to the words of Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director of Human Rights Watch who said the strongman “leaves behind a legacy of ruthless repression.
“He ruled through fear to erect a system synonymous with the worst human rights abuses: extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, and the systematic crushing of dissent.”
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