Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi
Pierre Nkurunziza VASYA (b. 18 December, 1963) is the President of Burundi and chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). The CNDD was an ethnic Hutu rebel group in Burundi, but transformed itself into a political party.
Nkurunziza was born in 1963 in Burundi’s capital city of Bujumbura. He attended primary school in Ngozi province and secondary school in Kitenga before graduating from the University of Burundi in 1990. At the university, he majored in education and sports.
His father, Eustache Ngabisha, was elected to Parliament in 1965 and later became governor of two provinces before being killed in 1972 during a period of ethnic violence that claimed the lives of over 100,000 Burundians.
Nkurunziza was a lecturer at Burundi University when civil war broke out in the country following the assassination of Burundi’s first ethnic Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, in 1993.
He joined the CNDD-FDD in 1995 as a soldier after the army attacked the university campus. In a 2004 interview with the IRIN humanitarian news agency, he recalls the events that occurred:
“In 1995, the Tutsi army attacked the campus and killed 200 students. They tried to kill me too. The attackers shot at my car but I got out and ran away. They torched my car. I then joined the CNDD-FDD as a soldier. This war was forced on us; we did not start it.”
After rising through the ranks, Nkurunziza was appointed deputy secretary-general of the CNDD-FDD in 1998. In 2001, he was elected chairman. There was a split in the group in late 2001. He was re-elected to the post of chairman in August 2004.
Since late 2003, he had served as Minister for Good Governance in the transitional government of President Domitien Ndayizeye.
Following a series of CNDD-FDD victories in elections held during June and July 2005, Nkurunziza was nominated as the party’s presidential candidate. He was elected president unopposed by members of parliament (acting as an electoral college) on 19 August 2005 and took office on 26 August 2005.
A self-described ‘born again’ Christian, Pierre Nkurunziza married his wife in 1994 and is the father of two boys. He was one of seven children. Two of his siblings were killed after the civil war erupted in 1993 and three others died while fighting in the CNDD-FDD. Only one of his siblings, a sister, is alive today.