Évariste Ndayishimiye, President of Burundi (elected on May 20, 2020 with 68.7%)
General Évariste Ndayishimiye (born 1968) is a Burundian politician who has served as President of Burundi since 18 June 2020. He became involved in the rebel National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD–FDD) during the Burundian Civil War and rose up the ranks of its militia. At the end of the conflict, he entered the Burundian Army and held a number of political offices under the auspices of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Nkurunziza endorsed Ndayishimiye as his successor ahead of the 2020 elections which he won with a large majority.
Évariste Ndayishimiye was born in 1968 in Giheta, Gitega Province in Burundi. He is reported to be a “fervent” Catholic. He began studies in law at the University of Burundi (UB) but was still studying in 1995 when Hutu students were massacred as part of the inter-ethnic violence which accompanied the Burundian Civil War (1993–2005). He fled and joined the moderate rebel National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD–FDD) which drew its support predominantly from ethnic Hutu. Rising up the ranks of the group during the civil war, he presided over its militia and military activities. He gained the nickname “Neva”.
A series of agreements in 2003 paved the way for the CNDD–FDD to enter national politics as a political party. Ndayishimiye became deputy chief of staff of the Burundian Army. In 2005, the CNDD–FDD came to power under the leadership of Pierre Nkurunziza whose background was similar and who had also fled UB in 1995. Ndayishimiye served as Minister of the Interior and Public Security from 2006 to 2007 before becoming the personal military aide (chef de cabinet militaire) to Nkurunziza. He held this post until 2014. Alongside his office, he studied at Wisdom University of Africa and gained a degree in 2014. He also chaired the Burundi National Olympic Committee for much of this period.
After rising opposition, Nkurunziza announced in 2018 that he would not stand for a fourth term as president in 2020. Ndayishimiye was the candidate he endorsed as his replacement in the CNDD–FDD and was considered to be a “close ally”. It had been reported that Nkurunziza “wanted to run the country from behind the scenes”, using Ndayishimiye as a puppet ruler after his resignation. However, it was also noted that Ndayishimiye may have been chosen as a compromise between Nkurunziza and other CNDD–FDD “generals” determined to ensure that a Civil War veteran retained control. Ndayishimiye was “not associated with the worst abuses” under Nkurunziza and was reported to be the most “open” and “honest” candidate within the CNDD–FDD.
Ndayishimiye won elections held in May 2020, winning 68 percent of the national vote. However, the fairness of the poll was widely questioned and it occurred in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in Burundi. Nkurunziza died unexpectedly on 8 June 2020. Since Ndayishimiye had already won the elections, the Constitutional Court accelerated his inauguration as president. He was installed at a ceremony in Gitega on 18 June 2020, two months ahead of schedule
Pierre Nkurunziza, Former 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.