Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pierre Nkurunziza

Pierre Nkurunziza (born 18 December 1963) is a Burundian politician who has been President of Burundi since 2005. He is the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party in Burundi, and also the current Chairman of the East African Community.

Background and Political Career
Nkurunziza was born in 1963 in Burundi's capital city of Bujumbura. He attended primary school in Ngozi province and secondary school in Kitega 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 the Parliament of Burundi 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.

Beginning in late 2003 and after the cease fire agreement, he was appointed Minister for Good Governance in the transitional government of President Domitien Ndayizeye.

On 11 September 2008, journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu alleged that the cost of President Nkurunziza’s trip to see the Beijing Olympics (an estimated 100 million Burundian francs) caused some civil servants’ salaries to be paid late. The government responded that the trip had only cost half of the alleged amount, and Kavumbagu was charged with "libelous writing and insulting remarks." Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and PEN America protested his arrest and called for his immediate release. Kavumbagu was cleared by a court in March 2009 and released from prison. However, the prosecutor appealed the case, and as of July 2010, it remains open.

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. He was re-elected in 2010 with more than 91% of the votes amidst an opposition boycott and sworn in for his second term on 26 August 2010.

Personal life
Nkurunziza was one of seven siblings. Two of his siblings were killed after 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.

A self-described born again Christian and a big fan of sports, Pierre Nkurunziza married his wife in 1994 and is the father of five children. In 2009, Nkurunziza signed a law criminalizing consensual homosexuality, despite the Senate's overwhelming rejection of the bill.

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