Burundi’s newly elected president, Evariste Ndayishimiye, has been sworn in two months earlier than planned.
The fast-tracked ceremony comes after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died suddenly last week.
Mr. Ndayishimiye is a former rebel leader, like Mr. Nkurunziza.He was backed by his predecessor and was declared the winner of May’s presidential election, which the opposition said was rigged.
Mr. Nkurunziza died aged 55 on 8 June after suffering a cardiac arrest, the government said. There are unconfirmed reports that he was suffering from Covid-19.
After 15 years in power, Mr. Nkurunziza was due to step down in August.
According to Burundi’s constitution, if the head of state dies in office then the president of the national assembly, currently Pascal Nyabenda, should succeed him But after a ruling by Burundi’s Constitutional Court, Mr Ndayishimiye’s inauguration in the capital, Gitega, was brought forward.
The 52-year-old army general is regarded as a “humble” and “religious” man. He has been among the most influential generals since 2005, when his close friend and colleague in rebellion, Pierre Nkurunziza took power.
The new president is taking over a country that is diplomatically isolated and on bad terms with donors.
His predecessor was accused of presiding over a government that carried out grave human rights violations and a crackdown on the opposition, journalists, and activists. The country is also dealing with the coronavirus, which was downplayed by his predecessor. His immediate challenges included leading his country’s effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
People attending his swearing-in were told to arrive early to allow time for their temperatures to be taken as a precaution. So far Burundi has confirmed just over 100 COVID-19 infections and one death.