Burundi profile - Leaders

  • 30 July 2015
  • From the section Africa

President: Pierre Nkurunziza

Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi's civil war in 1994.

His election by parliamentarians in 2005 vote was one of the final steps in a peace process intended to end years of fighting between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-controlled army.

But since his re-election in 2010, his tenure has been marked by accusations of growing authoritarianism, including attacks and pressure on opposition parties and the media.

The June 2010 presidential polls were boycotted by the opposition, which complained of fraud in the earlier local elections.

His re-election to a third term in 2015 proved even more controversial, as Burundi's constitution limits presidents to a maximum of two terms in office.

But the constitutional court in April 2015 ruled favour of his argument that his first term does not count, as he was elected by parliament, and not voters, and was thus eligible to stand again.

Amid rumours of pressure having being exerted on the judges, the ruling triggered violent protests, in which at least 70 people were killed, as well as a failed coup attempt.

The government appeared to yield to the pressure by postponing the presidential election, which was finally held in a tense atmosphere on 21 July.

Mr Nkurunziza was re-elected with 70% of the vote on a high turnout, but opposition leader Agathon Rwasa dismissed it as a "joke".

Born in 1964 in Ngozi province, Pierre Nkurunziza trained as a sports teacher. His father, a former MP, was killed in ethnic violence in 1972.

He joined the Hutu rebellion in 1995 and rose through the ranks to become head of the FDD in 2001. He sustained a serious mortar injury during the conflict. The married father of five is a born-again Christian.