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Pierre Nkurunziza (born 18 December 1963) is a Burundian politician who has been President of Burundi since 2005. He was the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party until he was elected the President of the Republic of Burundi.
Background and political career
Nkurunziza was born in 1963 in Burundi's capital city of Bujumbura. He has a son named John Claude Nkurunziza that lives in Australia, Adelaide He attended primary school in Ngozi 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 300,000 Burundians and caused many more to go into exile as refugees.
Nkurunziza was a lecturer at Burundi University when civil war broke out in the country following the assassination of Burundi's first ethnic Hutu democratically elected 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 ceasefire agreement, he was appointed 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 [u[Rulers and heads of state of Burundi|president]] unopposed by members of parliament (acting as an electoral college) on 19 August 2005 and took office on 26 August 2005. The new Head of State inherited a country devastated by over a decade of civil war and dictatorship. In spite of those difficulties, he has since been working hard to restore peace and concord among the Burundian people. His policy is aimed at reconstruction and reconciliation, economic recovery and political stability. President Nkurunziza concluded a peace accord with the last rebel group, the Palipehutu-Fnl. His simplicity is remarkable, and he always draws attention mingling with village people in the remote rural areas where he spends most of his time. One of his key priorities is to pull Burundi out of poverty. President Nkurunziza initiated ‘Community Works’ carried out every Saturday, and he has taken courageous but otherwise important measures in favour of children and women: free education for primary school children and free health care for those under five, and maternity. President Nkurunzia has been awarded several Prizes and other honorific Distinctions to recognize his endeavour. The awards include “Prix pour la Paix” awarded to him by “Accord” in Durban in June 2006; “Oscar de Paix” awarded by “Assis Pax International”, “Honoris Causa Ph.D” awarded to him by Latin University of Theology in California. In September 2007, the "Interfaith Peace Building" recognized his efforts. The Greenbelt Burundi also recognized his efforts in the protection of the environment. The award was dedicated to Mwezi Gisabo, a King of Burundi who refused to scorch the Kibira forest in order to track down his opponents. The United Nations Commission on Peace Consolidation in Burundi also decorated him with a peace award. In August 2009 in Nairobi he was awarded the "Model Leader for a New Africa Award" by AFREG (African Forum on Religion and Government), a Florida-based religious organisation with a sub-office in Accra, Ghana. Pierre Nkurunziza is the first African President to be awarded with such a distinction on the continent. In September 2010, the India–based Unity International Foundation honoured Pierre Nkurunziza with the "Rising Star of Africa Award" after Indian authorities found HE Pierre Nkurunziza as a role model in peace consolidation and development for the whole of Africa. In October 2011 in Monaco, the Peace and Sports International organization granted to HE Pierre Nkurunziza an award for having made sports a tool for reconciliation in his country. 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.
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. President Nkurunziza is a talented sportsman who enjoys playing soccer and riding a bicycle. He began playing football at the age of five, and was always among the best at secondary school and University. As a University lecturer, Nkurunziza used his football talents as a coach of “Union Sporting”, a first division club side which was rated among the best at the time. As a President, he has re-called some of his former players to form a new team of veterans, “Helleluia FC”, where he plays as a striker and scores regularly. Back in 2004, when he was a State Minister, Nkurunziza created a “Soccer Academy ” which is home to nearly 300 kids learning skills in various training centres across the country. The President is using sports as a tool for reconciliation and development, and his soccer academy could become a reference in Africa in the near future. Pierre Nkurunziza married his wife in 1994 and is the father of five children.
- "AFP: Burundi's president Pierre Nkurunziza re-elected". Agence France-Presse. First July 2010. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hHl55epxpc6OXNZIfZR2cUw95iLw. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
- "Re-elected Burundian president takes oath as African leaders present", Xinhua, 26 August 2010.
- Charles Bigirimana, "Burundi's born-again ex-rebel leader". BBC News. 26 August 2005.