CURRENT AFRICAN LEADERS: Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi
President of Burundi since 2005, Nkurunziza 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.
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.
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.