Thousands of Burundians lined the road to the capital, Gitega, on Friday because the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his death earlier this month.
Nkurunziza, who ruled the country for nearly 15 years, died at the age of 55 of what the govt said was “heart failure”.
But speculation is rife he may have caught the coronavirus, as his wife was flown to Nairobi for treatment for the virus just a fortnight before his death.
Nkurunziza died shortly after an election won by his handpicked successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last week.
Friday was declared a legal holiday for the funeral. School children in uniform and citizens lined the roads expecting the funeral convoy to pass.
The stadium in Gitega where the funeral ceremony is to be held was full of citizens from across the country, all wearing white at the request of authorities.
Nkurunziza is going to be buried at a monument recently inbuilt Gitega at the location of another structure which was to be dedicated to victims of the country’s various crises over the years but was never inaugurated.
Nkurunziza, a devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to steer Burundi, left behind a deeply isolated country in political and economic turmoil.
His 2015 run a 3rd term in office sparked protests and a failed coup, with violence leaving a minimum of 1,200 dead while some 400,000 fled the country.
Burundi was plunged into a political crisis in 2015 when Nkurunziza sought a controversial third term in office.