A new president took power Thursday in Burundi two months early after the abrupt death of his predecessor.
Evariste Ndayishimiye won the May election as the ruling party candidate and was set to take office in August, but the death of Pierre Nkurunziza from what the government called a heart attack threw the East African nation into uncertainty.
Ministers turned to the constitutional court, which said the president-elect should be sworn in as soon as possible.
This is the first time a Burundian president has been sworn in before the people and not parliament.
With little sign of face masks or social distancing at Thursday’s ceremony, it appeared there was no immediate change in the government’s belief that divine protection would largely suffice for the coronavirus.
That’s despite suspicion that Nkurunziza died of COVID-19.
Some regional leaders and human rights groups expressed hope that the new president, an ally of Nkurunziza, might break with certain ways of his predecessor.
South Africa in a statement said that “President (Cyril) Ramaphosa looks forward to working with President Evariste Ndayishimiye as he leads the people of Burundi to a better life.”
In a separate statement, Amnesty International called on Ndayishimiye to rein in the Imbonerakure youth wing of the ruling party, accused of killings and other abuses, and urged the immediate freeing of imprisoned journalists and others jailed for exercising their human rights.