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Nkurunziza is a ‘born-again’ Christian and loves to travel around Burundi with his own football team, Haleluya FC. He also travels with his own choir, ‘Komeza gusenga’, which means ‘pray non-stop’, in the local Kirundi language.
During such matches, the opposition team is usually well aware they are playing against the President, and so they go easy in the games, even perhaps allowing Nkurunziza to score.
But on February 3, Nkurunziza’s team faced a side from the northern town of Kiremba. The Kiremba team contained Congolese refugees who did not know they were playing against the President, so they “attacked each time he had the ball and made him fall several times”, according to a witness.
Consequently, days after the match, Cyriaque Nkezabahizi, the administrator of Kiremba, and Michel Mutama, his assistant, were imprisoned.
Journalists, quoting judicial sources, said the officials were arrested on charges of “conspiracy against the President”.
A UN report in 2017 had noted that there was strong evidence of crimes against humanity being committed by Nkurunziza’s administration.
Government forces and opposition groups were said to have committed killings, torture and rape after violence erupted in 2015.
The crisis was sparked after Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, against the country’s constitution. He won the election, which was boycotted by the opposition.