Church leaders are remembering Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza as one who was open about his Christian faith.

In power since 2005, the Born-again president is said to have held prayer meetings and crusades with his wife, a pastor, where they preach to local residents, washing the feet of the poor, according to AFP.

Nkurunziza reportedly traveled with a choir and made it clear to leaders in the government when he took office that prayer is a priority.

“He [President Nkurunziza] was a great man of God and a great revivalist,” Ugandan pastor Robert Kayanja said on Tuesday.

“I will dearly miss him. He introduced me to his people, gave me land in Burundi to build a school, and less than 10 days ago, I was talking to him on phone,” he added.

Following the global outbreak of Covid-19, President Nkurunziza called for week long national prayers, and told media reporters “God gave special protection to faithful Burundians.” He ordered the expulsion of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) expert team in May, accusing them of “unacceptable interference” in the nation’s management of the coronavirus.

“Burundi is an exception because it is a country that has put God first,” Mr Nkurunziza’s spokesman said in late March.

Much as his leadership was not without controversy, pushing some to declare him dictator, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Nkurunziza’s death robbed East Africa of a prominent leader whose “contribution to the integration and progress of the region shall be sorely missed.”

The Burundian government announced Tuesday that Mr Nkurunziza had died of a heart attack. He was 55.