Children’s rights organizations in Burundi are demanding the release of five students who are still in custody, almost 20 days after their arrest.
The teenagers were arrested on June 3rd for doodling on photos of President Pierre Nkurunziza in their textbooks. The arrests added on to hundreds of others made for similar reasons.
Speaking to Africanews on the Morning Call, the head of a Burundian children’s rights federation Jacques Nshimirimana said: “Today we can count 668 school children who were arrested for having doodled on a photo of the head of state. But these school children are in various locations. Today the question is with respect to what kind of charges have been pressed against these students”
Most of the arrested students have been released but others remain locked up across various towns in the country. Hundreds others are reported to have been expelled from schools for scribbling on Nkurunziza’s photo.
On June 7th, 6 of the 11 students detained in a prison in central Burundi were released on bail as they await trial,while the other five, all adults, remain in prison.
Since April 2015, the country has been gripped by a political and human rights crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to stand for a third term. Perhaps out of fear, teachers, school administrators and local officials have become wrapped up in the crackdown on government opponents, including students who doodle on pictures, whether out of boredom or protest, according to the Human Rights Watch.