Burundi: Seven Schoolchildren Arrested for Doodling on Picture of President

Seven schoolchildren in the African country of Burundi have been arrested and three have been charged with “insulting the head of state” and could spend up to five years in prison if found guilty, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization has announced.

In a special report on the incident, HRW said that the children stand “accused of having scribbled on the president’s photo in their school books.

“Upon arrest, the children were brought before the public prosecutor in Kirundo province.

“A 13-year-old, being below the age of criminal responsibility, was released. Six girls, however, were taken to the local police station jail. Three were later released, but the three others, all teenagers under the age of 18, remained in jail over the weekend.

“They were charged on Monday with insulting the head of state, and could spend up to five years in prison if found guilty.”

This is not the first-time school administrators and authorities have cracked down on children’s doodling.

In 2016, Burundian intelligence agents arrested eight secondary school students and also accused them of insulting the head of state for drawing and writing phrases like “Get out” or “No to the 3rd term” on a picture of President Nkurunziza in a textbook.

The same year, hundreds of children were expelled from several schools for scribbling on the president’s face in textbooks.

“!Since April 2015, the country has been in the throes of a political and human rights crisis triggered by Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to stand for a third term,” the HRW report continued.

“Since then, security services and the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth league, have killed, arbitrarily arrested, abducted, beaten, raped, and intimidated real and perceived political opponents with impunity,” the HRW report added.

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