Burundian President Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005 and was re-elected to a third term in 2015 despite massive protests and concerns over the legality of running beyond his second term went ham on mere school girls for doodling over his photo in their school textbook.
According to Human Right Watch, three schoolgirls were slapped with five years in prison after being thrown into jail for drawing President Nkurunzina’s photo on their textbook.
Jailed over the weekend, the girls are facing five years in prison for drawing on the President’s face in their school books, Human Rights Watch told CNN. The minors who were arrested last week and accused of insulting the president of the state, are still on remand while they await trial for their trial as noted by Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch
In 2016, Burundi’s National Service Intelligence nabbed eight secondary school students for allegedly insulting Nkurunziza by writing phrases like “Get out” or “No to the 3rd term” on a picture of the President in a textbook, according to Human Rights Watch. The same year, hundreds of children were expelled from several schools for scribbling on the President’s face in their books.
4/5 This is not the first time children are targeted with political repression in Burundi. In 2016 authorities also arrested schoolchildren for doodling on images of Nkurunziza.https://t.co/uUQKVElFcK pic.twitter.com/D0uGNTC7KV
— Lewis Mudge (@LewisMudge) March 20, 2019
Mudge mentioned that textbooks in Burundi’s school system are often passed in between classes and it is, therefore, difficult to know who scribbled on the President’s image in the first place.
Human Rights Watch said the case was “quickly becoming the benchmark for a crackdown of freedom of expression since 2015, ” and that it would add pressure it would apply pressure on the government of Burundi to release the girl as with the 2016 case where the girls were released following pressure from international community.
In solidarity with the three school girls who have been detained for doodling over his photo in their school textbooks, defaced versions of President Nkurunziza’s portraits are surfacing online. Since 2015, the authorities, crackdown on all forms of expression has been very brutal.
Twitter is in overdrive on Burundi after reports that 3 girls are going to be prosecuted for scribbling on a photo of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Tweeps are doing the same and sharing them online pic.twitter.com/fvWFRiEByT
— The Chronicles (@ChroniclesRW) March 22, 2019
Three schoolgirls, all under the age of 18, have been detained & charged for scribbling over images of President #Nkurunziza in their school text books in Burundi.
They are now awaiting trial and could face up to 5 years in prison. Internet is doing it's thing & I'm proud. pic.twitter.com/sntMOjMKhh
— Kenya West© (@KinyanBoy) March 23, 2019
— mehdi Z (@mehdiz) March 21, 2019
Most people on Twitter felt that the president was acting out on his frustration and that doodling is something everyone did back in school, so the minors are being criminalized on zero grounds.