Burundi is a country not new to controversies. From ranking as a country with the saddest people in the world last year to a number of rampant violence cases witnessed, Burundi has yet again sparked headlines for the wrong reasons.
Three teenage schoolgirls in the country have been sent to prison to await trial for scribbling/drawing carelessly on a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza in textbooks, activists said Thursday.
The girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, face up to five years in prison for insulting the head of state if found guilty.
Judges said the three girls should be “prosecuted for contempt of the head of state”, and ordered them to a juvenile section of a prison in the north of Burundi at Ngozi to await trial, said FENADEB, a civil society umbrella group of 48 organisations.
The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Mr Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school, but teachers pointed out that the books are shared among all the pupils as there are not enough for everyone to have their own.
This is not the first similar case to be reported in the country. In 2016, several schoolchildren were handed prison sentences for similar scribbles on the president’s face, and hundreds of pupils expelled, sparking an international outcry.
A judicial source, who called the case “very sensitive” and said it was overseen directly by the Attorney-General, reported that the girls arrived at the prison on Wednesday afternoon.
It was not clear when they might face trial, but the father of one of the girls said they were already “too scared to eat”, according to Mr Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
It is so unfortunate that at such an era in time, such ‘childish’ incidences by innocent young school children still finds a place in Burundi. Th country should rise above bar!