Eleven teenage school children, aged between 14 and 19 years, from two secondary schools in the city of Muramvya province, have been jailed for scribbling on pictures of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Burundian authorities said they have charged six schoolboys and five schoolgirls for insulting the Head of State.
Legal experts said this crime may be punished by an imprisonment ranging from six months to five years and a fine between US$5 and US$25.
At the meeting among provincial authorities, security forces and parents of the children on Monday, the parents demanded the immediate and unconditional release of their children. The children were arrested by security forces and intelligence agents last Friday. The authorities refused to accede to the demands of the parents. The children remain in jail.
“I was expecting my son to become an important person, but now my hope is gone,” said the distraught mother of one of the arrested boys.
Parents of some of the jailed children said the accusations were unproven.
“Our children never come home with their books and one book is used by many pupils of three classes. How can they know who exactly among them made the scribbles?” asked a concerned father, who asked not to be named.
The man said no one had come forward to testify that they had seen his child scribbling on the picture.
Governor of Muramvya province, Emmanuel Ndikuriyo, has promised to find a solution to the situation, but also says “justice has to do its job too”.
“The Muramvya province used to be the capital of the kingdom in the times of kings in Burundi. The people of this province are supposed to know very well the importance of authorities because after God came the king,” said Ndikuriyo.
“Today we have no kings in the country but it is President Nkurunziza who replaced them. So he is in the second position of honour after God and has to be respected.”
A similar incident occurred two weeks ago in Ruziba zone, 20 miles southwest of Bujumbura. More than 300 high school children were expelled from school for scribbling on pictures of Nkurunziza.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro