Burundi Cracks Down on Student Protests

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A new form of conflict has broken out in Burundi – this time between the state and high school students.

On Tuesday, 230 pupils were sent home from a secondary school in the Ruyigi province for defacing the portrait of President Pierre Nkurunziza in their textbooks. This comes after clashes between police and students following a similar offence, in which two students were injured by gunfire.

 

Burundi students rebel

Each of the recent incidents involving secondary school students revolves around the same act: scribbling on pictures of the president, which appear in many textbooks.

Eight students aged between 15 and 17 were arrested on June 3 for defacing images of the president. Their detention prompted a student protest which was met by secret service police, who opened fire on the crowd, badly injuring two of the pupils and one passerby.

Eleven students were arrested at two other schools in the country for the same offence. While, one week earlier, 300 pupils were sent home from a school on Ruziba – just south of the capital Bujumbura, for defacing the president’s picture.

 

Dissent reaches the youth of Burundi

Burundi is torn by a conflict between those who support the country’s president and those who oppose him. Pierre Nkurunzia’s decision to run for a third term last year sparked one of the Africa’s worst civil crises. And now the country’s youth are starting to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the regime.

Among the insults scribbled across his pictures, some students have simply called the president “bald head,” others “Burundi’s obstinate one” and some simply “Nkurumbi” – a play on his name that means “bad news”.

Teachers, meanwhile, are largely supporters of Nkurunziza and suspending pupils in large numbers is a tactic used to force confessions from individuals. A number of pupils have refused to return to class after their suspensions were retracted – a mixture of further protest and fear of facing reprisal.

 

Featured image:
By Bernd Weisbrod – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11682338

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.