The latest disturbing news coming out of Bujumbura, six boys and five girls, were recently sent to the notorious Muranga prison in central Burundi that houses hardened core criminals. Their crime: the authorities discovered that the pupils had defaced the portrait of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Ever since Nkurunziza overturned the constitutional provision that limited the presidential rule to two five-year terms, and awarded himself a third term, Burundi has been in turmoil.
The opposition has coalesced into an armed rebellion that seeks to topple him, especially when one notes that the subsequent general election that Nkurunsiza held was patently carried out in his favour and did not give the opposition parties any form of democratic participation.
In retaliation, Nkurunsiza has had the opposition politicians arrested and sent to jail. Those perceived to be against his regime have been hounded and persecuted. More than 300,000 people have fled to seek refuge in the neighbouring countries, especially in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
Unconcerned, the regime has continued to vilify its protestors resulting in this latest absurd arrest and incarceration of the pupils. These are merely the few reported cases in the nationwide crackdown of the people who are opposed to the regime.
The parents of the pupils have rallied together to go to the authorities to plead for their children. There is a disturbing trend to this. In the first place, the teachers of these pupils and indeed, the schools where the subject of the history Nkurunsiza is taught should instruct the pupils correctly, if not to delete the offensive item in the curriculum. It would save a lot of rancor and heartache laid out on those concerned.
Secondly, Nkurunsiza, is bringing his legacy into ridicule from the position he used to occupy as a Born-again Christian. Surely, this cannot be the means in which he will inculcate patriotism to the generations to come after him. He is losing all sense of spiritual direction if he continues on this satanic path.
It comes to mind that Nkurunsiza, to some extent, subscribes to the Miracle Center church of Pastor Robert Kayanja, here in Kampala. In effect Kayanja has been a frequent visitor to Burundi, hosted by no other than Nkurunsiza, himself. Indeed, Kayanja has constructed schools in a number of provinces aimed at uplifting the standard of education in the country.
One would think that Nkurunsiza is appreciative of this and considers that all aspects of learning will enhance the development of his country. And certainly the present school-going generation is among the beneficiaries whom Nkurunsiza would be very adroit in promoting. If it were possible, Kaynaja, as his pastor, could appeal to Nkurunsiza on behalf of the pupils and get them out of their ordeal.
By arresting the pupils, the regime is showing that it is intolerant and insensitive to the democratic principles of dissent. Moreover, it is creating in the minds of the young citizens a possibility of ardent life-long opposition to anything to do with Nkurinsiza’s party, a thing he may not be keen to propagate.
Also, he is sending these young minds and bodies into the hands of the opposition who are tuned to rebel activity. He is fanning the base for the rebels to find fresh ground for recruiting the young into active opposition and armed conflict against him. And it is pitching these pupils and parents into a possible refugee life with the consequences that go with it.
Furthermore, by placing the children in the prisons with hard core criminals, he has clearly endangered the life of these young children and compromised their moral standing with countless forms of abuse that abound in such precincts.
Surely, Nkurunsiza should consider himself the responsibility of these children as president; and that he could not have wished for his own children such abject treatment.
It is such reputation that is going forth against Burundi that recently the United Nations has withdrawn its participation in the peace-keeping roles it was assigned in some other areas of African conflict, notably in Darfur, and in Central Africa. It is contradictory for Burundi to pose as a peace keeper sending in the same troops who may have been deployed to harass and kill some of its own citizens at home.