Burundi

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Social media backs Burundi pupils with #FreeOurGirls

Twitter users are showing their support for a group of Burundian schoolgirls facing jail for scribbling on a photo of the president in their textbooks by doing the same thing.

With the hashtag #FreeOurGirls, people are sharing photos of President Pierre Nkurunziza with wigs, moustaches and cowboy hats added.

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Campaign group Human Rights Watch says the three schoolgirls were arrested a fortnight ago and are awaiting trial after being charged last week with insulting the head of state. They risk being jailed for five years.

The agency also said the authorities had initially arrested seven schoolchildren, but four of them, including a 13-year-old, were freed immediately.

The remaining three, all under the age of 18, have been detained in prison.

Last week, HRW director for Central Africa Lewis Mudge said the father of one of the girls said on Saturday they were "too scared to eat".

Mr Mudge added: "With so many real crimes being committed in Burundi, it’s tragic that children are the ones being prosecuted for harmless scribbles.

"Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles."

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Burundi shuts UN human rights office

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

People gather to demonstrate outside the office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner in Bujumbura in April 2015.
AFP
The UN Human Rights Office was set up in Burundi in 1995 after a wave of ethnic killings

The United Nations Human Rights Office in Burundi has been forced to close at the insistence of the government.

The Burundian authorities suspended co-operation with the human rights office in 2016, and insist there is no longer any need for such an office as they have made so much progress on human rights.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, begs to differ. She says much of this progress has been put into serious jeopardy since 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office, prompting months of violence.

The UN Human Rights Office was set up in Burundi in 1995 following a wave of ethnic killings.

The events of 2015 show that Burundi is still fragile, with the potential for political and ethnic violence lurking just below the surface.

Burundian opposition leader criticises ban on party launch

BBC World Service

Burundian opposition leader Agathon Rwasa
Getty Images

The Burundian opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, has criticised the authorities for preventing him from launching his new political party in the capital, Bujumbura.

He said it showed that some of those in power had not moved on from the days of civil war.

The ban was issued on Saturday by the mayor of Bujumbura, citing security concerns.

The authorities initially refused to allow Mr Rwasa to set up a new party, insisting he change its name.

Mr Rwasa - who says he will run for president in next year's elections - was a rebel leader during Burundi's long civil war.

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Getty Images

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Mkapa ends role in Burundi talks

Benjamin Mkapa
AFP
President Mkapa's spokesman denied that he had resigned from the role

The role of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the facilitator of talks to resolve the political crisis in Burundi has ended, his spokesman has told BBC Kirundi.

The crisis was sparked in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a controversial third term.

"The facilitation phase has ended,’’ Makocha Tembele said.

He denied reports that President Mkapa had resigned.

"It is the end of his mandate," he said, adding that Mr Mkapa had presented his final report during the last regional heads of state summit held earlier this month.

Mr Tembele said it was now up to Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to carry on with the next phase of mediation before the next elections due in 2020.

The 2015 crisis created deep divisions resulting in violent clashes between government forces and the opposition.

At least 1,000 people were killed following an attempted coup in the same year.

The talks are largely seen to have failed as the government repeatedly refused to send delegations to the meetings.

President Nkurunziza said last year he would not run for office again but the political crisis remains unresolved.