NAIROBI (Reuters) - Police in Burundi shot and wounded a student and a taxi-driver on Friday during a protest by schoolchildren against the arrest of their colleagues for defacing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s portrait, students and residents said.
The incident took place in Muramvya province, about 50 km (30 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura. The schoolchildren, aged between 12 and 17 years old, were marching on the highway between Bujumbura and Gitega.
“We were in the streets to ask for the release of our colleagues who were unjustly arrested, then some police officers who were in a pick-up vehicle of the intelligence office opened fire on us, a colleague was hurt by one bullet and was taken to hospital for treatment,” one student told Reuters.
A police officer, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the student and the taxi driver had been shot.
The five students had spoiled Nkurunziza’s photo in a book, a school administrator said.
Burundi has been mired in a year-long crisis in which more than 450 people have been killed since Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term. Opponents said his move violated the constitution and a deal that ended a civil war in 2005.
Nkurunziza’s camp says a court ruling had declared the former rebel-turned-president eligible to seek another term.
Two weeks ago, more than 300 students of a school in the capital’s Ruziba neighborhood were sent home for the same reason.
Due to concerns about the behavior of Burundian security forces at home, the United Nations in February said its peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic would repatriate three military officers on suspicion they committed human rights violations during political unrest back in Burundi.
The world body went further on Friday, announcing that the country’s police units would no longer serve in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic once their current tour is completed.
“In light of the current situation in Burundi, a decision has been taken at U.N. headquarters not to replace the units serving in the country when their tour of duty ends,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.
Senior U.N. police adviser Stefan Feller of Germany later told reporters in New York that the decision had been a result of allegations of serious human rights violations by the police back home in Burundi.
Additional reporting by Patrick Nduwimana in Kigali and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Matthew Lewis