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Burundi: Schoolgirls Jailed for Scratching President’s Picture

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Three teenage schoolgirls in Burundi have been sent to prison to await trial for scribbling on a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza in textbooks, activists said Thursday.

The girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, face up to five years in prison for insulting the head of state if found guilty.

Judges said the three girls should be “prosecuted for contempt of the head of state”, and ordered them to a juvenile section of a prison in the north of Burundi at Ngozi to await trial, said FENADEB, a civil society umbrella group of 48 organisations.

The trio has been in custody since March 12, when they were arrested with three other schoolgirls and a 13-year old boy. The boy was released immediately because he was below the age of criminal responsibility, while the three girls were released without charge.

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The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school, but teachers pointed out that the books are shared among all the pupils as there are not enough for everyone to have their own.

A judicial source, who called the case “very sensitive” and said it was overseen directly by the Attorney General, reported that the girls arrived at the prison on Wednesday afternoon.

It was not clear when they might face trial, but the father of one of the girls said they were already “too scared to eat”, according to Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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In 2016, several schoolchildren were handed prison sentences for similar scribbles on the president’s face, and hundreds of pupils expelled, sparking an international outcry.

Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely-contested third term in office.

The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation.

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

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

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AFP

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US capital locks down as security threats mount

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The center of Washington was in lockdown Thursday as more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilized following the deadly assault on the Capitol and the threat of more violence at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
Police Chief Robert Contee said the US capital was facing “a major security threat” after supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building a week ago in a violent bid to block Biden’s confirmation that left five people dead.
A day after Trump was impeached in Congress for allegedly supporting the assault, more barriers were being erected and razor wire laid as part of precautions ahead of the January 20 ceremony.
Most of downtown Washington was off-limits to traffic, drawing comparisons to Baghdad’s high-security “Green Zone.”
The Secret Service, in charge of security, was weighing an unprecedented shutdown of the entire National Mall, the grassy spread where hundreds of thousands traditionally gather to celebrate the inauguration of a new president.
Security officials are warning that armed extremist Trump supporters, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
“We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” FBI Director Chris Wray told Vice President Mike Pence in a televised briefing.
“We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protest rallies planned here in DC and state capitol buildings around the country in the days to come, that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials,” he said.
– ‘Stay alert’ –
In steps not seen since after the September 11, 2001 national alerts, an internal FBI bulletin warned that an armed group planned to “storm” government offices in all 50 states to protest Biden, ABC News reported.
“The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on 16 January,” the bulletin added.
The New York Times reported that the FBI has told police departments around the country to stay alert for extremist activity and pass on intelligence.
Political figures boosted their own personal security, as Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed she has received death threats.
Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Wednesday to impeach Trump for supporting “insurrection,” said he and other lawmakers were taking precautions like acquiring body armor.
“I have colleagues who are now traveling with armed escorts out of the fear for their safety,” he told MSNBC. “Our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”
The potential threat was underscored earlier this week with the discovery that one of those arrested for taking part in the January 6 attack on the Capitol had the kind of weapons and ammunition one might use for an assassination.
-‘Stay home’-
Court documents said Cleveland Grover Meredith had two guns, one with a telescopic sight, and around 1,000 rounds.
Another man was arrested with four guns and 11 Molotov cocktails in his truck.
Police are still searching for a man who planted two pipe bombs near the Capitol on January 6.
On Tuesday police in Chicago arrested a man who weeks ago phoned in threats against Biden.
Worries were heightened when The Washington Post reported that dozens of people on an FBI terrorist watch list were in Washington for the pro-Trump rallies on January 6.
For the upcoming week Washington officials have urged people to stay home rather than celebrate the inauguration.
Downtown hotels were closing their doors, and Airbnb has canceled reservations in the days around the event.
Airlines were tightening security, with Delta announcing that legally armed travelers formerly allowed to check their guns at security would not even be allowed to do that on flights to Washington.
In several states, National Guard were also called out to prepare security for January 16-20.
Washington State, Michigan and others said they were concerned about possible far-right violence.
AFP

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Nigeria: Fulani massacre people daily but Miyetti Allah not designated a terrorist group — Kanu

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Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra – a separatist group in eastern Nigeria, has berated the Nigerian government for failing to designate Miyetti Allah as a terrorist group.

Despite the daily killings by Fulani herders, the Federal Government of Nigeria has ignored appeals from Nigerians seeking the designation of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association – a group focused on promoting the welfare of Fulani herders, as a terrorist group.
“We are in a country where the Fulani massacre people on a daily basis. They were called terrorists and later insurgents and now they are called bandits. But these are Fulani herders killing people. Nobody has ever designated Miyetti Allah as a terrorist group,” Kanu said while speaking at the ‘2nd Never Again Conference: 51 Years After Nigerian-Biafra Civil War’ organised by an Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna, and monitored the Nigerian PUNCH Newspaper.
The leader of the separatist group, whose group has been designated as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari but not accepted by the international community, further claimed that Nigeria’s oft-called unity is a deception.

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Catholic Bishop Kukah risks assassination following threats from Nigerian Muslims groups

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A Nigerian bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, faces assassination as another Islamic group threatens him.

Bishop Kukah had received threats from Muslim groups and officials in Nigeria after a homily in which he criticized the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari whom he accused of nepotism, and also referred to the worsening insecurity in the country.
The Muslim Solidarity Forum asked the cleric to apologize for what they called “malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims” and to vacate Sokoto immediately.
The group claims that Bishop Kukah systematically attacks Muhammadu Buhari, who is a Muslim, and other Muslims at all times.
“In February 2020, he (Kukah) shamelessly staged a demonstration in the heart of Sokoto over the killing of a single Christian priest, presumably, by the Boko Haram insurgents, but did not consider hundreds of Muslims, Fulani herders that were mercilessly killed by the Christian militia in Taraba state in 2018,” the Islamic group said in a statement by its acting chairman, Professor Isa Maishanu.
Meanwhile, well-meaning Nigerians and activists have condemned attacks by Muslim groups on Kukah, describing the order asking him to leave Sokoto as a serious threat that could lead to his assassination.
The Nigerian government has yet to release any statement regarding the new threat.

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