Popular Burundian comedian and radio host Alfred Aubin Mugenzi, known popularly as Kigingi, was arrested and detained for three days by SNR agents from the country’s national intelligence service on 29 March 2016, family members told News 24 on 1 April 2016.
Agents told the comedian’s family that he was arrested for contempt for a skit he performed last year in Rwanda, in which he made fun of president Pierre Nkurunziza running for a controversial third term. Kigingi’s sketch portrayed Nkurunziza as a football player who refused to leave the field after receiving two yellow cards – a metaphor for his refusal to not seek a third presidency bid.
Kigingi was arrested while on a promotional tour for a beer company in a hotel 50 kilometres outside of the capital Bujumbura and was released on 1 April 2016.
A troubling trend
The comedian’s detention is just one of many in a series of attacks on artists as the country continues to suffer through popular protests that began almost a year ago due to Nkurunziza’s announcement of standing for a third term in office, which is against the constiution. He won the contested election in July 2015.
In January 2016 musician Cedric “Bangy” Bangirinama was detained for three weeks for statements critical of the president. He apologised for the statements upon his release. Also that month, musician Pascal Treasury Nshimirimana, known as Lisuba, was arrested and killed around unclear circumstances, though some think it was due to his involvement in anti-regime demonstrations.
“We are witnessing a troubling trend of persecution in Burundi that is affecting people in all walks of life, including artists whose voices are being silenced,” Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov said. “The dangerous political situation in the country is undermining the rights of artists and citizens to express themselves artistically or otherwise.”
In Freemuse’s annual report, Art Under Threat, on attacks on artistic freedom of expression, it noted that in 2014 Burundi had no cases of violations reported; however, due to the escalated violence, the country registered 10 serious attacks in 2015, rocketing it to fourth worst country in 2015 for artists, tying it with Syria and Turkey.
Since the president’s announcement violence has drastically escalated against opposition members and sympathisers, civil society actors, media and artists, among many others, leading to hundreds of deaths and the exodus of nearly 250,000 people to neighbouring countries as of 7 March 2016, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Photo from artist’s Facebook page
» News 24 – 1 April 2016:
Feared Burundian police arrest comedian
» Le Figaro – 1 April 2016:
Burundi: Comedian arrested for contempt
» Vice News – 1 April 2016:
Burundi just arrested a comedian for making fun of the president
» Freemuse.org – 10 March 2016:
Burundi: Musician detained for insulting head of state
» Freemuse.org – 22 February 2016:
Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015
» Freemuse.org – 6 January 2016:
Burundi: Musician shot by police
» Freemuse.org – 28 September 2015:
Burundi: Musicians menaced, silenced and fleeing the country