Six teenage members of the Burundian robotics team who participated in the international robotics competition in Washington, D.C., last week are still missing.
Reports of their disappearance surfaced Wednesday, after the Washington police department tweeted fliers of missing persons asking for help in finding the six, who were last seen in the area of the First Global Challenge during Tuesday’s final matches, according to CBS News.
The missing teens include two 17-year-old girls and four males aged from 16 to 18. The police have since reported that two of the six high school students were seen crossing in to Canada and that there are no signs of foul play.
The team’s mentor Canisius Bindaba told the police that the teens disappeared after the competition and he doesn’t know where they went. Efforts by the police to contact one of the missing teen’s uncles have reportedly been futile.
Who’s to Blame?
In a statement released on Wednesday, First Global, the group that organized the competition, said it made the initial call to the police on Tuesday night immediately after it was made aware of the disappearance.
“Security of the students is of paramount importance to First Global,” the statement read, adding that the organization always makes sure students get to their dormitories after the competition by providing safe transportation to students staying at Trinity Washington University.
Although no one has been blamed for the mysterious disappearance of the six Burundian teens, First Global insists that the students are required to always remain under close supervision of their adult mentors and are advised not to leave their dormitories “unaccompanied by their mentors.”
The six students can be seen on the competition’s website posing with a Burundian flag before they boarded a plane to the United States for the competition.
A Hostile Leader
Burundi has been in turmoil since April 2015, when the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his plan to run for a third term in office after his second and final term came to an end.
The announcement sparked nationwide protests, with hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters calling on Nkurunziza to step down.
In response to the protests, the Burundian government shut down the country’s Internet and telephone network, closed all universities, and termed the protesters “terrorists.”
Since then, hundreds of people have died and tens of thousands have been forced to flee the country as the government intensifies its crackdown on dissenting voices.
In fact, in 2016, 11 pupils were arrested and charged with insulting President Nkurunziza, after they scribbled on his photos in a textbook as a sign of defiance.
Some reports have suggested that the six missing Burundian teenagers may have crossed in to Canada because they didn’t want to return to Burundi.