A well known comedian in Burundi has on Tuesday evening been apprehended by the country’s National Intelligence Service (known by its French acronym, SNR) and charged for poking fun at President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The detention of the humorist and Buja FM radio host Alfred Aubin Mugenzi popularly known as “Kigingi” was confirmed by his family members on Friday.
It is gathered that Kigingi was apprehended at a hotel in Muramvya, 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of the capital, while on a promotional tour for a beer company.
According to a relative, “He was transferred to Bujumbura and is being held in the SNR dungeons, but no one has been allowed to see him”.
The relative, who pleaded anonymity, said Mugenzi’s family fears that the funny man may suffer the same fate as others taken by the SNR, who, according to human rights groups, are commonly tortured or simply left to rot in jail.
Meantime, SNR officers told the relative that Mugenzi was arrested “for contempt of the head of state” after a skit he performed in neighbouring Rwanda last year, in which he lampooned football-mad third-term Nkurunziza, showing him refusing to leave the pitch despite receiving two yellow cards.
Nkurunziza’s refusal to stand down after two terms and instead run for a controversial third mandate in 2015 triggered bloody unrest, a failed military coup and months of violence that has killed hundreds of people and driven a quarter of a million to flee the country.
Nkurunziza, a Christian and former sports teacher, is the player-owner of Hallelujah FC, where he is frequently the top scorer.
An intelligence official confirmed Mugenzi’s arrest saying the comic routine was “insulting the president”.
“He will soon be released, this time,” the official added.