A talented young robotics team from Burundi has gone missing after attending an international robotics competition in Washington.
It should have been a positive and memorable experience, but excitement quickly turned to horror when the chaperone could not find the six clever teenagers following the competition’s conclusion.
The chaperone searched the Trinity Washington University dormitories where the youths had been staying and it was worryingly clear that their luggage was packed and gone…
There is no better feeling than making your country proud. Congratulations to all participating teams. You are all winners! pic.twitter.com/OQXV1zqLqK
— FIRST Global (@F1RSTglobal) July 19, 2017
Police believe that two out of the six kids, 16-year-old Don Ingabire and 17-year-old Audrey Mwamikazi, were spotted crossing over into Canada. Police do not suspect any foul play.
So far, there has been no sign of the other missing teenagers: 17-year-old Nice Munezero, 18-year-old Richard Irakoze, 18-year-old Aristide Irambona, and 17-year-old Kevin Sabumukiza.
Competition organisers First Global have suggested that the vanishing could have been ‘self-initiated’, noting the following tell-tale signs:
There were indications that the students’ absence may have been self-initiated, including leaving all their keys in their mentor/chaperone’s bag and the removal of students’ clothes from their rooms
— Micaela Teps (@micteps) July 20, 2017
Many Burundian Nationals fled the country after political violence escalated back in 2015, when activists protested against the third presidential term of controversial leader Pierre Nkurunziza.
Amnesty International has reported that there have been arbitrary arrest, disappearances and deaths as a result of the unrest.
However, Chairman of the United Burundian-American Community Association Inc, Oscar Niyiragira has suggested that the robotics team’s disappearance could be more due to ‘economic impoverishment’ in Burundi.
The US Citizen and Immigration services have declined to comment on whether the young people have sought asylum, as have the Canadian immigration authorities.
Washington Police have now distributed missing-person flyers in the hope of finding the teens. We just hope that wherever these young people are, they are safe and well.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.