A group of African students from Burundi vanished after traveling to Washington D.C. for the annual First Global Robotics Challenge on Tuesday (July 18). Authorities from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department are investigating, but do not believe that foul play was involved.
“We have been in touch with the Metropolitan Police Department; they told us that they are doing what they can to find those teens,” Benjamin Manirakiza, first counselor in the Burundi Embassy in Washington, said Friday (July 21) according to Reuters .”We have confidence in the capacity of the police.”
The teens, who range from ages 16 to 18, were reported missing immediately after the Robotics Challenge. Organizers for the event believe that the disappearance was “self-initiated.”
The teams’ coach, Canesius Bindaba, told the Washington Post that he heard rumors of a premeditated disappearing act.
Bindaba wasn’t chaperoning the group after the competition ended, and assumed that they were headed back to their dorms.
“I just tried to build some kind of trust, hoping they were just rumors,” Bindaba, who was headed back home to Burundi, told the Post during a layover in Kenya. “I feel cheated and disappointed by those who planned this behind my back.”
Two of the teens — identified as Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, and Don Ingabire, 16— were reportedly seen crossing the border into Canada. No information has been released on the possible whereabouts of the remaining students: Nice Munezero, 17, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, Richard Irakoze, 18, and Aristide Irambona, 18.
Thousands of students from around the globe gathered in D.C. this week for First Global’s annual “Olympic style” robotics challenge. The yearly event is aimed at igniting a “passion” for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).