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DR Congo activists arrested for Airtel protest

Sunday September 22 2019

DRC police

A DRC police officer patrols in Kinshasa, on December 20, 2018. On September 21, 2019, police arrested 36 activist for for staging a protest against the country's branch of Indian telecoms operator Airtel PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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GOMA,

Thirty-six activists from DR Congo's pro-democracy Lucha movement have been arrested for staging a protest against the country's branch of Indian telecoms operator Airtel, the group said Saturday.

The activists are being held for making "defamatory statements" against the Congolese arm of Airtel, Lucha spokesman Steward Muhindo told AFP, after they held a sit-in protest earlier in the week in the eastern city of Goma.

They were calling for better services at lower prices from Airtel, one of the three main telecom operators in the vast central African country whose average income is below $2 a day.

ABDUCTIONS

The opposition movement Lucha (Struggle for Change), which held previous protest against Airtel in May, also wants the operator to use the GPS function on its phones to help locate kidnapped people.

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Abduction is a scourge in Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province which is riven by conflict between armed groups.

After the arrests on Wednesday and Thursday, 13 of the activists have been transferred to the city's central prison while the other 23 have been sent to the prosecutor's office, Muhindo said.

CRITICISM

A group of 36 Congolese human rights organisations condemned the arrests.

"It is deplorable that the young people who remind Airtel of its obligations are physically attacked, arrested and tortured each time, with the culpable silence of leadership," the group wrote in a statement.

President Felix Tshisekedi has touted an improvement in the country's human rights since he took office in January.