DR Congo's pro-democracy Lucha movement has suffered the arrest of 36 activists involved in a sit-in protest against the Indian telecoms operator Airtel, AFP reported on Saturday September 21st.
According to Lucha spokesman Steward Muhindo, the activists, who were holding a protest earlier in the week in the eastern city of Goma, had been detained for making "defamatory statements" slandering the company's reputation.
The protest, the second in 6 months, demanded Airtel, one of the three main telecom operators in the vast central African region, to provide better services at lower prices and to make GPS functions available on its phones to locate kidnapped people.
In May, similar protests erupted when the Fight for Change (LUCHA) civil society group called for a sit-in protest in Goma on May 3rd to denounce the rising cost of telecommunication services, according to a local media source Garda World.
According to a statement by Muhindo, the arrests took place on Wednesday and Thursday. Thirteen activists were transferred to the central prison in the city, and the other 23 were sent to the prosecutor's office.
"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.
President Felix Tshisekedi, who was sworn into office in DR Congo on earlier this year, has promised further improvement in the country's human rights record. Meanwhile, a group of 36 Congolese human rights organisations condemned the arrests.