DRC mobile operators to be taken to court by opposition politicians

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

Parliamentary leaders of the political opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are taking the country’s mobile operators to court for suspending their numbers for one month without any valid reasons.

The suspension started on the eve of the famous 19 January 2015 when millions of angry Congolese in the capital Kinshasa, as well as in Goma and Bukavu, took to the streets to protest against a controversial electoral law.

Local and international calls, SMS and internet were consequently disconnected on the order of the government. The cut lasted about a month, during which the telephone numbers of many opposition politicians were blocked.

Mobile operators Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Orange will have to justify this month-long suspension in the Gombe Commercial Court in the near future in a date still to be announced.

The plantiffs, including presidential hopeful Vital Kamhere, Fidele Babala, Frank Diongo, Jean-Claude Mvuemba, want these companies to pay them US$500 000 each in damages for their action.

Kamhere, who is a former ally of President Joseph Kabila and a former Parliament Speaker, is increasingly seen as the country’s next head of state.

Many observers in the capital Kinshasa believe the mobile companies’ action was politically motivated, meaning was ordered ‘from the top’.

“Yes, it’s true. We opened two cases, one at the commercial court against the mobile operators and another one at the Gombe Magistrate’s Court against the security forces. It’s going to be interesting,” an opposition source told Biztechafrica on Sunday, adding that the plaintiffs were hoping that justice will be done without fear or favour.

NGOs and legal experts regularly criticise DRC's underpaid magistrates and judges for becoming ‘government tools’ to settle political disputes and demonstrate the show of power.

Mobile operators have not issued a formal statement.

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