Congo police arrest eight activists protesting election delay

Eight democracy activists were arrested in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday before a planned demonstration against the delay of the presidential election, fellow activists said, according to a Reuters report.

President Joseph Kabila has ruled Congo since 2001 and is required by the constitution to step down in December. But the ruling coalition and part of the opposition agreed this month to delay the vote to pick his successor from this November to April 2018, citing problems enrolling millions of voters.

Eight members of youth activist group Struggle for Change (Lucha) were arrested in the eastern city of Goma as they prepared to hold a sit-in near the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Lucha said in a statement.

Six other Lucha members were arrested in Goma on Monday for distributing tracts on a university campus calling for peaceful protests and three more who went to check on them on Tuesday were arrested too, the statement added.

A police spokesman confirmed Wednesday’s arrests, which he said were for troubling public order. He said the public prosecutor would bring charges on Thursday of troubling public order and spying on police against the nine arrested on Monday and Tuesday.

The government released more than a dozen activists, including several Lucha members, in July and August in an attempt to appease the opposition and ease negotiations over the election timetable.

But the main opposition bloc boycotted the talks and violent demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa last month killed dozens. A U.N. report last week said security forces killed at least 48 civilians.