Rebels who captured 10 Tanzanian and Kenyan truck drivers from Namoyo, South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are demanding hefty ransom for their release.

The hostage takers are believed to be Mai Mai rebels.

Head of Communications in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Ms Mindi Kasiga, told reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the kidnappers have given 24 hours, which expired yesterday at 16:00 hours for settling the payments. Ms Kasiga said that the captors demanded 4,000 US dollars, equivalent to 8.7 million/-, for each driver so that they can be released.

“Tanzanian government has taken preliminary measures to rescue the drivers including communicating with DRC government for the drivers to be released safely,” she said. Ms Kasiga explained that according to preliminary reports, 12 drivers were kidnapped together with their trucks on Wednesday.

Two of them managed to escape and helped to inform about the incident. She said the kidnappers were suspected to be members of the Mai Mai rebel group operating in the eastern DRC’s borderland.

Ms Kasiga explained that after ambushing the trucks, the rebels ordered the drivers to disembark from their vehicles as the kidnappers set on fire four trucks belonging to Tanzanian businessman Azim Dewji. According to Ms Kasiga, out of the 12 trucks seized, eight belonged to Dewji and four of them were the property of a Kenyan businessman.

“This is the second incident after the one which occurred last year whereby Muslim clerics from Tanzania were kidnapped in DR Congo but with the cooperation of the two countries, they were released without any harm,” Ms Kasiga said. She added: “I believe that the measures taken to rescue the Muslim clerics will also be applied to rescue the drivers.”

She, however, called upon the business community in the country to ensure that they get enough information regarding security of the areas with problems such as eastern DRC, particularly Kivu Province before transporting their goods.