The Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, 63, Nobel Peace Prize 2018, is known worldwide for his intense action for raped women in various conflicts in the DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire).
Trained at the Universities of Burundi, Angers (France) and Brussels (Belgium), Denis Mukwege began his medical career in the early 1980s, in Lemera, South Kivu province, East of the DRC , before moving to France. In 1989, he returned to Lemera to practice in a hospital built with the help of Swedish Pentecostal Missionaries in 1971.
On October 6, 1996, he narrowly escaped the deadly attack on Lemera Hospital in what would become the “First Congo War”. The war, which lasted a year between 1996 and 1997, forced Mobutu Sese Seko to step down after 32 years of rule. The rebel leader Laurent Désiré Kabila, supported by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, replaces the ousted president and changes the name of the country in the DRC, instead of Zaire.
In the hospital, the rebels, for reasons that are still unknown, massacre the sick and medical staff and destroy the health facility. The UN has investigated this war crime (rape of the Geneva Conventions) but the international community has not made much effort to hunt down the culprits and sponsors who could be non-Africans, who came from outside the country. ex-Zaire under cover of the night and impunity.
Quest for truth about the massacre at Lemera Hospital
Denis Mukwege has been working for 22 years searching for the truth. “Our concern is that one day we can tell the truth, why were we murdering people who were on duty to help others. Secondly, justice must be done and the guilty parties answer for their actions, “Denis Mukwege pleaded in a statement to France 24 in 2016.
The doctor, who ran the hospital from 1992 to 1996, later told the media that he developed a sense of guilt. “Because I told the staff, we should not leave the premises and abandon the sick. I thought we were not going to harm innocent people in a hospital bed, “he told RFI.
The victims were buried in a mass grave, as is often the case during conflicts in Africa. Victims already covered by the dust of oblivion, according to human rights activists. Denis Mukwege is one of them. It shows a rare determination in a country that still bears the aftermath of civil war. The search for truth and the denunciation of impunity disturb and are worth to Dr. Mukwege three assassination attempts and several death threats. He travels under escort of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (Monusco).
During the “Second Congo War”, between 1998 and 2003, Denis Mukwege played an important role in saving women victims of mass rape. Sexual assault had become a weapon of war by groups engaged in what looked like “an inter-African conflict” (at least seven countries were involved in fighting in one way or another like Rwanda, the Uganda, Angola and Chad).
“I can not sit idly by”
The Congolese military, responsible for protecting the civilian population, also committed acts of rape against women. From 1999, Denis Mukwege began surgical repair operations on women who had been sexually assaulted at Panzi General Hospital, which he himself founded in Bukavu, capital of South Kivu. Over the years, this institution has specialized in the care of raped women, including in times of peace.
Denis Mukwege’s medical commitment has saved thousands of women from death to depression and even madness.
In 2015, the Belgian director Thierry Michel dedicated a documentary to Denis Mukwege, “The man who repairs women: Anger of Hippocrates” (screened in Algeria in December 2015 for the 6th International Festival of Algiers dedicated to committed film). The documentary was banned in the DRC, the director was accused of wanting to “dirty the image of the Congolese army.” “In conflict zones, battles take place on women’s bodies. I witness mass atrocities committed on the bodies of women and against women. I can not stand idly by, “said Denis Mukwege at a Hillary Clinton Award ceremony, given by the Georgetown Institute for Women in Washington (2014). The American comedian Ben Affleck, co-founder in 2010 of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) NGO with businesswoman Whitney Williams, supported the doctor’s efforts by publicly praising his exemplary courage.
“Every woman raped, I identify her to my wife”
In Thierry Michel’s documentary, the gynecologist said that he had operated on the same women in two or even three times to highlight the recurrent nature of the rapes in eastern Congo without any real fight on the part of the state. Assaults that even affect young girls. “We see what even a surgeon’s eye can not get used to seeing. Every woman raped, I identify it to my wife, every mother raped, I identify it to my mother and every child raped, I identify it to my children. How can we shut up? Asked Denis Mukwege in front of the European Parliament receiving the Sakharov Prize in 2014.
According to several reports, more than 500,000 rape cases have been committed in the DRC since the beginning of the disturbances in 1996. In Panzi Hospital alone, more than 45,000 women have been operated on after having suffered rapes and mutilations in the country. ‘genital tool. In Bukavu, Denis Mukwege, who is also an evangelical pastor, is considered “a saint”, “a hero”, “a superman”, “a Messiah” “a father” …
The people of South Kivu adore this outstanding doctor who made known to the world the massive practice of rape in his country (more than 1000 women would be raped daily, according to the RTBF).
Denis Mukwege has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize without obtaining it. It was not until 2018 that he managed to win the prize after having already won several distinctions such as the United Nations Human Rights Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, the Right Livelihood Award, the Sakharov Prize and the German Media Prize. Curiously, political and scientific Africa continues to ignore the gigantic humanitarian efforts of Denis Mukwege.
Since 1960, Africa has won the Nobel Peace Prize ten times: Albert Lutuli (South Africa in 1960), Anwar Sadat (1978), Desmond Tutu (South Africa in 1984), Nelson Mandela and Frederik De Klerk ( South Africa in 1994), Kofi Annan (Ghana in 2001), Wangari Muta Maathai (Kenya in 2004), Mohamed El Baradei (Egypt in 2005), Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia in 2011), the National Dialogue Quartet (Tunisia in 2015) and Denis Mukewege (DRC in 2018).