Standing with the Doctor
Hundreds of people could be found marching in the streets of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday.
They raised their voices in solidarity with Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege – who has been the target of death threats since July after he publicly condemned an 18-person massacre in the strife-torn region on social media.
Even women the doctor had medically attended to following acts of sexual violence joined the march after first gathering at his hospital in nearby Panzi to express concern and show support.
Words from the Streets
An impassioned demonstrator, Roger Buhendwa, shared his thoughts, “Ever since the doctor denounced the massacre in Kipupu, there is a certain group of people who have been targeting him and we find that it is not normal because he is a human rights defender and it is his duty to sound the alarm when things are not working.”
Another activist, Josaphat Baraka, also made
“We demand the safety of Dr Denis Mukwege at all levels, nationally and regionally. The authorities need to find the people behind these threats and the justice system needs to do its work.”
“We are calling for Dr Denis Mukwege to have security, for the authorities to find the people behind this threat,” said campaigner Josaphat Baraka.
Before these protests, the locally respected doctor had already been garnering support both at home and abroad.
The United Nations’ peacekeeping force in the DRC has also pledged its support and the organisation’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, urged the government to swiftly investigate the threats and bring those responsible to justice last Friday.
President Felix Tshisekedi vowed to see that the interior, security and justice ministers and other officials “take all measures necessary” to ensure his security and find the perpetrators behind the threats.
Chief Leila Zerrougui of The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), also stated on Wednesday, “We are working together on sustainable solutions that will enable Dr. Mukwege and the hospital to be protected by the Congolese institutions, by Congo, and obviously the mission, as a partner, will play its part.”
In addition to providing medical care to victims of sexual violence in war at his hospital, Mukwege has been campaigning for human rights violators to receive punishment from crimes committed during the two Congolese wars of 1996-98 and 1998-2003 — especially as their lingering effects can still be felt in the country today.
Dr Denis Mukwege is a renowned gynaecologist who won the Nobel Prize in 2018 for his work aiding victims of sexual violence in war.