Last Thursday evening, Congolese humanitarian Dr. Denis Mukwege narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in his hometown of Bukavu in southeastern DR Congo. Returning home from a visit to Europe, a group of four to five gunmen took Dr. Mukwege’s daughters hostage and killed one of his bodyguards.
Capturing the attention of humanitarians worldwide, Dr. Mukwege’s work with Physicians for Human Rights and his outspokenness against the sexual violence against women has made him one of Congo’s most high-profile personalities and a past Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Calling for Dr. Mukwege’s protection and his due recognition from the international community, New York Times’ Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote this op-ed piece:
One of my heroes is Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who repairs fistulas and is a ferocious advocate for women and for his country. I’ve suggested that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize—and I was horrified to learn that tonight four armed gunmen attacked him at his home, murdered his guard and shot at him. He seems to have narrowly escaped death.
Dr. Mukwege presumably was targeted because of a strong speech he gave at the United Nations last month, denouncing mass rape in Congo and the impunity for it. President Kabila has long been angry at Dr. Mukwege, and the UN speech can’t have helped. Meanwhile, Dr. Mukwege has also offended Rwanda with his denunciations of Rwanda’s role in the slaughter and rape in eastern Congo.
Although he is a skilled surgeon who could easily have left for other countries, Dr. Mukwege has toiled in Congo at the hospital he started in Bukavu, Panzi Hospital. Here’s an article I wrote about his work repairing fistulas there. But Dr. Mukwege doesn’t just repair individuals: He concluded that “there is no medical solution,” and so he has become an advocate for peace and for his country.
I hope the UN force in Bukavu will protect Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for the time being. I hope foreign ambassadors will visit his hospital to show solidarity. Here’s a statement by Physicians for Human Rights, which works with Dr. Mukwege at Panzi Hospital. And I hope that Dr. Mukwege some day will get the Nobel Peace Prize for the humanitarian work he continuously risks his life to advance.
Responding to the escalated sexual violence after the removal of DR Congo’s dictator by rebels in 1997, Dr. Mukwege opened Panzi Hospital, a Bukavu facility that has treated 30,000+ women since its 1999 opening. He has also become a leading expert in treating woman who have been gang-raped.
At the United Nations in September, Dr. Mukwege made a public statement denouncing widespread rape in his home country. Some say his speech was likely a motivation for the gunmen’s attempt on his life.