Thousands of people mobilized in the streets of Bukavu on Thursday, September 3, 2020 to denounce the threats made against Dr. Denis Mukwege and to support his fight against impunity in the face of grave human rights violations that have been committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than two decades.
Residents from all over the city of Bukavu and its surroundings woke up early Thursday, September 3 to respond to the call to march peacefully, an initiative launched by the citizen movement ‘Réveil des Indignés’. Since his tweet denouncing the massacre that took place in Kipupu on July 16 in South Kivu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Director of the Panzi Hospital has been the target of serious threats.
More than 500 members of the National Movement of Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC began their journey at the Panzi Hospital where they left gifts for Dr. Mukwege; other demonstrators started from the ISP roundabout in Bukavu through Nyawera to the Cabinet of the Governor of South Kivu in Nyamoma. In the crowd were many citizen movements, civil society actors, activists, political actors, survivors of sexual violence as well as other citizens came to support the fight of Dr. Mukwege to say no to impunity and to demand that justice be made against the serious human rights violations committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, many of which are listed in the UN Mapping Report.
Armed with banners carrying messages of support and demands for protection, demonstrators refused to stand idly by as Dr. Mukwege is targeted with threats and a campaign of demonization domestically and abroad in response to the fight for justice he has been leading.
For the group Réveil des Indignés and thousands of demonstrators, threatening Dr. Mukwege is only a headlong rush from those who are involved in the atrocities. “Dr. Mukwege has chosen to defend the fundamental rights of the weak. To do this, he has become the voice of all victims of violence. His fight for truth, justice, and human rights has earned him great recognition and respect at the global level to award him various prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize. To utter threats against him with the aim of silencing him is tantamount to attacking our nation and even all of humanity,” explains a protester, member of the movement Réveil des Indignés.
Respond to hate messages with love
The women of the National Movement of Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC expressed their support for Dr. Mukwege with a special gesture. More than 80 buses from Kavumu, Bagira, and Bukavu filled with survivors, some of whom were treated by Dr. Mukwege himself, disembarked with goats, vegetables, and other gifts. “We are ready to give our lives for the Doctor,” they said in front of the crowd and Dr. Mukwege before adding: “We came to tell him that no matter what will happen, we are standing with him because he helped us get back on our feet,” says Tatiana Mukanire, the National Coordinator of the Survivors’ Movement.
Speaking to thank those he considers courageous heroines, Dr. Mukwege once again preached of love and peace. The man who mends women called to forgive and to never insult anyone, but to stand up for the truth: “When you fight for justice and peace, learn to speak the truth. You cannot have justice and peace without speaking the truth. Even if we are chased like birds, if we are in the truth, we will stay there. Respond to hatred with love, slander with truth, and forgive those who offend you. Do not respond to hatred with hatred but rather with love,” he urged.
See you on October 1, the anniversary of the UN Mapping Report
Dr. Mukwege, with unshaken determination, called for the five hundred women of the Survivors’ Movement to gather again on October 1, 2020, marking the 10th anniversary of the publication of the UN Mapping Report. Dr. Mukwege has repeatedly called for the implementation of the recommendations made in the report. He denounced the silence around the report as well as the non-publication of appendices that cite perpetrators of serious crimes that occurred in the DRC. “On October 1, come and demand justice for all the Congolese who have been killed or affected in one way or another. Let the world know that the women of the DRC are not asking for repressive justice, but for reparative justice.”
This is the first time that Dr. Denis Mukwege has spoken publicly since the beginning of threats and campaign of demonization against him. At home and around the world, messages of support have poured in. Social actors, diplomats, heads of state and even politicians have called for strengthening security around the one who has become the symbol of the fight against sexual violence throughout the world.