December 31, 2019
Bukavu, DRC — Message from Dr. Denis Mukwege for the End of the Year
On the night of December 30, 1998, the day before New Year’s Eve, the people of Makobola, 150 km south of Bukavu, hoped for a peaceful end-of-year celebration. Women and men joyfully prepared for celebrations, lulled by the gentle warmth of the Ruzizi plain.
Bursts of laughter infused with innocence filtered from the huts. Life was in full swing when suddenly a horde of criminals surrounded the village. For this community, it was the end—the unspeakable had arrived. Women were raped before being shredded by Kalashnikov machine guns. Men were chopped by machetes. Children’s bodies were charred in an exterminating fire motivated by greed and hatred. The next day the macabre count reported 702 decimated bodies, hastily buried.
Even today, the only grave these children, women and men have is the deafening silence of the national and international community. This is the same silence which has embalmed six million dead from the Congo Wars. Yet, a mapping report exists where the experts of the United Nations methodically and professionally describe the places of the massacres, the perpetrators, the methodology of the murders, the number of victims, and so on. This report should be exhumed from the drawers of the United Nations, where it has languished for years. Only then will the ringleaders and executioners of Makobola and Kasika be toppled from their pedestals and from the power that they continue to hold in the region, shrouded by arrogance and impunity. Twenty years later, these desecrated bodies and their broken lives cry not for revenge, but for justice. Until this justice arrives, Makobola and the many other regions of mass crimes, crimes against humanity, and even crimes of genocide committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain a gaping wound on the conscience of our common humanity. Their memory will haunt us forever. Their memory will continue to be written in indelible ink of blood and shame. Their memory will be a legacy of irresponsibility from our generation to future generations.
December 31 is traditionally a holiday for us. But it should also and most importantly also be a day of refusal—refusal to forget the 55 women raped on New Year’s Eve 2011 in the Misufi district of Fizi under the order of Colonel Kibibi supported by foreign troops. Despite immediate sentencing, this case is now entering its ninth year of unsuccessful trial. Let us not forget either the hundreds of thousands of raped women, the massacred families, and many others who will not celebrate with us, those who perished in DR Congo and elsewhere around the world; whether Rohingya or from Beni, from Iraq or Mwenga, from Libya or Minembwe; those who have been torn from our affection by the barbarity and greed of men.
We are thinking of them—sympathizing with the suffering of the survivors will be an act of responsibility and collective dignity.
Dr Denis Mukwege
December 10, 2019
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo — One year after the Oslo ceremony, the first Congolese Nobel Prize Recipient in history presents his review of a year of advocacy
Since December 10, 2018, the date when the Nobel Peace was awarded in Oslo to Nadia Murad and me, I have traveled around the world as part of a global campaign for women’s human rights, justice, and peace.
We have witnessed a growing global awareness of the existence and gravity of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and as a strategy of domination and terror, and even extermination.
This recognition is crucial because to tackle a problem, it must first and foremost be recognized. This was the case in the past, so it’s a significant change.
At the global level, we note with satisfaction several developments.
First, the Global Fund for Survivors was officially launched on October 30 in New York.
For 10 years, we have have been advocating at the national and international levels for reparations for victims of sexual violence, without receiving enough attention.
Since the Nobel Prize, we have received much more support from several states, including France and Germany, as well as from the European Union, which have already committed to assist us in the restoration of the dignity of the survivors.
This innovative, survivor-centered and needs-based mechanism will address current gaps in domestic and international justice, and will consist of a fund that will provide reparations through individual and collective rehabilitation and rehabilitation programs and projects. In countries that deny responsibility or need support, we will support them through technical and/or financial assistance.
Second, the G7 Summit in Biarritz last August focused on gender equality and sexual violence in conflict, and I had the honor of co-chairing the Advisory Council for Gender Equality.
Working with a diverse group of individuals, all committed to the human rights of women, we have identified 79 progressive legislative measures adopted by legislators from all continents, and we have proposed a legislative package oriented on four axes aimed at:
- Ending gender-based violence;
- Ensuring the rights to education and health for all;
- Promoting economic empowerment; and finally
- Ensuring full equality between women and men in public policies.
The Heads of State and Government pledged in Biarritz to implement our recommendations, including by incorporating into their national system at least one progressive law on women’s rights by the next G7 and eliminating those that discriminate against them.
It is also an important step forward at the level of the Summit that once dealt exclusively with economic and financial issues, and recognizes today that we cannot build a prosperous or secure world without respecting women’s rights and benefit from their full inclusion and their added value.
We can therefore recognize today that our struggle for the dignity of women is on the agenda of the international community, and that the issue of sexual violence in times of conflict is finally gaining visibility among politicians and decision-makers.
Thirdly, the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2467 emphasized the need for recognition and care of children born of rape, to adopt a victim-centered approach, and also strengthen the mechanisms of sanctions against the perpetrators and instigators of violence.
Fourth, the establishment of a Global Survivors Network has consolidated in a context where more and more women are breaking the silence and denouncing rape, sexual violence, and abuse.
This is of great importance because shame should weigh more on the shoulders of the abusers. It is crucial to break the silence, the absolute weapon used by the tormentors, which has prevailed too long in the field of sexual violence, in times of war but also times of peace.
We hope that this will contribute to ending the climate of impunity that has prevailed for too long in the field of sexual crimes.
This is fundamental because justice is an important tool both to prevent sexual violence and to complete the long process of healing victims.
Lastly, the 1st Congress of the International Universities with the Mukwege Chairs was held at the University of Liege this autumn and brought together researchers and professors from all over the world to share their experience and expertise on the answers needed to improve survivors of sexual violence in times of conflict and help ensure that the holistic assistance needed by victims is recognized as a human right to rehabilitation.
These advances reflect a new dynamic that is breaking with indifference and giving us hope and strength to continue our struggle and make our world a better place.
At the level of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we have not yet observed the dividends of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The security situation is deteriorating in the east of the country, in Ituri, in the Kivus, but also in Maniema. The massacres continue every day as mere news items.
In the face of this permanent scandal, we make two appeals to the Congolese authorities and the international community to advance on the road to peace in the heart of Africa:
- The need for a transparent and responsible trade in the minerals of Eastern Congo. We urge the adoption of mechanisms that allow complete traceability of extraction sites in the mines of eastern Congo to the finished product purchased by consumers in stores around the world. It is only in these conditions that the globalization of the economy can go hand in hand with the universality of human rights and that we will finally be able to transform the minerals of blood into minerals for the endogenous development of the Congo.
- The implementation of the recommendations of the Mapping Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights on the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in the DRC on mass graves and a denial of truth and justice. That is why we call on the Congolese authorities and the international community to mobilize to exploit the recommendations of the Mapping Report and to use all the mechanisms of transitional justice advocated since 2010; establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal for the DRC and/or mixed specialized chambers, a truth commission, reparations programs, and guarantees of non-repetition, such as the consolidation of our institutions and a profound reform of the security and justice sector.
We will therefore continue our advocacy to respond to these two issues — a clean trade in minerals and the use of transitional justice tools— as they are the prerequisites for building lasting peace in DR Congo and the Great Lakes Region.
Bukavu, République Démocratique du Congo — Un an après la cérémonie d’Oslo, le 1er Prix Nobel congolais de l’Histoire présente le bilan d’une année de plaidoyer
Depuis le 10 décembre 2018, date à laquelle le Prix Nobel de la Paix nous a été décerné à Oslo avec Me Nadia Murad, nous avons sillonné de monde dans le cadre d’une campagne mondiale pour les droits humains de la femme, la justice et la paix.
Nous avons assisté à une prise de conscience globale de l’existence et de la gravité de l’utilisation des violences sexuelles comme arme de guerre et comme stratégie de domination et de terreur, voire même d’extermination.
Cette reconnaissance est cruciale car pour s’attaquer à un problème, il doit d’abord et avant tout être reconnu. Ce n’était pas le cas dans le passé, et c’est donc un changement significatif.
Au niveau global, nous notons avec satisfaction plusieurs évolutions.
En premier lieu, le Fonds Mondial pour les Survivantes a été officiellement lancé le 30 octobre à New York.
Cela faisait 10 ans que nous plaidions aux niveaux national et international pour obtenir des réparations pour les victimes de violences sexuelles, sans recevoir suffisamment d’attention.
Depuis le prix Nobel, nous avons reçu beaucoup plus de soutien de la part de plusieurs États, dont la France et l’Allemagne, ainsi que de la part de l’Union européenne, qui se sont déjà engagés à nous accompagner dans la restauration de la dignité des survivantes.
Ce mécanisme novateur, centré sur les survivantes et leurs besoins, visera à combler les lacunes actuelles de la justice domestique et internationale, et consistera en un Fonds qui octroiera des réparations par le biais de programmes et de projets de réhabilitation et de réinsertion individuelle et collective dans les pays qui nient leur responsabilité ou qui ont besoin de soutien pour les assumer par le biais de l’assistance technique et/ou financière.
En deuxième lieu, le sommet du G7 à Biarritz en août dernier a mis l’accent sur l’égalité des sexes et la violence sexuelle dans les conflits, et j’ai eu l’honneur de co-présider le Conseil Consultatif pour l’égalité femmes-hommes.
Avec diverses personnalités engagées dans les droits humains des femmes, nous avons identifié 79 mesures législatives progressistes adoptées par des législateurs issus de tous les continents, et nous avons proposé un bouquet législatif orienté sur 4 axes, visant à :
• Mettre fin à la violence basée sur le genre ;
• Assurer le droit à l’éducation et à la santé pour tous;
• Promouvoir l’autonomisation économique ; et enfin
• Assurer l’égalité complète entre les femmes et les hommes dans les politiques publiques.
Les Chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement se sont engagés à Biarritz à mettre en œuvre nos recommandations, notamment en intégrant dans leur système national au moins une loi progressiste relative aux droits des femmes d’ici le prochain G7 et en supprimant celles qui les discriminent.
Il s’agit aussi d’une importante avancée au niveau d’un sommet entre puissances qui autrefois s’occupait exclusivement de questions économiques et financières, et qui reconnaît aujourd’hui qu’on ne pourra pas construire un monde prospère ni sûr sans respecter les droits de la femme et bénéficier de leur pleine inclusion et de leur plusvalue.
Nous pouvons donc reconnaître aujourd’hui que notre lutte pour la dignité des femmes est à l’ordre du jour de la communauté internationale, et que la question des violences sexuelles en temps de conflit gagne enfin en visibilité auprès des responsables politiques et des décideurs.
En troisième lieu, l’adoption de la résolution 2467 du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies a mis l’accent sur le besoin de reconnaissance et de prise en charge des enfants nés du viol, d’adopter une approche centrée sur les victimes, et aussi de renforcer les mécanismes de sanctions contres les auteurs et instigateurs de la violence.
En quatrième lieu, la mise en place d’un Réseau Mondial de Survivantes s’est consolidé dans un contexte où de plus en plus de femmes rompent le silence et dénoncent le viol, la violence sexuelle et les abus.
Nous avons été particulièrement inspiré par nos visites à Bogota et à Pristina sur invitation d’association de victimes de la guerre, où le plaidoyer des femmes survivantes a largement contribué à l’adoption d’initiatives de justice transitionnelle, telles que le Tribunal Spécial pour la Paix en Colombie et la Commission pour la reconnaissance et la vérification du statut des victimes de violence sexuelle durant la guerre de libération du Kosovo.
Cela revêt une grande importance, car la honte devrait peser davantage sur les épaules des auteurs. Il est crucial de briser le silence, cette arme absolue utilisée par les bourreaux, qui a trop longtemps prévalu en matière de violence sexuelle, en temps de guerre mais aussi en temps de paix.
Nous espérons que cela permettra de contribuer à mettre fin au climat d’impunité qui prévaut depuis trop longtemps en matière de crimes sexuels.
Cela est fondamental car la justice est un outil important à la fois pour prévenir les violences sexuelles mais aussi pour parachever le long processus de guérison des victimes.
Enfin, le 1er Congrès de la Chaire Internationale Mukwege s’est tenu à l’Université de Liège cet automne et a rassemblé des chercheurs et professeurs venus du monde entier pour partager leur expérience et leur expertise sur les réponses à apporter pour améliorer la prise en charge des survivantes de violences sexuelles en période de conflit et contribuer à ce que l’assistance holistique dont les victimes ont besoin soit reconnu comme un droit humain à la réhabilitation.
Ces progrès reflètent une nouvelle dynamique qui consacre une rupture par rapport à l’indifférence et qui nous donnent l’espoir et la force pour poursuivre notre lutte et pour rendre notre monde meilleur.
Au niveau de la République Démocratique du Congo (RDC), nous n’avons pas encore observé les dividendes du Prix Nobel de la Paix.
La situation sécuritaire se dégrade dans l’Est du pays, en Ituri, dans les Kivus mais aussi au Maniema. Les massacres se poursuivent chaque jour comme de simples faits divers.
Face à ce scandale permanent, nous lançons deux appels aux autorités congolaises et à la communauté internationale pour avancer sur le chemin de la paix au cœur de l’Afrique :
1. La nécessité d’un commerce transparent et responsable des minerais de l’Est du Congo. Nous appelons de nos vœux l’adoption de mécanismes permettant une traçabilité complète des lieux d’extraction dans les mines de l’Est du Congo jusqu’au produit fini acheté par les consommateurs dans les magasins du monde entier. C’est seulement dans ces conditions que la globalisation de l’économie pourra aller de pair avec l’universalité des droits humains et que nous pourrons enfin transformer les minerais de sang en minerais pour le développement endogène du Congo.
2. La mise en œuvre des recommandations du rapport Mapping du Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les droits de l’Homme sur les graves violations des droits de l’homme et du droit international humanitaire commises en RDC entre 93 et 2003. On ne pourra enrayer les cycles de violence et construire la paix en RDC sur des fosses communes et sur un déni de vérité et de justice. Telle est la raison pour laquelle nous appelons les autorités congolaises et la communauté internationale à se mobiliser pour exploiter les recommandations du rapport Mapping et d’utiliser tous les mécanismes de la justice transitionnelle préconisés depuis 2010 : établissement d’un Tribunal pénal international pour la RDC et/ou de chambres spécialisées mixtes, d’une Commission de la vérité, de programmes de réparation et de garanties de non-répétition, telles qu’un assainissement de nos institutions et une profonde réforme du secteur de la sécurité et de la justice.
Nous poursuivrons donc notre plaidoyer pour répondre à ces deux enjeux – un commerce propre des minerais et le recours aux outils de la justice transitionnelle – car ils constituent les prérequis indispensables pour construire une paix durable en RD Congo et dans la région des Grands Lacs.
October 30, 2019
New York, New York, USA — Statement from Dr. Mukwege
“During the struggle for the control of Bukavu, on 29 October and 30 October 1996, Alliance of the Democratic Forces for Liberation (AFDL) / Rwandan Patriotic Army (APR) units killed over 450 civilians. On 29 October, they fired on the city with heavy weapons, indiscriminately killing civilians and soldiers. After the departure of the FAZ, they opened fire on the people who were trying to escape. They killed many civilians at point-blank range, including Catholic Archbishop Monsignor Munzihirwa, killed in his vehicle with his driver and bodyguard. From 30 October, the soldiers began to systematically search the houses, indiscriminately killing and torturing dozens of people, both civilians and military personnel.”
It’s been exactly 23 years now since the people of Bukavu ran away, fleeing the storm of massacres perpetrated during the capture of the city by raging troops, committed to destroy life.
Men, women and children were cowardly murdered and buried in mass graves. Subsequently, and as if these massacres were not enough, a new strategy of war was used: rapes with extreme violence, a powerfully devastating weapon.
Thousands of women and girls were victims; some of them reached the Panzi Hospital. We listened to them and felt their deep suffering. We treated their bodies as much as we could. But that was not enough; the psychological and social destruction was as serious as the gaping wounds of their intimacy. We will never know the fate of those who, by the thousands, have never been able to reach hospital services, condemned to the fate of wandering and humiliation.
Since that invasion, rape as a weapon of war has spread like wildfire in our villages and towns. This cataclysm has led us to carry the muffled voices of victims beyond the borders of our country.
For 20 years, we have sensitized both the national and the International communities so that they come out of their indifference to these crimes that dishonor our common humanity, but yet, they are consecrated by shameless impunity. Survivors’ suffering should be recognized, justice delivered, and a redress mechanism put in place.
Today, the launch of this Global Fund for Survivors is like a relief and an important step in the long struggle for the rebirth of the victims. The march towards total justice will certainly be long, but this fund represents a turning point.
We wish to express our sincere gratitude to all those who have accompanied us on this path to restore the dignity of the victims.
To the survivors of sexual violence, reparations mean recognition of the harm done to them; it sends them a new message: “Your voice has been heard and the community will accompany you on your pathway back to life with dignity”.
This Global Fund for Survivors is a welcome development. We hope and we will fight for an international justice mechanism to accompany it.
September 1, 2019
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo —Statement from Dr. Mukwege
Today we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Panzi Hospital. Born in a context of conflict, Panzi Hospital has welcomed and served war victims from its first days, including survivors of sexual violence, the wounded, and the displaced.
I remember two colonial homes that were restored to become the hospital and the very first consultations that took place in September 1999. Our choice for where to build the hospital was Panzi neighborhood, in the south of Bukavu. This part of the city was becoming more and more populated, and suffered from a lack of public services.
The situation for pregnant woman in this neighborhood was dire. If there were any complications (for example, if a caesarean section was necessary), they needed to go to Bukavu General Hospital, which was about 10 kilometers away at the other end of the city. In addition to the distance, there were many other security-related obstacles these women faced. There were roadblocks at every street corner as well as national and foreign soldiers who prevented people from passing. Women often succumbed to hemorrhaging when they could not reach a medical center in time.
When we opened Panzi Hospital, we had planned to address these issues by specializing in obstetric care, but a new phenomenon was striking in the region — a wave of rapes accompanied by extreme violence. I was appalled by what was happening before my eyes, and our priorities immediately changed.
Twenty years after the first violent rape operation in 1999, Panzi Hospital has treated more than 55,000 victims of sexual violence. Unfortunately, this figure is constantly increasing: every day between five and seven new survivors arrive seeking treatment for their rapes. At Panzi Hospital, they find a refuge where they can seek healing.
We soon realized that medical treatment was not enough and that survivors needed access to additional services to rebuild their lives. To address this, we developed a four-pillar holistic healing model which combines medical treatment with psychosocial support, socio-economic reintegration services and access to the justice system. Together, these pillars saved lives and repaired souls while allowing survivors to gain independence and demand justice.
We replicated this model outside of Bukavu, opening “one-stop centers” in rural communities and deploying emergency field teams to deal with mass rapes in villages. Our mobile teams also operate vesico-vaginal obstetric fistulas in other provinces of the country.
Recognizing that sexual violence in conflict is not just a problem in the DRC, we want to broaden our vision of holistic healing outside the country by ensuring that victims in the Central African Republic, Burundi, Iraq and elsewhere can access holistic healing and rebuild their lives. One Stop Centers offering Panzi’s global support model will be implemented in the coming months.
It is with great pride that I thank all of the staff of Panzi Hospital and Foundations and the Denis Mukwege Foundation for their hard work and commitment to ending rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and around the world, as the fight against rape in war must be echoed globally. I warmly thank our staff who have always responded bravely by treating each victim with compassion and dignity.
And even if this month we remember the last two decades — and its challenges — we look forward to the future with hope. In the coming years, we will continue to deliver on our vision to remain a center of excellence for the treatment of victims of sexual violence and delivering quality maternal health care, while expanding our legacy. We will do this by serving as a global training center focused on delivering medical treatment for victims of sexual violence in other conflict settings. We will continue to demand justice around the world for the victims by drawing a red line against impunity. We will continue to fight for the Global Fund for Reparations, which we have been advocating for since 2010 and will officially launch on October 30, 2019.
And lastly, we will never cease in our delivery of care for survivors of sexual violence, sharing our vision of a world of solidarity and empowering all survivors to become agents of change. We invite you to join us, and call you to action!
July 9, 2019
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo —Statement from Dr. Mukwege on the conviction of Bosco Ntaganda: We welcome the guilty verdict issued yesterday by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bosco Ntaganda.
This judgment restores confidence in international criminal justice and is also a source of hope for the victims in Ituri and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This long-awaited decision shows us that the humanitarian community has both a moral and legal obligation to draw a red line against war criminals. From those who target civilians, to those who rape, to those who disembowel pregnant women and to those use girls as slaves, all war criminals must be prosecuted and tried.
We remain convinced that there will be neither lasting peace nor reconciliation in the Great Lakes region or the DRC without justice, truth and reparations for survivors and other affected communities.
The decision in The Hague is a step in the right direction but we must not forget that the instigators of violence in this region continue to hold positions of power in institutions and within the security and defense forces; and as a result, they continue to perpetrate crimes with impunity.
That is why we invite the ICC to continue investigations in the DRC to break the cycle of violence that prevails in Ituri, in the Kivus and elsewhere to this day. We also call upon the states of the Great Lakes region to cooperate and provide transparent legal assistance to the ICC in order to bring perpetrators of international crimes to justice.
In this period marked by the temptation to retreat behind national boundaries, we also urge the international community to intervene when populations are threatened or held hostage by those in power. Sovereignty emanates from the people – it cannot be claimed by those who cannot protect the people, nor guarantee their basic needs, and especially not while threatening peace and international security. Finally, we urge the States Parties to the Rome Statute to mobilise themselves in order to allocate the resources necessary for the ICC to fulfil its mandate.
January 24, 2019
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo — Statement from Dr. Mukwege on the Constitutional Court’s Decision Regarding the Presidential Elections: Mr. Félix THISEKEDI was proclaimed the winner of the presidential election by the Constitutional Court. Presiding over the destiny of our country is a heavy responsibility.
Our people, who have suffered so much because of a system that has enslaved them for decades, expect much from their new leaders in order to improve their lives and chart a brighter future. We hope they will take on this role with gravity.
We call on the Congolese people and all the sociopolitical forces of our country to embrace patriotism and to unite around the ideal of the need for change to rebuild our country together, restore the dignity of our people, and preserve peace.
December 10, 2018
“Governments must draw a red line. Taking action is a matter of political will.”
Oslo, Norway — In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, Dr. Denis Mukwege, world-renowned gynecologist, human rights activist and founder of the Panzi Hospital and Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), urged world leaders and citizens to take action against sexual violence in wars. “It’s not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way.”
Dr Mukwege received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize together with Nadia Murad, a Yezidi activist from northern Iraq, for their efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. In his remarks, he dedicated this honour to survivors of sexual violence in Congo and across the globe. Dr. Mukwege:
“The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to us today will be of value only if it leads to concrete change in the lives of victims of sexual violence all over the world and the restoration of peace in our countries.”
Recognition, support and reparations for sexual violence survivors
He shared his frustration about the high levels of violence in Congo, which increasingly targets babies and children. Since the opening of Panzi Hospital in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his team have treated more than 50,000 victims of sexual violence in Congo by providing not only medical care, but also psychological, legal and livelihood support.Dr. Mukwege said that with this holistic approach, victims have the potential to turn their suffering into power: “Even if the road to recovery is long and difficult…they can become agents of positive change in society.”
He also pressed for the recognition of sexual violence victims: “I insist on reparations: the measures that give survivors compensation and satisfaction and enable them to start a new life. It is a human right. Dr. Mukwege advocated the establishment of an international reparations fund for victims of wartime sexual violence.
International community must act
Dr. Mukwege called on governments to send clear signals against the use of rape as a method of warfare. “The international community must cease to welcome heads of state who have tolerated or – worse – used sexual violence to gain power.” He implored the international community to refuse visas to the perpetrators, to sanction them, and to bring them to justice in international courts. “Doing the right thing is not difficult”, he said while addressing governments around the world. “It is a matter of political will.”
He says consumers have a role to play, too, since the abundance of natural resources like gold, coltan, cobalt and other minerals necessary for the production of electric products is a cause of the on-going war and extreme violence in east Congo. “When you drive your electric car; when you use your smart phone or admire your jewellery, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects,” Dr. Mukwege said. “We all have the power to change the course of history when the beliefs we are fighting for are right.”
Call for peace in Congo
Dr. Mukwege made a strong plea for peace in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 6 million people have been killed during two decades of war. Addressing his fellow citizens he said: “Dear Congolese compatriots, let us have the courage to take our destiny in our own hands. Let us build peace, build our country’s future, and together build a better future for Africa. No one else will do it for us
Dr. Mukwege called on the international community to follow the recommendations made in the Mapping Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which is “gathering mold in an office drawer in New York.” The 2010 report lists gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. Mukwege explained that as long as the perpetrators remain unpunished and there are no truth-finding and reconciliation efforts in Congo, lasting peace cannot be achieved.
Dr. Mukwege: “With this Nobel Peace Prize, I call on the world to be a witness and I urge you to join us in order to put an end to this suffering that shames our common humanity.”
Statement from Dr. Denis Mukwege:
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Nobel Prize Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of peace, friends of humanity,
It is with great humility that I learned of this news while I was in the middle of performing surgery in my hospital.
At this time, my thoughts turn immediately to all survivors of rape and sexual violence in conflict zones around the world.
I am honored to be named alongside Nadia Murad, with whom I have shared this fight for some time. Nadia Murad is a person for whom I have a great deal of respect because her courage and strength in denouncing this barbarity in conflicts, which
goes well beyond anything that one can imagine.
Dear members of the Nobel Committee, you heard her voice, you have heard the voices of all survivors.
Indeed, this honor is an inspiration because it shows that the world is actually paying attention to the tragedy of rape and sexual violence and that the women and children who have suffered for too long are not being ignored.
This Nobel Prize reflects this recognition of suffering and the need for just reparations for female victims of rape and sexual violence in countries across the world and on all continents.
This is an important step towards the long-awaited reparations that we all owe to these women.
This award will have real meaning only if it helps mobilize people to change the situation of victims in areas of armed conflict.
I dedicate this Nobel Prize to women of all countries in the world, harmed by conflict and facing violence every day.
For almost 20 years I have witnessed war crimes committed against women, girls, and even baby girls not only in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also in many other countries.
To the survivors from all over the world, I would like to tell you that through this prize, the world is listening to you and refusing to remain indifferent. The world refuses to sit idly in the face of your suffering.
We hope that the world will not wait any longer to act with determination and strength to assist you because the survival of humanity depends on you.
May 30, 2018 – Dr. Denis Mukwege is founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he and his staff have cared for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence. They include women who have been raped in front of their families and girls brutally assaulted by combatants during the country’s two decades of civil war. Some of his patients are infants—less than one-year-old—who have been raped.
For someone who has witnessed so much cruelty and suffering, Dr. Mukwege could be forgiven for not having a very hopeful view of our world. But when I met him in New York last year, I was struck not only by his warmth and gentleness, but also his incredible optimism.
“What is keeping me going is really the strength of women. I discovered how women are strong, how women can rebuild, and give hope for our humanity,” he told me. “They have taught me a lot about how we can make our world better, by not only thinking about yourself but to think about other people.”
As a boy growing up in eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Dr. Mukwege was drawn to a life of service to others. He would accompany his father, a pastor, as he went from home to home to pray for the sick in their community. While he admired his father’s faith, he wanted to use the power of medicine to help heal them. At age 8, he decided he would become a doctor.
He went to medical school in France where he specialized in pediatrics. As he learned about how many women were dying giving childbirth, especially in his own country, he switched to obstetrics.
When he returned to Africa, he opened a center to provide maternity care in the city of Bukavu in eastern Congo. It was the first clinic of its kind in the entire region. But the first patient he saw didn’t come because she was pregnant. She had been raped and shot. In the months that followed, dozens more rape survivors showed up at his hospital. By year’s end, Dr. Mukwege had treated hundreds of survivors and their numbers kept growing. He soon learned that rape was being used by soldiers to intimidate and displace entire communities, causing the women and their families to flee.
“When rape is used as a weapon of war, the impact is not only to destroy women physically, it’s also to destroy their minds . . . to destroy their humanity,” he said.
At first, Dr. Mukwege focused on treating the women’s physical wounds. But he soon realized that it was not enough. Most of the women had been so traumatized that they could not go back home and restart their lives. So, he designed a more comprehensive approach to care that goes beyond physical healing and focuses on psychological support and socioeconomic assistance. He also started a legal program to pursue justice for the survivors of sexual violence.
Looking back over the thousands of patients he’s seen over the years, Dr. Mukwege says one case stands out for him. It’s the first patient he treated—more than two decades ago. She underwent six surgeries and, at first, was unable to walk. She thought her life was ruined, he recalled.
But she was inspired to help others who had experienced what she had. She enrolled in school and dedicated her life to taking care of other victims of sexual violence. Today, she is one of the longest serving employees at Panzi Hospital, where she helps patients put the pieces of their lives back together. Thanks to her efforts and the work by the rest of Dr. Mukwege’s staff at Panzi Hospital, thousands of women have been able to rebuild their lives—some even going on to become nurses, doctors, and lawyers.
“The goal is to transform their pain into power,” Dr. Mukwege said. “We can change hate by love.”
May 27, 2017 – The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative named Dr. Denis Mukwege as one of five finalists for the 2017 Aurora Prize. From the Aurora Prize: “They were chosen for their exceptional impact, courage and commitment to preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” Read more here.
“We have an international consensus against the use of nuclear weapons and against chemical and biological weapons, and against torture. Since 1919, international law has recognized that rape as a weapon of war must end. And yet it continues as a cheap, effective tool of war. Making the bodies of women and children the battlefields. As human beings and governments, we need to say, if you win a war by destroying women, the international community will never accept you as a leader.”
October 11, 2016 -A Holistic, Person-Centred Care Model for Victims of Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo: The Panzi Hospital One-Stop Centre Model of Care
April 21, 2016 -TIME named Panzi Founder, Dr. Denis Mukwege, PhD, to the 2016 TIME 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The girls and women of Congo, and survivors of sexual and gender based violence in every corner of the world, have a champion. Dr. Denis Mukwege is a pioneer of medical and psychosocial healing, integrated with education and vocational training, safe transitional housing, legal assistance, and social, familial, and community reintegration.
His tireless efforts on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the world inspires, and informs our work with our colleagues at Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation DRC.
The full TIME 100 list and related tributes appear in the May 2 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, April 22, and now at time.com/time100.