After tweets critical of the government, the gynecologist Denis Mukwege received death threats. UN soldiers had previously left the Congo because of corona.
Denis Mukwege is the most famous living Congolese in the world and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Now the gynecologist is guarded by UN blue helmets. He has received death threats. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet explained that his life was “in serious danger,” because he was strongly committed to bringing perpetrators to justice and protecting women – as a result of what he has seen in his hospital for decades”.
In July, Mukwege spoke up on Twitter after several massacres. The 2010 UN mapping report, which examined crimes in the Congo between 1993 and 2003, is still ignored today, he criticizes. Among other things, the report recommended investigating the massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees in the Congo as a possible genocide.
This met with criticism because these massacres affected Hutu perpetrators of the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi in 1994, who then fled to the Congo and were hunted there with women and children by Rwanda’s army from 1996 to 1997. The militia FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) emerged from them. She also committed mass rapes in the Congo.
Mukwege founded a hospital for women in his hometown of Bukavu in 1999 – in the middle of a war zone. His first patient was a woman who was shot in the vagina as a result of brutal rape with a gun barrel. The second victim was an 18-month-old raped baby. Mukweges Panzi Hospital has now helped around 85,000 women. In 2018 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
Mukwege repeatedly criticizes the fact that the perpetrators remain unpunished. He does not name names – but one thing is clear: He meant not only militias and rebels, but also generals from the Congo and militarily involved neighboring countries such as Rwanda. With that he made powerful enemies. For years the UN mission in the Congo (Monusco) has been trying to protect him.
However, due to the corona pandemic, the UN soldiers were withdrawn in March. “I received a lot of hate mail and family members were threatened,” said Mukwege.
Rwanda’s government reacted violently to Mukwege’s tweets in July. Rwanda’s former defense minister and presidential adviser James Kabarebe, who commanded Rwanda’s troops in the Congo in 1996/97, dismissed the 2010 UN report as “propaganda” invented by those who “lost the war” in an interview.
Thousands of Congolese protested in front of the Rwandan embassy in the capital Kinshasa. They demanded to expel the ambassador and protect Mukwege. Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi gave orders to the police and judiciary. Now the UN mission has again set up blue helmet soldiers in front of the Panzi hospital.