By John Ikani
Renowned gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate known for his unwavering dedication to assisting survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has unveiled his intention to run for the presidency in the upcoming December elections.
Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at a conference centre in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, Mukwege, who received the prestigious award in 2018 for his tireless efforts against sexual violence, declared, “My sole motivation is to rescue and advance our nation.”
His speech, although critical of the current regime, lacked specific policy proposals, with Mukwege promising to provide program details at a later time.
“What I intend to do is a continuation of my lifelong dedication and commitment to my people over the past four decades,” Mukwege stated. He promised that peace and security would be paramount in his agenda.
Often referred to as the “man who repairs women,” the 68-year-old physician has treated numerous victims of wartime sexual assault at the Panzi hospital, which he established in 1999.
Located in the eastern region of the DRC, the hospital operates in an area where remnants of militia groups from two civil wars between 1996 and 2003 continue to engage in conflict and target civilians, despite past military interventions.
Mukwege has previously condemned the culture of impunity in the DRC concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity, as documented by the United Nations. In 2012, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt. Over time, there has been a growing call for him to participate in the upcoming election.
One of his supporters, Justine Mafu, expressed, “You have healed many women, and today we are asking you to heal this country too.”
Mukwege will be competing against the incumbent president, Felix Tshisekedi, whose first term was marked by economic hardships, epidemics, and escalating insecurity in the eastern part of the country.
In addition, opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who finished second to Tshisekedi in the 2018 election, confirmed his candidacy over the weekend.
The lead-up to the elections has been fraught with tension, as several opposition candidates have raised concerns about delays and problems with the electoral process that they argue disadvantage them.
Mukwege stressed the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the vote, stating, “We have the right to challenge the results of a manipulated election before, during, and after the poll.”