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Activist, Prominent Doctor Denis Mukwege Targeted in Congo Attack

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Activist, Prominent Doctor Denis Mukwege Targeted in Congo Attack

Posted by Laura Heaton on October 26, 2012

Activist, Prominent Doctor Denis Mukwege Targeted in Congo Attack

Gunmen apparently targeting prominent doctor and Congolese activist Denis Mukwege left a security guard at Mukwege’s home dead and a community shaken. The attack occurred Thursday evening in the eastern Congo city of Bukavu, where Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital has long treated some of the region’s most vulnerable patients—women suffering from fistula.

The Swedish aid group PMU, a partner of Panzi Hospital, described the incident:

On the evening of 25 October 2012 around 19:00, four armed men, not in uniform, entered Dr. Denis Mukwege’s house in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The armed men forced Dr. Mukwege’s two daughters and their friend at gunpoint to sit silently on the floor until he returned home. On his arrival, roughly half an hour later, one of the armed men opened the gate and forced Dr. Mukwege out of the vehicle and demanded he hand over his keys. The security guard on duty ran out shouting to intervene and was shot and killed. The armed men fired the remaining bullets at Dr. Mukwege, who threw himself on the ground narrowly avoiding the gunfire. The men then fled in Dr. Mukwege’s vehicle, which they quickly abandoned before hijacking another vehicle.  The identity of the armed men and their current location is unknown.

Congolese activist Vava Tampa of the U.K.-based Save the Congo noted on Facebook that many members the local community gathered at Mukwege’s house overnight to protect the doctor and his family should the gunmen return.

In a blog post about the incident, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offered some theories about the potential motive for the attack:

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 U.N. 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.

"For all of us who are witnesses of Dr. Mukwege's heroism, the attempt to kill him is an affront to human morality,” said the Enough Project’s Congo based researcher Fidel Bafilemba. “I do hope that this ignominy will compel the Congolese government to make sure the perpetrators are caught and swiftly brought to justice."

Mukwege is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the U.N. Human Rights Prize, African of the Year, King Baudouin International Development Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, and the Clinton Global Citizen Award. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

JD Stier, Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Manager, joined by actress and activist Robin Wright and Raise Hope's Alex Hellmuth, met with Dr. Mukwege at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu late last year. "Dr. Mukwege has a clear vision for peace for his country, while fighting daily for the health and security of thousands,” Stier said. “We were touched by his brilliance, humility, and courage. We are grateful that he and his family survived this horrendous attack.  Our actions and thoughts are with Dr. Mukwege."

Photo: Actress Robin Wright met with Dr. Denis Mukwege on a trip with Enough to Bukavu in 2011 (Enough)