DRC: Nobel-nominated Congo doctor fears going home after attack

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

A Nobel-prize nominated Congolese gynecologist said on Tuesday he is too scared to return to his native Congo after an attempt on his life last month by armed men in one of the most violent parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"I can't guarantee my own security. As soon as I can guarantee I'll be protected, I'll be back," Denis Mukwege told reporters during a visit to the European Commission in Brussels.

A member of Mukwege's staff was killed in the shooting attack at his home in South Kivu province but the gynecologist escaped unhurt.

Violence is common in both the North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, where Mukwege is based, with rebel soldiers commonly using rape as a weapon to intimidate communities and drive people from their land.

Congo's government has faced increased military tensions with its neighbor Rwanda over allegations from the U.N. and analysts that Kigali is behind an insurgency in the eastern part of the country.

Mukwege, who runs a hospital for women and child victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo, said he believed the attackers wanted to kill him, but he still did not know why. Some media reports have speculated the attack may have had political overtones.

"Unfortunately, the attack was very fast. I would have a lot of difficulty as to say why and who did it. The only thing I can confirm, is that they didn't want to steal anything. They stayed in the house for 20 minutes - they were waiting for me," he told reporters in French.

Mukwege, who was among several hundred people and organizations nominated for the Nobel peace prize this year, criticized the Congolese government, saying an offer by the provincial governor after the attack to assign two policemen to protect him was insufficient.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, already helps Mukwege's Panzi hospital and said it would launch a new 20 million euro ($25.57 million) program to aid women victims of sexual assaults in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The European Union condemns emphatically the assassination attempt of which the doctor and his family were victim on October 25, as well as the murder of one of his guards," European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said.