Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege unveils his candidacy for the DRC presidential election

by MMC
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Denis Mukwege, gynecologist surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced Monday that he would run in the presidential elections scheduled for December.

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Speaking to a packed auditorium in Kinshasa, the Central African nation’s capital, the doctor told reporters he wanted to save a country riven by insecurity and poor leadership.

“Our country is in bad shape,” said Mukwege, 68. “We can’t wait to take action.”

“Tomorrow is already too late.”

Mukwege was awarded jointly The Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 alongside Yazidi activist Nadia Murad for her efforts to end sexual violence as a weapon of war.

The pioneering doctor founded the Panzi Hospital and Foundation in the conflict-torn east. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after witnessing the horrific injuries and illnesses suffered by rape victims.

Dozens of militias have ravaged eastern DRC for years, a legacy of regional wars that broke out in the 1990s and 2000s.

One of these militias, the M23, has seized entire swathes of territory since launching an offensive at the end of 2021.

Alongside his medical work, Mukwege established a reputation as a vocal critic of the government in his native country and built a loyal following among the DRC’s intellectual class.

His announcement of a presidential bid followed months of speculation that he harbored political ambitions.

On September 16, Mukwege said his supporters had donated the $100,000 deposit needed to launch a presidential campaign.

“When the people decide to take power, no system can oppose it,” he said at the time, without explicitly declaring his candidacy.

In the crowd of supporters in Kinshasa on Monday, François Risasi, 56, declared that the doctor was “the cream of our society”.

“He represents the silent majority who work but see no results, because of a conglomerate of adventurers who share the country’s wealth,” he added.

The DRC is rife with corruption and is one of the world’s poorest countries despite its vast reserves of minerals like copper, cobalt and gold.

Opposition disorder

Mukwege’s speech in Kinshasa was broadcast live in two rooms in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, where his announcement drew enthusiastic applause.

Nabintu Aristide, 57, a mother of five, told AFP from the city that Mukwege’s candidacy was “the beginning of the end of the suffering we have endured for years.”

Bukavu is home to its Panzi Hospital, which has specialized in treating survivors of sexual violence since it opened in 1999 amid the devastation of the Second Congo War.

Although that conflict is over, militia violence continues, and Mukwege recently said the war on women’s bodies continues apace — and even extends to children.

The doctor, during his numerous speaking tours abroad, called for the creation of an international tribunal to judge crimes committed in eastern DRC.

In elections scheduled for December 20, Mukwege will face incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi, who came to power after the 2018 elections.

Mukwege’s development remains uncertain. Despite his international prominence, he is a political newcomer without a broad base of support.

Other declared opposition candidates include Martin Fayulu, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018, and two former prime ministers from Tshisekedi’s predecessor Joseph Kabila, Augustin Matata and Adolphe Muzito.

Business tycoon Moise Katumbi is also expected to announce an offer.

The deadline for candidates to register for the race is October 8.

The presidential election, which is to take place alongside the parliamentary vote, will be a one-round vote.

Barring new political alliances forged before the vote, the political opposition enters the presidential election fractured and relatively weak.


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