DRC: The Global Community's Responsibility to Protect Dr. Denis Mukwege

Monday, November 5, 2012
the Huffington Post
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights

When we read about the dangers of humanitarian efforts, typically we hear about threats against Americans. Equally critical and often overlooked, are the attempts to violently remove passionate local leaders who challenge the establishment.

Dedicated activist and physician for survivors of sexual violence, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder and director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was the target of an assassination attempt recently.

Armed men forced entry into Dr. Mukwege's home and held his two daughters and their friend at gunpoint while awaiting his arrival. On entering his home, Dr. Mukwege was showered with bullets but able to flee, unlike his security guard who was killed. The men then fled, identity and location currently unknown.

Dr. Mukwege was threatening. Not physically, verbally, or intentionally. But his dedication and tireless efforts to serve a vulnerable population (survivors of sexual violence and women with specialized gynecological needs) were successful in saving Congolese women. His humanity has inspired honors from around the globe: UN Human Rights Prize, Clinton Global Citizen Award, African of the Year, and multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

His outspoken beliefs, in denouncing of mass rape in the DRC in a United Nations speech last month, and in condemnation of Rwanda's role in the sexual violence occurring in eastern Congo, have made him a target for murder by those who feel threatened, reports Nicholas Kristof.

This is the side of humanitarian care that we do not hear as much about -- assassination attempts on local leaders. Heightened security granted on the national level, and community security granted at the province level, are needed to assist the long-term safety of Dr. Mukwege and his family.

As global citizens with a collective humanity, we can be mindful in our support. By anticipating threats to successful local initiatives, we could include programming for security responsibility and ensure media coverage. Through funding and pressure, the global community has a responsibility to the safety of those skilled and passionate people who are giving their lives to respectfully save others', including now, for Dr. Denis Mukwege.