Gynecologist Denis Mukwege announced this Monday (2) his intention to run for President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mukwege was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his nearly two-decade campaign against sexual violence in the country.
Aged 68, Mukwege treated hundreds of rape victims during the war at the hospital he founded in 1999, which is located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At an event that brought together a group of supporters in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, he announced that his priorities will be the peace and security of the population. “My only motivation is to save and develop our country. What I will do is continue my actions and my commitment over the last 40 years in the service of my people”, he said in his speech to his supporters.
The opposition leader will run against the current president, Felix Tshisekedi, whose first term was marked by economic difficulties, epidemics and worsening security in the east. Leading opposition figure Martin Fayulu, who came second in the 2018 election, confirmed over the weekend that he will also run.
Region of conflicts
The scene of two civil wars between 1996 and 2006, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to suffer from conflict between hundreds of armed groups, despite the action of the United Nations Mission – known as “monusco” -, which maintains soldiers since 1999 in the country.
The target of popular protests against its presence, which intensified this year, MONUSCO was responsible for the deaths of eight civilians in February, in an action that left 28 injured.
An investigation by the website The Conversation, published in August 2022, revealed that the presence of UN soldiers left pregnant women and girls, victims of sexual exploitation by blue helmets. Currently, they raise their children in deplorable conditions, many of them without receiving any financial assistance.
The findings in the Central African country are based on 2,858 interviews with members of the Congolese community, including 60 in-depth interviews with victims of violence and sexual abuse who conceived children of United Nations peacekeepers.
The research, which dates back to 2018, implicates UN officials from 12 countries, mostly Tanzanians and South Africans. Mothers say these absent fathers held positions ranging from soldiers, officers and pilots, drivers, cooks, doctors and photographers.
*With information from The Guardian, G1 and The Conversation
Editing: Patrícia de Matos