SHOWS: STRASBOURG, FRANCE (EBS) – Congolese gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege is a contender for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, nominated for his work with rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mukwege is the director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, which offers physical and emotional treatment to some of the hundreds of women who are raped in the region each year.
Mukwege is in the running for the international prize along with two women battling sexual violence in the region. Jeanne Nacatche Banyere (Mama Jeanne) and Jeannette Kahindo Bindu (Mama Jeannette) have used their church network since the early 2000s to seek out survivors of sexual violence all across the country, providing support and ensuring that they receive treatment and help.
The number of women and girls raped in eastern Congo is unknown, but experts and campaigners say the scale is enormous. The former United Nations’ special representative on sexual violence in conflict Margot Wallstrom has called Congo the “rape capital of the world”.
In October 2012 armed men made an attempt on Mukwege’s life, forcing him to flee the country. A member of his staff was killed in the shooting attack at his home in South Kivu province but the gynecologist escaped unhurt. Some media reports have speculated the attack may have had political overtones.
Mukwege returned to South Kivu in January 2013 to continue his work at the hospital.
In May 2011 he received the King Baudouin International Development Prize for his work, after which he described the severity of the attacks on his patients.
“All the victims have been raped with unbelievable brutality. Those who manage to survive reach the hospital in a state of incredible physical and psychological destruction. Often they arrive with the genital system destroyed by bullets or sharp objects, an act of savagery unheard before in the history of the region,” he said.
In 2014 he also received the Sakharov prize, Europe’s top human rights award, as well as a Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security.
For decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo, with its vast untapped mineral and oil reserves has experienced war and chaos. Women are especially vulnerable to the insecurity.
Although the Congo war officially ended in 2003, violence between government troops and rebels, some with outside backing, has persisted, particularly in the east, and rape has repeatedly been used as a weapon of war.
Mukwege’s hospital has treated more than 46,000 girls and women with gynecological injuries, about half of them victims of sexual violence.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday, October 6, at 1100 a.m. (0900GMT) and the prize, worth 9 million Swedish crowns ($ 1.12 million), will be handed over on December 10, 2017.