NOBEL LAUREATE MUKWEGE IN DANGER: SOUTH AFRICA WOMEN’S GROUP MAKES URGENT APPEAL TO AFRICAN UNION
August 15, 2020
(Cape Town, South Africa) Below is the text of a letter sent to the President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa, by Marietha Dos Santos and Bronwyn Litkie on behalf South Africa Women Fight Back.
Following statements made by Dr. Denis Mukwege condemning a massacre in Kipupu, Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), and his ongoing call for the release of the UN Mapping Report that documents crimes against humanity committed in eastern Congo, numerous threats of retribution and death threats via SMS, voicemails, and social media posts have been received. The threats target Dr. Denis Mukwege, his family members, his patients, and the ongoing good work of the Health Professionals of the General Reference Hospital of Panzi in Bukavu, DRC.
“These threats against Dr. Mukwege, his family, and the healthcare workers at Panzi Hospital is a direct attack upon free speech and the pursuit of a just and fair Africa. This is a violent attempt to attack one individual, forcibly remove him, and inflict lasting damage on the voices of those who stand up against Gender Based Violence.”
“We call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to
- actively mobilize the African Union and the international community to take immediate action to increase security and safeguard Dr. Denis Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC
- take imminent measures to drastically increase his physical protection in the DRC through the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the DRC
- place Dr. Mukwege’s security as an urgent concern on the agenda of the African Commission, to discuss protection measures
- engage with the DRC government to protect and counteract against any attempts that threaten his safety and security in the DRC”
The President of the Republic of South Africa
The Chairperson of the African Union,
The Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa,
SA Women Fight Back (SAWFB) is urgently appealing to all parties involved for immediate action to protect Dr. Denis Mukwege, his family members, his patients, and the ongoing good work of the Health Professionals of the General Reference Hospital of Panzi.
As you know, Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Nobel Laureate of 2018 and the Director of the General Reference Hospital of Panzi in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is an internationally acclaimed human rights activist and advocate against Gender Based Violence (GBV). Equally, Dr. Denis Mukwege is the Goodwill Ambassador of SA Women Fight Back (SAWFB) and President of our partner Mukwege/Panzi-family organizations, namely the Panzi Foundation-Africa (in Cape Town, South Africa).
Recently, SAWFB has received information and credible threats of several parties interested in the silencing of Dr. Mukwege. The Doctor has valiantly and bravely taken to social media to denounce the on-going killings in Eastern Congo. Specifically, the mass killings of the Congolese in Kipupu (Mwenga territory in South Kivu) by local armed groups. The good Doctor intimated that included within the invading forces in Eastern Congo, is an element of foreign arms. The brewing of foreign armed groups is not new and is an open secret in the Kivus, in the DRC. In return, Dr. Mukwege came under severe hostile attacks, especially from the Rwandans, through his Twitter account. This latest hateful campaign includes death threats received via SMS, voicemails, and on social media.
These threats are not to be taken lightly due to Dr. Mukwege’s international standing and the severity of the situation within the Eastern Congo. All of these hostile actions against Dr. Mukwege have to be taken seriously and action must be taken immediately. Unless something is done there is no question that the most grave and horrible scenarios is most likely. The hate and intimidation against Dr. Denis Mukwege are distressing and there is little doubt about the ultimate intent.
These latest threats extend beyond just the person. They are a direct attack upon free speech and the pursuit of a just and fair Africa. This is a violent attempt to attack the individual, forcibly remove him, and also inflict lasting damage on the voices of those who stand up against Gender Based Violence.
If Dr. Mukwege is silenced, it is conceited to think that the voices of survivors of Gender Based Violence will also be silenced. This will not happen. The fight of Dr. Denis Mukwege against Gender Based Violence is one that disturbs any parties currently engaged in killing sprees delivered with impunity and Colonial-era like looting of the rich natural resources in Eastern Congo.
The response to this particular threat cannot be treated as anything other than a genuine call for help. On 25 October 2012, a SAWFB board member saw first-hand an attempt on Dr. Mukwege’s life. During this incident, he managed to survive but a member of his security detail was not as fortunate. Regrettably, the habit of targeting prominent individuals and defenders of human rights is commonplace in the DRC and should be condemned in the strongest terms.
Much of the animosity for the Doctors’ work stems from close to 10 years of calling on the examination of the Mapping report issued by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights: a compilation of war crimes and crimes against humanity which took place during 1993-2003. This advocacy along with the doctors’ continued recognition of crimes through social media is perceived as a threat to the perpetrators of grave human rights violations that are hoping to escape justice. The UN report is of vital importance to bring justice to the victims of those crimes; to fight against impunity; for reconciliation and for reparations to the victims of sexual violence. Regrettably, their call for action continues to fall on deaf ears.
SA Women Fight Back deplore the lack of justice and on-going sexual violence against our fellow African sisters in Eastern Congo and stand in solidarity with their plight for justice, peace, and restoration. SA Women Fight Back and our fellow sisters in South Africa will not be quiet. Africa’s women will not be silenced. We, with our partners, will continue our fight in solidarity against Gender Based Violence and the wars fought on women’s bodies.
SA Women Fight Back is calling on Your Excellency, the President of South Africa, your Government and the Chairperson of the African Union, along with the United Nations Peacekeepers in the DRC to increase personal protection for Dr. Mukwege and to increase security for the staff at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Eastern Congo.
- We are calling on you to actively mobilize the African Union and the international community to take immediate action to increase security and safeguard Dr. Denis Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC
- We are calling on you to take imminent measures to drastically increase his physical protection in the DRC through the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the DRC
- We are calling on you to place Dr. Mukwege’s security as an urgent concern on the agenda of the African Commission, to discuss protection measures
- We urge you to engage with the DRC government to protect and counteract against any attempts that threaten his safety and security in the DRC
Dr. Mukwege is one of Africa’s greatest visionaries and the dearest child of Africa’s mothers. He is a doctor who sacrifices his life, tirelessly, mending the broken bodies of Africa’s women and children, which he has done for over three decades. We, the women of Africa, will not let him down.
We count on you, Mr. President, to respond appropriately and urgently.
Ms. Bronwyn Litkie (President)
Ms. Marietha Dos Santos (SAWFB Board)
CC. Former President of South Africa, His Excellency Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki
CC. Secretary-General of the United Nations
CC. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
CC. United Nations SRSG on Conflict-related sexual violence,
CC. United Nations SRSG on the DRC (MONUSCO)
CC. United Nations Human Rights Council
CC. Amnesty International
CC. Human Rights Watch
CC. One Billion Rising
CC. Hands up for Health Workers (www.handsupforhealthworkers.org)
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