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Nobel-prize winning gynaecologist announces plans to run for president of DRC

The Nobel peace prize-winning gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, renowned for helping victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has announced plans to run for president in December.

Mukwege, who won the award in 2018 for his nearly two-decade campaign against sexual violence, made the announcement to a jubilant crowd of supporters at a conference centre in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

“My only motivation is to save and develop our country,” he said, in a speech that was heavy on criticism of the current regime but offered little in the way of specific policy proposals. He said he would give details on his programme later.

“What I am going to do is the continuation of my action and my commitment over the last 40 years in the service of my people,” added Mukwege, saying that peace and security would be a priority.

Nicknamed the “man who repairs women”, the 68-year-old doctor has treated hundreds of war rape victims at the Panzi hospital he founded in 1999. The hospital is located in eastern DRC where militia groups left over from two civil wars between 1996 and 2003 continue to fight and attack civilians despite military interventions.

Mukwege has previously denounced DRC’s culture of impunity toward war crimes and crimes against humanity recorded by the United Nations. He survived an assassination attempt in 2012. There had been growing calls for him to stand in the 20 December election.

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“You have healed many women and today we are asking you to heal this country too,” said one supporter, Justine Mafu, as she awaited Mukwege’s announcement.

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Mukwege will be running against the incumbent president, Felix Tshisekedi, whose first term was mired by economic hardship, epidemics and worsening insecurity in the east.

The opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who came second to Tshisekedi in 2018, also confirmed at the weekend that he would be running.

The lead-up to the polls has been tense, with several opposition candidates complaining of delays and issues with electoral process, which they say disadvantage them.

Mukwege said it would be important to protect the vote. “We have the right to contest the results of a rigged election before, during and after the poll,” he said.

  • In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support for rape and sexual abuse on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html