The University of Johannesburg (UJ) congratulates the 2018 Nobel Peace prize joint winner, Dr Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for his outstanding achievement. The Nobel Peace prize is one of the world’s prestigious prizes, and we are proud that one of the sons of Africa has achieved this feat. Dr Mukwege was recognised for his sterling work and sacrifices in treating dozens of girls from the town of Kavumu who had survived rape. He was awarded the prize along with Nadia Murad Basee, an Iraqi campaigner who survived sexual slavery at the hands of Isis jihadists and who has fought for the plight of Yazidi women to be recognised.
Most of the girls in Kavumu were taken from their hospital beds and raped by a militia, led by a provincial member of parliament who believed that raping children would protect them from their enemies. Dr Mukwege had just returned from training as an obstetrician in France in 2013, and was operating one of his patients on Friday morning when the news broke that he had won the prize. He was alerted to the good news when he heard some of his patients and colleagues crying – overwhelmed with joy. Dr Mukwege was awarded the peace prize after been shortlisted for a decade.
“When I got the news, I was on my second (operation) procedure. Unfortunately then, the hospital was invaded by women and my personnel and so regrettably I couldn’t continue my programme for the day,” said Mukwege, the second son of a pastor in the DRC’s South Kivu region.
Eleven men, including the MP, Frederike Batumike, were eventually convicted of crimes against humanity in a landmark trial.
Despite this, and the efforts of Dr Mukwege’s Panzi hospital to treat survivors, fight for justice and help them reintegrate in a society that stigmatises rape survivors, the situation in the Kivus is getting worse. “In 2016 we saw the number of armed groups grow. Unfortunately since the beginning of this year, we have been receiving calls about mass rapes,” Mukwege said. “It’s very sad. It’s a drastic situation for women and for the population in general.”
Earlier in 2012, Dr Mukwege and his family survived an attempted kidnapping and murder in. He fled to the US, but returned after three months to continue his work. He would like to live in town, but has to stay in the hospital, watched over by UN peacekeepers, as the death threats keep coming.
Dr Mukwege’s outstanding achievement and sacrifices are particularly important to us in South Africa because the country continues to grapple with the vicious cycle of sexual violence against women. We hope Dr Mukwege’s achievement would inspire many of our leaders and ordinary people in their efforts to rid our nation of this scourge and make the perpetrators to reflect on their actions and stop these criminal acts.