We are saddened to learn of the recent attack and attempted assassination of Dr. Denis Mukwege, world renowned surgeon and director of Panzi Hospital in Eastern Congo's South Kivu Province. Dr. Mukwege is a champion for women survivors of sexual violence and has treated over 30,000 women in a region where rape is systematically used as a weapon of war. Physicians for Human Rights reported that yesterday four armed men entered Dr. Mukwege's home in his absence and held several family members at gunpoint. Upon his arrival they forced him out of his car, shooting and killing a security guard who tried to intervene. Dr. Mukwege ducked when the armed men fired shots towards him, before driving off in his car, which was found abandoned soon after.
World Pulse serves with Dr. Mukwege on the Advisory Council of the Nobel Women's Initiative's International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, which launched earlier this year to coordinate action to highlight the widespread rates of gender violence around the world.
Together with the Campaign Advisory Council, World Pulse sends our condolences to the family of the guard killed in the attack. We fear for the safety and well being of Dr. Denis Mukwege and his family. Moreover, we are alarmed that the attempt on his life has a possible link to activities that Dr. Mukwege undertook in support of the advocacy for the campaign in September at the United Nations, spotlighting the increasing rape and gender violence in Eastern Congo.
At an event co-hosted by the campaign and attended by government and UN officials, Dr. Mukwege stated, "This year I am once again operating on women whose genitals were destroyed by rape and other atrocities. There are many women who are barely getting by and rape is continuing. The rainy season is coming soon in North Kivu and the vulnerability of women is increasing." He ended by calling for "urgent action to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice."
Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director at Physicians for Human Rights, said, "Thousands of Congolese women and girls put at risk following incidents of sexual violence have depended on Dr. Mukwege for their lives and well-being." Physicians for Human Rights has recently conducted a training workshop at Panzi Hospital, where it has an office. Sirkin stated, "Dr. Mukwege has served the Congolese people with passion, expertise, and extraordinary dedication. Dr. Mukwege's safety must be of the utmost priority to the Congolese government."
World Pulse had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Mukwege this September during the Advisory Council meetings and World Pulse LIVE tour, and shared with him the vocal leadership of grassroots women in Eastern Congo emerging through the World Pulse platform—women who are speaking out and providing solutions through our Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign. He offered his strong support for promoting these women's voices. He also praised the efforts to connect disparate groups across the region to cultivate unified messages and collective leadership as a key component in establishing peace in the region. He said, "We need to start moving towards supporting the grassroots organizations, because they have amazing capability and because they have solutions. We must create a critical mass that starts a change from the grassroots up."
World Pulse stands with the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict in calling on the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to take immediate steps to protect Dr. Mukwege and his family, and on the international community to speak out in solidarity of our extraordinary ally.