On August 17, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a New York-based organization, issued a statement alleging Congolese Nobel Prize Co-Laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege, was a victim of threats and intimidation from Rwanda.
The advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations appealed for immediate action to protect Dr. Mukwege, who they described as their ‘longstanding partner’, his family members, his patients, and ‘the vital work of the staff at Panzi Hospital’.
PHR claimed that Dr. Mukwege, the founder and medical director of the Bukavu-based hospital in South Kivu, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was threatened by Rwanda’s General James Kabarebe, currently serving as the Security Advisor to the President of the Republic
“During the past several weeks, Dr. Mukwege has been the target of an alarming intimidation campaign, online and offline,”
“General James Kabarebe, former Minister of Defense of Rwanda and a longtime security advisor to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, denounced Dr. Mukwege on Rwandan state television. Dr. Mukwege and his family have become the targets of attacks on social media and have received death threats on his cell phone through text messages,” the statement claimed.
On July 18, 2020, Rwanda Television (RTV), aired a talk show on the Liberation of Rwanda, as part of the Kwibohora 26 discussion series which focused on Rwanda’s 26-year journey, the progress made and the challenges.
This particular show featured Rwandan youth in diaspora, mainly in different African countries, who were addressed by Gen. Kabarebe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Dr. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Ambassador to Angola, Wellars Gasamagera and other speakers.
The show was broadcast across Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) platforms, including Youtube and Periscope for Twitter, while members of the diaspora participated through Zoom.
During the talk show, Gen. Kabarebe addressed a question on the negative propaganda targeting the Rwandan government and its forces, mainly pegged on the United Nations Mapping Report, in which it is alleged that Rwandan soldiers committed atrocities and human rights violations in DRC during the period between 1993 and 2003.
Gen. Kabarebe described the UN Mapping Report as one of the tools those fighting Rwanda use to spread harmful propaganda against the government and its forces, especially those who still harbour the bitterness of defeat by Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) forces, which officially dislodged the genocide government and liberated Rwanda on July 4, 1994.
“The propaganda that Rwandan forces went to Congo and killed people is mainly propagated by people who still harbour the grudge of defeat, especially those who were dislodged by the liberation struggle,”
“Some of these individuals have stubbornly clang on their ideology, some of them live in Europe. There are others we always hear, the likes of Dr. Mukwege in South Kivu, who continue to be used by the defeated groups,” Gen. Kabarebe said in general terms, without directly spending time on Dr. Mukwege as an individual.
Gen. Kabarebe also indicated that there are a multitude of Non-Government Organisations operating in DRC, which were profiteering from Rwandan refugees in the then Zaire, which were aggrieved by Rwanda’s efforts to repatriate the over 3 million refugees, mainly Hutus, who fled Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The former Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) said that many ‘humanitarian NGOs’, which were raking in millions of dollars to support refugees were not happy when the Rwandan government embarked on efforts to repatriate refugees.
“There were many NGOs which were holding Rwandan refugees hostage for their own benefit. If it was possible, their wish was to see the over 3 million refugees remain in Congo because this was their lifeline,”
“Repatriating them was a big blow to their agenda, hence turning their grudge into the negative propaganda. There are also countries which we had to engage directly because they supported the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” Gen. Kabarebe explained.
He said the aftermath of all that is what led to the UN Mapping Report which claims that over 6 million people were killed in DRC, without presenting actual evidence to support the claims.
“Six million people and there is no evidence? We are talking about 6 million people. This is a report that continues to linger around and continues to be referred to, to spread negative propaganda,” Gen. Kabarebe said, adding that the same report is still used to mislead offsprings of Rwandan refugees still scattered in different African countries.
The other side of Dr. Mukwege
For many, Dr Mukwege is a hero, famous for treating thousands of rape victims and advocating against violence in the conflict-ridden Eastern part of DRC and a ‘fearless human rights advocate’, whose efforts to call for the protection of girls and women against sexual violence have been recognised globally.
While on face value the 65-year old medic comes off as an apolitical humanitarian worker who is only interested in the plight of the people, intelligence sources both in DRC and Rwanda have over the years documented how the 2018 Nobel Prize Co-Laureate is driven by a political agenda, deeply rooted on ethnic divisions, which makes his global appeal a mere façade.
Highly confidential intelligence documents obtained by KT Press detail how Dr. Mukwege has over the years pursued a well calculated self-aggrandizing campaign, albeit with the support of the NGOs, that not only discredits the Government of DRC but also uses Rwanda as a launchpad for his agenda.
In recent months, through social media, Dr Mukwege has been raising awareness on the UN Mapping Report, calling for an independent and impartial tribunal to investigate and prosecute the massacres in DRC, on several occasions echoing Rwanda in his campaign.
In June, Dr. Mukwege resigned from his position as head of the DRC task force fighting COVID-19, citing ‘frustration and lack of coordination’ in the government response to the pandemic, which made his work difficult, leaving the country at the crossroads as the virus spread.
“High-ranking officials described the move as selfish. All countries at the time were grappling with containing the virus, including the U.S, he chose to abandon the cause. The Government in Kinshasa cannot directly criticize him because they fear donors,” the document reads.
Two months after resigning, Dr Mukwege claimed that his life was threatened, prompting NGOs, embassies and foreign governments to go into overdrive, calling for his immediate protection by the international community.
Apart from alleging threats from Rwanda, Dr Mukwege also claims that he has received threats and intimidation in his home country, including text messages and calls, after he raised his voice on violence in Ituri Province, in a tweet posted on August 11.
“Another massacre in #Ituri! Enough is enough! Criminals must answer for their actions before an independent & impartial tribunal! We call for an International Criminal Court for #DRC and/or mixed specialized chambers,” the medic tweeted.
The U.S Ambassador to DRC, Mike Hammer,Canada’s Envoy to the vast central African nation, Nicolas Simard and Tibor Nagy, the Assistant Secretary for the US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, are among those who have tweeted in support of Dr Mukwege.
Dr. Mukwege’s links to negative propaganda targeting the Rwandan government is well detailed in the revealing document that gives a background of the situation, dating back to the immediate post-genocide period.
The intel source traces Mukwege’s origins to ‘Bashi’ people in South Kivu, who share close links with a similar group of people in Rwanda, some of whom were accused of participating in the genocide.
In fact, Genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro says that Dr Mukwege had never hidden his soft side for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group operating in Eastern DRC, composed of former members the Rwandan forces, Interahamwe militia and their offsprings.
“You will never see anywhere, a single document or recording where Dr Mukwege is condemning the presence of the FDLR, despite the fact most of atrocities like rape and sexual violence, which he became famous for, were committed by FDLR,” Ndahiro, who has extensively researched the politics of Eastern DRC and scrutinized Mukwege’s work, says.
He says that it is not due to Amnesia that Dr Mukwege forgets to mention FDLR in his advocacy but it is rather his affiliation to the group that holds him back, instead choosing to go after those who defeated FDLR and ex-FAR.
“I have known Mukwege through the media as a Doctor involved in helping victims of rape in his area. But I have known him as a sympathiser of criminal organisations like FDLR and anti-Rwandan groups,” Ndahiro says.
Ndahiro emphasizes that when Mukwege became a Nobel Peace Laureate, he openly sided with Genocide Against Tutsi deniers and fanatics. In reference to Gen. Kabarebe’s comment, Ndahiro says that there is nothing threatening from the facts the former Defence Minister said in an open discussion.
“There was nothing threatening at all. The only concern for the Mukweges and friends, is honest exposure of who they are and what they have been doing without being named and shamed,”
“NGOS like Physicians for Human Rights seem to have reacted without knowing what was actually said, but from crooked interpretations of usual groups and individuals who are never objective whenever there is a story about a Rwanda government official,” he adds.
The classified document obtained by KT Press describes Dr. Mukwege as someone who has always sought to engage into politics in his country (DRC), adding that “for his personal or other people’s interests, he has chosen to make Rwanda as the launch pad for his political ambitions.”
It further adds that Dr. Mukwege has chosen to be an anti-Rwanda activist and has rallied with anti-Rwanda ideologists or genocide deniers, such as Canadian journalist-turned-activist Judi Rever, Charles Onana, French politician Hubert Védrine and Jambo Asbl, among others, to try and boost his political ambitions.
“Dr. Mukwege has no tangible facts for which to accuse Rwanda, except only lies and fabrications purely driven by his own or his masters’ political motives,”
“His speech about the Congo Mapping Report is an example of how he has been trying to use it as an evidence of violence against women in DRC, seeking its implementation to allegedly bring justice to Congolese women,” the document reads.
In yet another revelation that punches holes in the Congolese Physician’s story, the intelligence document highlights how Dr Mukwege has bent facts to suit his narrative, including attempting to resurrect the discredited UN Mapping Report, which did not even talk about Congolese women, but instead the Rwandan Refugees in Eastern DRC.
“The truth about Dr. Mukwege is that he has no interest in seeing Eastern or DRC itself coming to peace and stability. What he puts forward is his personal agenda, ambitions and interests,”
“Dr. Mukwege’s attitude and actions not only contradict the whole idea behind the Nobel Peace prize, and put into question the honour and merits attached to it, but also raises suspicion on the credibility of the Nobel prize institution itself,” it adds.
It concludes by adding that the International community and the Nobel Prize Institution should remind Dr. Mukwege that his radical position and support in favour of the Mai-Mai militia, are against universal principles of human rights, the least thing a Nobel Prize laureate should never engage in.
Advocates for peace such as the organisation ‘Campaign for Peace in DRC’ have also levelled criticism against Dr Mukwege, for keeping silent on massacres and other forms of violence targeting the Banyamulenge minority group in the eastern part of the country.
An article titled “Saving the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize”, published on July 31, by activist Boniface Ruhara Mibari, equates Dr, Mukwege to Burmese politician and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, for keeping quiet in the face of major crises in their respective countries.
He further argues that the duo equally tarnishes the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize and the honor attached to it, for being selective in what they stand for, such as Dr Mukwege not doing anything about the violence targeting the Banyamulenge community while Suu Kyi has been widely criticized for not doing anything about the killing of the Rohingya people in Burma.
“His [Dr Mukwege] blindness to the killings of the Banyamulenge casts doubt on his commitment to peace. As was the case for Mrs. Aung Suu Kyi case, we hope that the international community can get actively involved in making Dr. Mukwege understand that his positions in favor of the Mai-Mai militias go against the universal principles and values of human rights,” the article says.
“Dr Mukwege resolved to remain silent in the face of a tragedy which destroyed almost the entire Banyamulenge community, causing hundreds of deaths while hundreds of thousands of cows raided,” it adds.
It is further argued that Dr Mukwege knows that these killings are the work of Mai-Mai from the Bembe, Banyindu and Fuliru tribes, in alliance with foreign armed groups such as Red Tabara and FNL which have joined elements of the regular army, wreaking havoc on the community for the last 3 years.
Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza, a Lawyer and Researcher in Politics, argues that most individuals or institutions such as PHR have a little understanding of the situation in Eastern DRC and Dr Mukwege’s political activism, something he says is at the heart of the problem.
“Most of the sexual abuses on women are done by FDLR, Mai Mai, Raiya Mutomboki and the dozens of other unstructured militias, and at times by the FARDC itself whenever they were beaten on battle,”
“This is what Mukwege himself used to declare in the media when he started his work. The problem: Blaming small time militias isn’t sensational enough for the media, and is risky for the west because it points an accusing finger at their sponsors: western multinationals who buy cheap minerals directly from these artisanal minors, to make cellphones, electronics, etc,” Gatete argues.
He further argues that the Nobel Prize was a way of corrupting his judgement and pressuring him to step up his game.
“If he turns the blame on Rwanda, multinationals can thrive, while his political career soars in the DRC; that’s a win-win for both the prizer and the prized, so to speak,”
“That strategy has worked for NGOs and multinationals in the past, but now that Banyamulenge women are being targeted by sexual violence. It is becoming increasingly difficult for them to convince anyone that Rwanda is behind rape of Banyamulenge women,” Gatete says.
Gatete further argues that Mukwege has remained silent on sexual violence suffered the Banyamulenge group, hence the new strategy that ‘his life is in danger’ and Rwanda is behind that,”
According to reliable sources, Dr Mukwege’s Panzi Foundation this week wrote a letter, which he is the initiator, to the DRC Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Gilbert Kankonde Malamba, requesting for special protection for Dr Denis Mukwege.
However, the DRC government has reportedly decided not to give it attention, well knowing its origins, intent and the NGOs behind propagating fear for Mukwege’s life, to draw more international sympathy and donations.
The source further said that DRC government officials and security reviewed Gen. Kabarebe’s comments during the conversation with the youth and found nothing to be considered a threat against Dr. Mukwege.