THE UN has redeployed soldiers to protect a Nobel prize-winning doctor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after being warned that he was at risk of assassination.
The Guardian reported on Monday that Denis Mukwege, who shared a Nobel prize in 2018 for his work with victims of sexual violence, had been left without protection despite receiving death threats in recent weeks.
The threats are thought to have been prompted by Mukwege’s continued campaign for the perpetrators of possible war crimes in eastern DRC to face justice.
His comments appear to have angered influential figures in Rwanda, whose troops and proxies have been accused of involvement in some of the worst of the violence described in a 2010 UN report that Mukwege, 65, has repeatedly highlighted.
The UN investigation covered the two major wars in DRC from 1996 to 2003, which killed millions and left a legacy of conflict.
Mukwege had been guarded by UN peacekeepers almost continually since unidentified gunmen shot dead a member of his domestic staff in 2012. But the UN withdrew protection of the doctor and his hospital in May after a Covid-19 outbreak among the troops guarding the compound in the town where he lives and works.
The decision to redeploy the peacekeepers was made on Wednesday. “They will be there as long as necessary,” said Mathias Gillmann, a spokesman for the UN mission in DRC.
The UN is now working on finding a new security arrangement with national police, as the peacekeeping force in DRC is to be reduced. This will concern supporters of Mukwege as the police are known to be unreliable, poorly trained and often corrupt.
Last week hundreds rallied in the capital, Kinshasa, to ask the DRC government to protect Mukwege, while others demonstrated in the doctor’s home town of Bukavu.
Mukwege thanked the UN peacekeepers for returning to his hospital “to assure the security of the patients and personnel”.
The analysis that Mukwege has highlighted, the UN’s 2010 Mapping Report, documented 617 serious violent incidents during the wars between 1993 and 2003, saying they could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if investigated and tried in a competent court.
The conflicts involved regular troops from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and other countries, as well as dozens of armed groups.
Mukwege has advocated for many years for the implementation of the report’s recommendations, including in his Nobel speech in Oslo and at the UN general assembly.
In his Nobel speech in 2018, Mukwege said it was necessary to reveal the “names of the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity to prevent them from continuing to plague the region”.
In late July he tweeted about a new massacre in eastern Congo, saying that as long as the UN mapping report was “ignored”, such killings would continue.
Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, in a nationally televised interview on Sunday, described the UN report as “nonsense”.
Rwanda’s state-run newspaper, the New Times, published an unsigned commentary on Sunday criticising Mukwege and dismissing suggestions that Rwandan officials were behind the death threats as “unfounded allegations”.