, KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct 5 – DR Congo on Friday congratulated crusading Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege for his “very important work” in healing rape victims but accused him of mixing humanitarian work and politics.
Mukwege was operating at his hospital in the country’s east when the news broke, sparking cheers and wild ululations from his co-workers and admirers who hugged him as he slowly made his way past them.
“I was in the operating room so when they started to make noise around (it) I wasn’t really thinking about what was going on, and suddenly some people came in and told me the news,” Mukwege told Norwegian daily VG.
The 63-year-old has regularly spoken out against a spike in sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and criticised long-serving President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down in December after prolonging his mandate, saying: “We are governed by people who don’t love us.”
“The government congratulates Doctor Denis Mukwege for the very important work he does although there are often disagreements between us,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP.
“We have had differences with Denis Mukwege every time that he tried to politicise his work which however is important from a humanitarian standpoint,” Mende said.
Mukwege had asked the Congolese in early July to “peacefully fight” the Kabila regime and said the long-delayed December 23 presidential election would be marred by fraud.
The following month Kabila finally pledged to step down after 17 years and designated his chosen successor.
“He erred in thinking that President Kabila wanted a third term,” Mende said, adding: “He is not infallible.
“We think that the recognition by the Nobel Academy … is merited but we will continue to oppose whenever anyone tries to mix humanitarian work with politics.”
Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was far more generous, tweeting: “I can say it: I am proud to be Congolese.”
Another opposition figure Vital Kamerhe said: “This distinction is an honour for DR Congo and the whole of Africa.”
Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims of rape at Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999 in South Kivu province.
Known as “Doctor Miracle”, he is an outspoken critic of the abuse of women during war and has described rape as “a weapon of mass destruction”.