Congo Nobel laureate doctor Mukwege announces presidency bid

By Sonia Rolley and Ange Kasongo

KINSHASA (Reuters) -Democratic Republic of Congo’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, renowned for helping rape victims, said on Monday that he would run for president in December.

Mukwege, who won the award in 2018 for his nearly two-decade campaign against sexual violence, made the announcement to a jubilant crowd of supporters at a conference centre in Congo’s capital Kinshasa.

“My only motivation is to save and develop our country,” he said in a speech that was heavy on criticism of the current regime but offered little in the way of specific policy proposals. He said he would give details on his programme later.

“What I am going to do is the continuation of my action and my commitment over the last 40 years in the service of my people,” said Mukwege, adding that peace and security would be a priority.

Nicknamed the “man who repairs women”, the 68-year-old doctor has treated hundreds of war rape victims at the Panzi Hospital he founded in 1999.

The hospital is located in eastern Congo where militia groups left over from two civil wars between 1996 and 2003 continue to fight and attack civilians despite military interventions.

Mukwege has previously denounced Congo’s culture of impunity toward war crimes and crimes against humanity recorded by the United Nations. He survived an assassination attempt in 2012.

There had been growing calls for him to stand in the Dec. 20 election.

“You have healed many women and today we are asking you to heal this country too,” said supporter Justine Mafu as she awaited Mukwege’s announcement.

Mukwege will be running against President Felix Tshisekedi, whose first term was mired by economic hardship, epidemics and worsening insecurity in the east.

Opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who came second to Tshisekedi in 2018, also confirmed he would be running over the weekend.

The lead-up to the polls has been tense, with several opposition candidates complaining of delays and issues with electoral process which they say disadvantage them.

Mukwege said it would be important to protect the vote.

“We have the right to contest the results of a rigged election before, during and after the poll,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Crispin KyalaWriting by Sofia ChristensenEditing by Nellie Peyton, Andrew Heavens and Christina Fincher)