Standing in Solidarity with Medical Colleagues and the People of South Kivu

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Today, we at Physicians for Human Rights stand in solidarity with our medical colleagues and the people of South Kivu in the aftermath of the chilling and brazen attack against Dr. Denis Mukwege and his household last Thursday.

We have learned that the city’s residents, women’s organizations, and key institutions are unified in silent protest today, having declared a ville morte, or a general shutdown, to express their anger at the assault on a leader and healer for thousands of victims of the vicious reign of terror and sexual violence that persists in eastern Congo.

Our colleagues and the people of Bukavu – the schools and universities, the shopkeepers and all the hospitals, the gas stations and markets – have collectively demanded a thorough investigation into the murder of Dr. Mukwege’s trusted aide and guard, Joseph Bizimana. They have asked for an end to the impunity for the crimes that shatter daily life in their country and threaten the tremendous efforts of a generation that has hoped for change and worked for a functioning system of justice, the proper delivery of health care and sustenance, and an end to years of conflict and the despoliation of the environment.

But even as this shutdown occurred, more violent deaths and injuries were reported in Walungu, Katana, and Uvira in South Kivu.

When those who have dedicated their lives to the healing of their people and their country are persecuted, thousands of lives are at risk and we are all incalculably diminished.

We are honored to share the following statement issued yesterday by the Medical Society of South Kivu as their message for this day of grief and grievance, and we join in their call for an end to impunity for perpetrators of atrocities in the DRC.

30 October 2012

Dear Colleagues, Friends, People of Good Will


It was a close call and almost became a monumental tragedy for our medical community, but also for Bukavu, South-Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the entire world.

The attempted assassination of Dr. Denis Mukwege on October  25th around 7:30 pm took place at his home in Muhumba-Ibanda, Bukavu. There were several gunshots; his bodyguard was shot dead. Dr. Mukwege himself miraculously emerged safe. The President of the Regional Medical Society, Professor Dr. Munyanga, was away from Bukavu at the time. Two members of the Regional Council of the Sud-Kivu Medical Society immediately arrived at the scene and on behalf of the entire medical community of Sud-Kivu offered comfort and support their colleague, left for dead by the assailants.

The Medical Society of Sud-Kivu has two words to express our collective response: INDIGNATION AND APPREHENSION.

INDIGNATION that such an event could take place at the home of our internationally renowned colleague who is so instrumental to the survival of our population, where doctors understand better than anyone the difficult conditions of life here.

APPREHENSION because doctors feel threatened. Most of us doubt that this attack could have been simply a robbery. If this could happen to someone who is among the most exemplary of doctors, living in one of the most secure neighborhoods in the town, what could happen if other medical colleagues in general are now targeted?

Is this incident linked to the conflict in the East with M23 militias?

Is this part of a plan to demoralize the doctors or the intellectual elites of the area?

Unfortunately, these are merely questions, but we do not have answers!

As “problem solvers” who respond to the needs of our patients, we refuse to wait for remote answers.

We demand that the appropriate authorities carry out a thorough and professional investigation, and that those responsible for these crimes be brought to justice.

On Behalf of the Regional Council of the Medical Society of South-Kivu

 ~ Dr. Xavier Mampengu Yanga Yongo, Secretary
 ~ Dr. DieuDonné Kalumuna Mudekereza Chikuru, Vice-President

(Translated from the French original by Susannah Sirkin and staff of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. See also the statement of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, endorsed by PHR.)

En Français:

Aujourd’hui, nous les Médecins pour les droits de l’homme (PHR) sommes solidaires avec nos collègues médecins, et la population de Sud-Kivu au lendemain de l’attentat effroyable contre le Docteur Denis Mukwege et son foyer, jeudi dernier.

Nous avons appris que les résidents de Bukavu et les institutions clées se sont unis en manifestation silencieuse aujourd’hui, et ont déclaré Bukavu ville morte. Cette fermeture générale est leur façon d’exprimer  leur colère contre la tentative d’assassinat d’un leader mais aussi d’un médecin qui a soigné des milliers de victimes du règne de la terreur qui existe actuellement dans l’est du Congo.

Nos collègues et le peuple de Bukavu – les écoles et les universités, les commerçants, tous les hôpitaux, les stations-service et les marchés ont collectivement demandé une enquête complète et immédiate sur l'assassinant de Mr Joseph Bizimana, l’aide et garde de Dr. Mukwege. Ils ont demandé la fin à l’impunité des crimes qui détruisent leurs vies et menacent les efforts d’une génération qui a espéré le changement, qui a travaillé pour un système de justice fonctionnel, pour la bonne livraison des services de santé, pour la fin des années de conflit et de a spoliation de l’environnement.

Cependant, le jour meme de la fermeture, plus des morts et blessures  violentes ont était rapporté en Walungu, Katana et Uvira en Sud-Kivu.

Nous avons l’honneur  de transmettre cette déclaration, message issu de la Société Médicale de Sud-Kivu en ce jour de chagrin et grief, et de nous joindre avec eux en lançant l’appel à la fin de l’impunité pour les responsables des atrocités en RDC.

Quand ceux qui se sont dévoués à aider les autres et leurs communautés sont ciblés,  des milliers des vies sont en jeu et nous sommes tous infiniment plus démunis.

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