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04.09.2020 Congo

Congolese Nobel laureate Mukwege sparks tensions over Rwanda

By Samir TOUNSI
Mukwege is respected the world over for his pioneering work.  By Behrouz MEHRI (AFP)
LISTEN SEP 4, 2020
Mukwege is respected the world over for his pioneering work. By Behrouz MEHRI (AFP)

Nobel peace laureate Denis Mukwege has sparked tensions in his native DR Congo over neighbouring Rwanda, after saying he received death threats for condemning continuing massacres in his country's volatile east.

Mukwege, a gynaecologist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war, said in late July that he and his relatives had been the targets of death threats after a tweet condemning the massacre of 18 people in the DRC's South Kivu province.

Mukwege's tweet drew a line from the killings back to Rwandan involvement in the DRC's 1990s wars.

Hundreds of people took part in a demonstration in eastern DR Congo on Thursday to express their support for Mukwege while on Friday, hundreds rallied in the capital Kinshasa to ask the DRC government to expel the new Rwandan ambassador.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the rally, which had been banned by the authorities.

"We want justice and compensation for all the acts that Rwanda has committed in Congo, for all the massacres that have taken place," a demonstrator, Heritier Masingeni, said before the rally was broken up.

A protester held up a placard saying: "Hands off our Nobel laureate!"

The protesters accused the Rwandan envoy, Vincent Karega, of "revisionism" by denying Rwanda's role in numerous massacres which marked the two Congolese wars (1996-2003) in the east of the country after the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed some 800,000 lives.

In early 1996, the first Congo war erupted, led by a rebellion backed by regular troops from several neighbouring countries, particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

The second Congo war that took place from 1998 until 2003 involved a dozen armies from the region, 30 armed groups and two main rebellions: one in the east supported by Rwanda and another in the north backed by Uganda.

Mukwege had in July denounced massacres in South Kivu, bordering Uganda. Without mentioning who the attackers were, he tweeted: "these are the same ones who are still killing in the DRC."

"The macabre stories from Kipupu are in a straight line from the massacres that have hit the DRC since 1996," he said.

The killings were attributed to the Banyamulenge -- the descendants of ethnic Tutsi migrants who came from Rwanda -- who are fighting other local communities.

Mukwege recently told European Parliament lawmakers that some acts "could constitute crimes of genocide," citing a largely forgotten 2010 UN report which listed 617 violent incidents committed between 1993 and 2003 and which accused the Rwandan army of involvement.

Rwanda has rejected the claims. In mid-August former defence minister James Kabarebe, a key ally of President Paul Kagame, dismissed the report as "propaganda".

Mukwege has called for Rwanda "to own up to its acts," referring to clashes in 2000 between Rwandan and Ugandan troops on Congolese soil.

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