Congolese doctor receives EU prize for helping rape victims

STRASBOURG, FRANCE, Danny Kemp- Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege called Wednesday for global efforts to end sexual violence as a weapon of war as he received the European Parliament's Sakharov rights prize for helping thousands of gang rape victims.
The 59-year-old -- dubbed "Doctor Miracle" for his work with victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- received several standing ovations as he was presented with the award at the parliament in Strasbourg.

"Women's bodies have become a battlefield. We have to draw a red line against the use of rape as a weapon of war," said Mukwege, adding that it was one of the "biggest humanitarian catastrophes of modern times."
"In every raped woman I see my wife, in every raped grandmother I see my mother, in every raped child I see my children," added Mukwege, whose spouse attended the ceremony with him.
Mukwege told AFP his foundation was looking at expanding beyond his clinic in his homeland to other countries where sexual violence is rife.
"We are studying the feasibility of a centre in Burkina Faso," he told AFP, adding that "we have also had inquiries from Afghanistan, where many women are in the same situation.".
- Assassination attempt -
Mukwege trained as a gynaecologist, going on to found the General Referral Hospital of Panzi near Bukavu in South Kivu province which has seen some of the worst violence.
He survived an assassination attempt two years ago after speaking out about the continued use of rape in the conflict and accused the world of failing to act.
Last year, however, he defied threats and returned home to a warm welcome from thousands of people.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz told the prize ceremony that Mukwege "fought for the dignity of women, justice and peace in his country".
"This is my 20th Sakharov prize but I've rarely seen men and women crying in parliament," added the German.
A Congolese delegation sang for joy and waved flags from the parliamentary gallery as Parliament President Martin Schulz handed Mukwege a plaque to mark the annual award, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Mukwege has previously been tipped as a possible Nobel Peace Prize winner.
- DR Congo 'can heal' -
Mukwege launched an impassioned appeal to his countrymen, saying that insecurity and bad governance were keeping the resource-rich African nation in deep poverty.
"Our country is sick but, together, with our friends around the world, we can and will heal," he said.
Rival forces fighting for control of the vast mineral riches in eastern DR Congo have used mass rape for decades to terrorise the local population into submission.
Mukwege said the attempt on his own life, in which one of his domestic workers was killed, had forced him out of the Democratic Republic of Congo for a time, but that his patients had persuaded him to return.
"They even wrote that they were ready to guarantee my security if the UN and the Congolese government weren't able to," he told AFP.
Members of the pro-Western Ukraine democracy and rights group EuroMaidan, which led the popular revolt against deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, were invited to the ceremony as runners up for the prize.
The third candidate was prominent Azerbaijani rights activist Leyla Yunus.
The Sakharov prize in 2013 was won by Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, while previous winners since the award was founded in 1988 include late South African rights icon Nelson Mandela and Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thursday, November 27th 2014
Danny Kemp

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