In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there are less than two weeks left for potential candidates to declare their intentions for the upcoming presidential election at the end of 2023. The candidacy registration period, opened by the Electoral Commission (CENI) on September 9, is set to close on October 8. Among the highly anticipated candidacies is that of Dr. Denis Mukwege, but the Nobel Peace laureate of 2018 is still keeping his decision shrouded in uncertainty.
While he has not definitively said “yes,” he has not ruled out a “no” either. In Dr. Mukwege’s inner circle, there is still optimism. Evidence of this is the $100,000 raised for this cause, contributed by ordinary citizens who have sometimes given what little they had. Members of civil society even personally handed over the required deposit for his presidential candidacy at his hospital in Bukavu about ten days ago.
“We cannot accept people’s contributions if we don’t intend to move forward,” Professor Alphonse Maindo, a close associate of Mukwege, stated in an interview with TV5 Monde. According to him, there are clear positive signals. Behind the scenes and in the media, his supporters are actively rallying support. They have recently been in Europe to mobilize around his potential candidacy. Dr. Mukwege is currently in the United States.
There are also primaries within a section of civil society in the DRC to select a common presidential candidate within the Alliance of Congolese for National Refoundation (ACRN). Several sources suggest that this individual might align with Mukwege in the event of his candidacy.
A Civil Society Platform that has also fielded candidates for national and local parliamentary seats. Winning the presidency is one thing; ensuring representation in Parliament is equally crucial.
A Candidacy with 12 Pillars
What Mukwege’s supporters also emphasize is that several considerations must be taken into account before announcing a candidacy. They mention Mukwege’s security, which will need to be ensured during the campaign. Currently, it is the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) that handles security. Will this still be feasible if he enters the political arena?
As for his program, it has not been detailed publicly, but it exists and is structured around 12 pillars. The main ones include peace, security, and defense. He aims to combat the balkanization of the country and regularly criticizes neighboring countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda.
Other pillars focus on justice and the rule of law, which align with Mukwege’s long-standing advocacy against impunity.
The Man of the West?
Critics often raise an image associated with Dr. Mukwege: that of being the man of the West. He has received support from Europe and the United States, where he is recognized thanks to his Nobel Prize. Books and films have been dedicated to him, further enhancing his aura.
His hospital receives foreign funding. Moreover, when a Western personality visits the DRC, it has almost become obligatory to stop at Panzi Hospital. The Belgian king visited, as did former French President François Hollande in September last year. In 2023, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Swiss president also made visits, while the French president in March met with Dr. Mukwege in Kinshasa.
Finally, some observers argue that he is better known outside the country than within. However, there is little reliable data to confirm this. The ultimate test will be to see his performance in the presidential election if he decides to run. The first indication will come on October 8, the deadline for candidate submissions.