What you need to know:
- The race is expected to pool fringe candidates as well, as has been the tradition. Tshisekedi has tried to galvanise grassroots support as leaders from various factions in the 26 provinces have come forth to declare their support for the incumbent.
Popular Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege on Monday declared himself an aspirant for the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for December 20, potentially ending speculation on whether he will join politics.
But the famous medical doctor who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 may have made a decision which could now earn him the murk of Congolese dirty politics where the not-so-clean win, and hardly play by the rules.
Mukwege spoke in Kinshasa, far from his base in South Kivu, from where he has operated and helped hundreds of women raped in the war with reconstructive surgery.
Not that he had totally avoided politics. In fact, he was one of the prominent personalities in the Congo to have played politics without actually joining it. He often lampooned the government for its dalliance with foreign missions including the much-maligned UN peacekeeping mission (Monusco), and the recent East African Community Regional Force (EACRF). In fairness, even Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has been critical of Monusco, and demanded that EACRF act more on violent rebel groups in eastern Congo.
For Mukwege, those who consider him a hero have been nagging that he makes a stab at the presidential bid.
On September 16, for instance, a group of women publicly asked that he contests and handed him a cheque of $100,000 so he can pay registration fee to the independent national electoral commission (CENI). He promised to revert.
"I declare that I am ready to carry out this project, but with you. I therefore accept to be your candidate for the presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo", said the man known locally as ‘the women's repairer,’ because of the numerous surgical operations he performed on women who were victims of sexual violence in North and South Kivu in the 30-year war.
Far from the international fame, however, Mukwege joins the list of candidates who will face Tshisekedi in a one-round election where the winner normally takes all.
The race also includes opponent Martin Fayulu who lost to Tshisekedi in 2019, former prime minister Matata Ponyo; another former prime minister Adolphe Muzito; and former Katanga province governor Moïse Katumbi who is also President of TP Mazembe football club.
The race is expected to pool fringe candidates as well, as has been the tradition. Tshisekedi has tried to galvanise grassroots support as leaders from various factions in the 26 provinces have come forth to declare their support for the incumbent.
Mukwege must hence, expand his popularity in Kivu to outcompete everyone.
“When the people decide to take power, no system can stand in their way,” he said.
Yet he doesn’t even have a political party. His bankable support emerges from two sectors: a ‘Patriotic Appeal,’ born of civil society, and a political platform, the ACRN (Alliance des Congolais pour la refondation de la nation).
At 68, he dreams of repairing the DR Congo, just as he is already repairing the bodies of women who are victims of violence. But the Nobel Prize winner can expect a fierce battle.