By Amitabh Pal on January 15, 2013

A remarkably intrepid man has decided to go back to work in his home country.

Denis Mukwege, a doctor who runs a hospital in the Congo that treats rape victims, has returned after a failed assassination attempt drove him into exile last year. Mukwege has done crucial surgeries for thousands of injured women since the 1990s, and has been internationally recognized for his work. He has received several honors, including one from the United Nations, and has been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mukwege was almost killed in October, evading harm only after flinging himself to the ground. His bodyguard was murdered.

The assailants drove him out—but only temporarily. He returned this week to a hero’s welcome.

“It was as if someone extraordinarily famous had come to town,” reports the New York Times. “Thousands of people craned their necks as the motorcade roared by, cellphones out to grab a snap, an air of expectation and excitement eclipsing all the street noise of clanging Coke bottles and beeping motorcycles. ‘There he is!’ someone yelled. ‘Le docteur!’ ”

The adoration of the Congolese people for Mukwege is understandable and well deserved. Initially, he didn’t intend to go on this path, though.

“When I first started,” he told The Progressive in 2009, “I was a gynecologist expecting to be doing C-sections. I wanted to help poor women, work on women’s health, and maternal mortality was very high, so I thought to make my competence in the operating room available. We saw women coming in with histories of rape and genital mutilation.”

Soon, he perceived the broader causes of the horrors he was being forced to confront on a daily basis.

“You can’t treat the physical trauma without addressing the psychological trauma,” he said. “You can’t stop at treating the psychological, but you have to think about the survivor’s reinsertion into society, which means socioeconomic and vocational programs. You can’t allow these crimes to continue with impunity, which means legal and juridical assistance to try to get justice for victims. And you have to address the political root causes, which means campaigning nationally and internationally against rape.”

It is this broader analysis that was the probable reason for Mukwege being attacked.

“Dr. Mukwege presumably was targeted because of a strong speech he gave at the United Nations last month, denouncing mass rape in Congo and the impunity for it,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (a big admirer of Mukwege) wrote in October. Congo President Joseph “Kabila has long been angry at Dr. Mukwege, and the U.N. speech can’t have helped. Meanwhile, Dr. Mukwege has also offended Rwanda with his denunciations of Rwanda’s role in the slaughter and rape in eastern Congo.”

Mukwege has implicated the United States, too, in the horrors afflicting Central Africa, through its indulgence of Rwanda, an ally, and because of its insatiable appetite for Congo’s mineral wealth and its indifference to the suffering there.

Mukwege’s services are sorely needed. Things have recently again taken a turn for the worse in the Congo, with intensified fighting and increasing rapes. Mukwege has detailed for the world the horrific effects of rape as a war strategy.

“The armed group will come to a village, and all the men in the group will rape all of the women in the village, without distinction, publicly,” he told The Progressive. “The objective is to maximize the risk of sexually transmitted infections.”

Mukwege will continue to shine the spotlight on such brutalities—and to treat the victims. He deserves all of our support and good wishes.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Obama Repeats Geithner Mistake in Picking Lew for Treasury Secretary."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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