Denis Mukwege won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here is his story told in Davos

Denis Mukwege works to fight rape as a weapon of war. Here, world famous photographer Platon explains his story Image: World Economic Forum

Michael Hanley
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World famous gynaecological surgeon Denis Mukwege has dedicated his life to fighting rape as a weapon of war. His Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in South Kivu, Congo, has treated 52,000 survivors, specializing in those suffering from extreme sexual violence.

Platon, one of the world's top portrait photographers, travelled to Dr Mukwege's hospital to capture his story, and that of his war-torn country. In this video from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, 2017, he presents the portraits he took on that journey, and the stories behind them.


Denis Mukwege is a man "exhausted by the fight against rape as a weapon of war," says Platon. "And yet when he is in the hospital doing what he was born to do, it is like he is 200% alive."

When asked what makes him happy, Dr Mukwege replied: "My happiness is in the happiness of others. If I can lift a soul or a spirit, then I myself can be happy."

Here are some souls that that Dr Mukwege has lifted.

This is Esther, 17 with her son, Josue:

Image: Platon for The People's Portfolio and Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundations USA and DRC. © 2017

When Esther was 16, she was fetching water for her parents in a rural area outside of Bukavu. She was kidnapped, tied to a tree, and gang raped for four days. She escaped on the fourth day. In a local village she was rescued by a local man, who took her into his home, and raped her again. When she arrived at the Panzi Hospital, she discovered she was pregnant with Josue.

Platon, on hearing this story, asked Esther: "Why don't you cry in my picture? I've never heard a story like this."

"My Mummy and Daddy always told me when I was a child, that I was here to bring joy to the world. I will always keep my promise."

This is Colonel Bodeli, chief of police in South Kivu:

Image: Platon for The People's Portfolio and Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundations USA and DRC. © 2017

"I don't understand what rape as a weapon of war means," Platon said to Colonel Bodeli.

"It is brutally simple," came the reply. "Bullets cost money. Rape is free." What's more, the woman in Africa is a central axis of strength in the family and community. If you hurt and disrupt her confidence in life, you break down family life. If that permeates a whole society, they are less likely to stand up to oppressive rebels.

Rebels fight for control of minerals, the minerals that power our mobile devices. "So if we all thought, this is a distant struggle, we realise that our empowerment makes us stakeholders in this story."

Together with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi campaigner against sexual violence as a weapon of war, Dr Mukwege's work was recognized by the Nobel committee.

The committee said: “Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others.

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”

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