We can't solve this problem if men don't stand up. They must stand up and tell the men who rape: We do not accept this. If you do not rape but keep silent about rape it means that you accept it.

Acceptance speech – Denis Mukwege

Thank you for the invitation of the Members of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation and for giving me the floor in this beautiful place.

It is with great humility that I receive today this prestigious award.

Friends of Peace, Friends of Humanity,

With this Prize, no one will be able to say that they were not aware of this unprecedented tragedy in the history of the African Great Lakes region.

Friends of peace, friends of humanity, you have refused indifference, you have refused to close your eyes and your ears in the face of this horrible and odious barbarism that brings shame on our humanity and that has stained our conscience for far too long.

I rejoice with all of you today, and convey all my gratitude to you.

For fifteen years, I have witnessed mass atrocities against women and I cannot remain a bystander because our common humanity calls on us to take care of one another. I had no other choice than to continue to treat my patients and to speak out for peace and justice.

Our encounters with these women every day have taught us to bear their suffering with them and to treat their wounds. Their damaged bodies, broken hearts, and crushed spirits all needed to be restored, consoled and healed. In order for us to treat tens of thousands of women who are the victims of the gravest crimes, we also need hope and to be able to transmit it to the survivors. Without hope, life is not worth living.

Thus, we have hope for the future of the DRC.  Hope that this great country will become a nation of peace and justice.

Friends of Peace, Friends of Humanity,

All the ingredients to reach this goal are in place. The peoples of the African Great Lakes region are waiting impatiently for the implementation of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation, which is the first peace deal tackling the root causes of violence in the DRC and in the region.

It’s a last-chance agreement and it requires the unwavering political courage of the signatory states and the international community for its effective implementation.

There will be no peace without justice and the struggle against impunity is one of the keys to ending violence against women.

Today, if this prize can catalyse the arrival of peace in the DRC and put an end to the tragedy of Congolese women and of women in situations of armed conflict in general, I’ll be thrilled.

I dedicate this prize to all the women killed in conflicts and confronted by violence every day. I would like to tell them that through this prize, the world is listening and refuses to stand idly by in response to your suffering.

Friends of Peace, Friends of Humanity,

This prize will not have great meaning if it doesn’t result in mobilisation to change the situation for women in zones of armed conflict as well as in peacetime.

We hope that the world will not delay in acting with strength on their behalf, because the survival and the future of humanity depend on you all.

Sweden is a country that greatly contributed to advance women rights and maternal and child health care. Its system is among the best in the world. The impact on other areas of life in Sweden is clearly visible.

In other parts of the world, we cannot even talk about equality between men and women as women rights is reduced to a basic right of survival. In conflict zones, the bodies of women are battlefields, rapes are committed with extreme brutality: a cheap but very efficient weapon of war.

If we want a world where women can play their full role, if we aspire to a society where woman is equal to man, if we wish to contribute to a more equitable world, we must take a stand, denounce the unacceptable and draw a line that shall not be crossed. The international community has set limits: chemical weapons and genocide.

Friends of Peace, Friends of Humanity,

You can help to draw a red line on the use of rape as a weapon of war. We cannot say that we want to achieve empowerment of women if we at the same time accept these mass atrocities on their bodies just because they are women. Not taking position is to accept the idea that women are not fully human beings, because rape committed with extreme violence is a denial of our common humanity.

Wars are absurd and are the fruit of our decisions, but it is women and children who are paying the heaviest price. We should learn by the mistakes of the past in order to build a better future.

When Europe was liberated in 1945, the world was shocked by the discoveries of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. All humanity still bears the shame today of these extermination camps constructed by humans to dehumanize other humans.

The shocking images and testimonies of survivors were such that many were convinced that at least humanity had learned its lessons – that never again under the sun there will be war, that hatred is not an option, that racism is absurd, that any hint of xenophobia and cultural superiority are unacceptable, and that nobody will ever again remain silent in face of serious human rights violations.

There was so much hope at the time of the adoption of the United Nations Charter. The hope of a new world, the hope of a new order of solidarity and brotherhood among people of all colors and all backgrounds, without discrimination.

But sadly we are forced to note that 60 years later, the world has learned nothing! The world has learned nothing!

Indeed, if Africa had learned there would not be so much hatred and ethnic conflicts that tear families apart and lock people into violence and darkness of poverty.

If Europe had learned, we would not face the resurgence of nationalisms in several European countries.

If Asia had learned there would not be so many identities defined by religious or communitarian grounds professing the dream of one religion and one unique culture imposed on everyone.

If the world had learned, we would not let the war continue that has killed more than six million persons in ten years and hundreds of thousands of women victims of sexual violence in the DRC.

Friends of Peace, Friends of Humanity,

We hope this price can contribute to awake our minds, to illuminate our conscience and to refuse indifference.

We hope this prize can contribute to the awakening of noble, altruistic and solidarity feelings of people of good will in order to finally end barbarism in the Congo and to allow peace for women without which there is no future in this region.

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Assistant in Sweden:
Stina Berge
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