DRC rape doc protests seizing of hospital accounts

2015-01-02 11:48

Kinshasa – Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, famed for helping rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Thursday called the seizure of his hospital's bank accounts "unjustified" and fiscal "harassment".

Panzi hospital in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, had announced this week that the authorities had seized its accounts and it could no longer withdraw money.

Mukwege, the hospital's founder, told AFP by phone from Bukavu that the action purportedly for tax evasion was "unjustified because we are not considered like other public hospitals in the country."

He said Panzi hospital has a special statute and its personnel are taxed "at the source by the finance ministry".

"I am stunned that only Panzi hospital has been submitted to this fiscal harassment" by the tax authorities, Mukwege said.

For the past 15 years the Panzi hospital has specialised in treating the victims, mostly women, of violent sexual assault in the country's volatile eastern region, where the army has been fighting rival militia groups.


The militants vying for control of the region's mineral wealth often use mass rape to terrorise the local population.

The freeze has had a major impact on the functioning of Panzi hospital, the medical facility said on Wednesday, including blocking the payment of December's wages to 500 employees.

Dozens of hospital workers waving banners calling on the government to "Free our money" and "Stop hounding Panzi hospital" staged a demonstration on Wednesday outside the tax office in Bukavu.

Ruger Buhendwa, who was among the demonstrators, told AFP his family had not been able to celebrate Christmas because his salary had not been paid.

Mukwege last month launched an impassioned appeal to his compatriots, saying that insecurity and bad governance were keeping their resource-rich African nation in deep poverty.

"Our country is sick but, together, with our friends around the world, we can and will heal," the 59-year-old said, as he received the European Parliament's Sakharov rights prize for helping thousands of gang rape victims.