Screenshot from: kiffasblog.com
False quotes on social media state that 2018 Nobel Laureate Denis Mukwege resigned from the DRC’s COVID-19 response team because he was ordered to lie.
These claims, which have gone viral across Africa, have infiltrated Namibian social media groups and have been widely shared on Facebook and WhatsApp with the apparent intention to downplay or deny the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The viral quotes claim that Dr Mukwege resigned as both the vice-president of the COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Commission and as president of the Health Commission in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because he was ordered to lie about COVID-19 infections and deaths in the province.
According to an article published online on 17 June 2020:
He declares: “I cannot in any case dirty my Nobel Peace Prize for money, we had been ordered to declare any illness to be coranavirus (sic) and any death. In addition, the thing that displeased me is that, after more than 100 samples none came out positive. I have a career to protect and I am Congolese by blood. Getting rich by lying is a sin before God, I quit.”– africanreportfiles.com
The same false statements were repeated in another online article published on 20 June 2020.
On 18 June 2020, Dr Denis Mukwege distanced himself from any false information being spread in his name, stating the following on Twitter:
The false quotes attributed to Dr Mukwege have also been fact checked by both Africa Check and by AFP Fact Check on 19 June 2020 and found to be false. And others across the continent have also debunked the false quotes, as indicated by this Twitter post by the Nigeria-based Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD):
Why did Dr Denis Mukwege resign?
According to a 10 June 2020 statement published on the website of his PANZI Foundation, Dr Mukwege resigned from the COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Commission and the South Kivu Health Commission for the following reasons:
On the one hand, the impossibility of having in our province of RT ‐ PCR allowing to quickly confirm the diagnosis of Covid +. The time required, of more than two weeks, to receive the results of the samples sent to the INRB in Kinshasa, constituted a major handicap for our strategy based on “testing, identifying, isolating and treating”.
On the other hand, a loosening of prevention measures by our population, a denial of realities, the impossibility of enforcing barrier measures, the porosity of our borders with the massive return of thousands of compatriots from neighboring countries without having been quarantined, decreased the effectiveness of our strategy.
To these two factors are added organizational weaknesses and consistency between the different teams responsible for the response to the pandemic in South Kivu.
To date, in view of the influx of patients affected by the Coronavirus in the hospitals of Bukavu, it seems undoubted that the disease is present in the city. We are therefore at the start of an exponential epidemiological curve and we can no longer apply a strategy that would only be preventive.– Dr Denis Mukwege / PANZI Foundation