On August 18 and 19, 2022, Denis Mukwege—a gynecologist, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a suspected candidate for the 2023 presidential election—was prohibited from giving two lectures at the University of Kisangani (later moved to the Alliance Française) apparently due to external political pressure.
Mukwege—who faced death threats and an assassination attempt for demanding justice for victims of rape during the Second Congo War—was scheduled to give lectures on August 18 and 19, under the themes, “traumatic fistulas” and “rape as a weapon of war.”
Citing alleged violent student protests and related logistical and security reasons, the university rector wrote to the organizers, asking that them to move the lectures off campus.
Organizers moved the events to a branch of the Alliance Française in Kisangani; however, Mukwege was reportedly unable to travel to Kisangani for unusual and suspicious reasons. Reports indicate that domestic flights between Kinshasa and Kisangani were suddenly suspended without reason on August 17 and on August 18 a large group of motorcyclists reportedly barricaded the exit from the hospital where Mukwege works, preventing him from leaving.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparent, politically-motivated efforts to cancel an academic event. State and higher education officials should protect academic freedom and take all available steps to ensure the exercise of academic freedom, including on-campus, academic events. Cancellations of and efforts to prevent academic events on political grounds undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.