The claim in a message circulating on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram in several African countries since June 15, 2020, is that Nobel Laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege, resigned from the Democratic Republic of Congo COVID-19 “response team” because he “cannot dirty my Nobel Peace Prize for money”.
On Facebook, the message has been viewed more than a million times.
The message quotes Mukwege as saying: “I cannot in any case dirty my Nobel Peace Prize for money, we had been ordered to declare any illness to be coronavirus 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.”
Checks reveal that Mukwege has resigned from his positions as vice chairman of the Multi-sectoral Coronavirus Response Committee for the DRC’s South Kivu Province, and chairman of its health commission, but his resignation has nothing to do with money or being forced to make false diagnoses. The quote is not by him.
Mukwege, a gynaecological surgeon, was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Iraqi activist, Nadia Murad, for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
In 2008, he was one of five people awarded the UN Human Rights Prize. In 2016, Time Magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. And a 2018 BBC report said Mukwege was known as “Doctor Miracle” for his “ability to repair through reconstructive surgery the horrific damage inflicted on women who have been raped.”
On June 10, 2020, Mukwege issued a lengthy statement in French on his resignation from the two COVID-19 bodies. The statement has been quoted by several news outlets.
A machine translation of the statement has Mukwege saying he resigned “in order to devote myself entirely to my medical responsibilities” and to treat an influx of COVID-19 patients at Panzi Hospital in South Kivu. Mukwege is one of the hospital’s founders.
He prefaces this by expressing frustration with both delays in COVID-19 testing, and a lack of social control of the disease’s spread – “a loosening of prevention measures by our population, a denial of realities, the impossibility of enforcing barrier measures, the porosity of our borders”.
Mukwege did not say he had resigned because he had been required to declare any illness or death “to be coronavirus” – or that he had been tempted into “getting rich by lying”.
This is not the first time Africa Check has seen false claims about doctors denying the existence or some aspect of COVID-19. Even other Nobel laureates have been the subjects of such claims. The next time you see a similar claim, here are some ways to verify it.
Mukwege himself gives a good example. On June 12, he tweeted: “Statements or press releases posted in my name but not appearing on our social networks @PanziFoundation @PanziUSA @MukwegeFound or our official sites http://fondationpanzirdc.org http://panzifoundation.org http://hopitaldepanzi.org http://mukwegefoundation.org are not genuine.”
To confirm that a social media account is real, look for a few important signs. Most social media platforms – including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – verify accounts of public interest.
The accounts are marked with a blue tick. This lets users know that the social media platform has confirmed that the account can be trusted to represent the person or organisation in its name.
However, not all public figures – including Mukwege – have ensured that their accounts were verified.
Also, look for links to social media accounts on the official website of an organisation or public figure. For instance, the official web page of the Mukwege Foundation links to its official Twitter account. If the Twitter account linked to the official page, but not the other way round, then you would have cause for suspicion. – Keegan Leech
A collaboration between Daily Trust and Africa Check to fight health misinformation.