Several online sources, including a Nigerian Facebook page, NEWS, shared a viral post which claims Dr. Denis Mukwege, the joint winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, resigned as head of a local task force fighting COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The report said Dr. Mukwege resigned because he was directed to inflate numbers of Coronavirus cases in the country.
The claim reads: “He declares, “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.”
According to the report, Mukwege was displeased that after more than 100 samples, none came out positive against the directive.
“I have a career to protect, and I am Congolese by blood. Getting rich by lying is a sin before God, I quit,” the report added.
This claim, shared by several sources on Facebook and other platforms multiple times, wa also aggregated by All Africa news platform.
As at the time of reporting this, the false claim on a Cameroonian blog Kiffa’s blog which its version of the story seen on All Africa news has gained over 4,000 shares on the blog’s Facebook page with hundreds of comments.
Dr. Denis Mukwege never made the above statement. A press statement released by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, announcing his resignation from the response team, clearly stated reason for his decision.
He said the claim by the viral report was never part of his reason for quitting his position.
In responding to the claim Mukwege said: “On the one hand, the impossibility of having in our province of RT ‐ PCR allowing to confirm the diagnosis of COVID + rapidly. 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 neighbouring countries without having been quarantined, decreased the effectiveness of our strategy.’’ Dr. Mukwege’s statement read in part.
An investigation by fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), revealed the purported claim is not on Dr Mukwege official social media and websites.
CDD fact-checkers only found what can be termed as a rebuttal considering the absence of the statement attributed to him on his webiste and official Facebook page.
It also said: “Please note that all statements or press releases posted appearing to be in my name, that does not appear on our social networks, or official sites (Panzi Foundation DRC, Panzi Foundation USA, Mukwege Foundation, and Panzi Hospital) are unauthorized and/ or fraudulent statements.”
Reacting to the claim, Maud Salomé Ekila, the Communication Manager at the Mukwege Foundation in a statement described the posts as “fake news.”
She said: “These are not Dr. Denis Mukwege’s words. It’s incredible that the media and people online share this false information when we have official accounts where his resignation was explained and justified in a statement.”
The NEWS which first shared the claim in Nigeria has since deleted the claim on its Facebook page after our fact-checkers reached out to them with the text of the statement released by Dr. Mukwege announcing his resignation.
Despite the action by the owners of the page, a screenshot of the posts from both Kiffas Blog and the News is circulating across Social media space as they are yet to delete the posts.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege did not resign from the leadership of the COVID-19 task force in DR Congo because he was directed to manipulate patient numbers as claimed by the viral posts.
He said he resigned due to other reasons, which was stated clearly in his resignation statement. These include weak and inconsistencies in the government’s response to the pandemic.
Dr. Mukwege said a ‘denial of the realities’ by the citizens and the massive return of thousands of compatriots from neighbouring countries without being quarantined makes the job of the task force almost impossible.
CDD is urging members of the public to verify all information before sharing