DRCongo disappointed as rape clinic doctor misses out on Nobel

KINSHASA (AFP) - Hopes that pioneering Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege would finally win the Nobel Peace Prize were dashed on Friday, provoking disappointment and frustration at the rape victims' hospital he founded.

Expectations in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been high in the run-up, with Dr Mukwege second favourite behind teenage Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai in the betting odds.

"It's really disappointing," said Ephrem Bisimwa, the hospital's public relations manager in Panzi near Bukavu, the chief town in the unstable South Kivu province.

Dr Mukwege has set up a hospital and foundation to help the tens of thousands of women raped by local and foreign militiamen, as well as regular soldiers in the army.

Every year, the hospital's main programme for victims of sexual violence takes in over 3,500 women and provides them with reconstructive surgery.

"We really thought this year we were in a strong position," said Bisimwa after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

"At the beginning we thought of getting everyone together in a big room so we could all hear the announcement. But luckily we didn't do it because a lot of traumatised women would not have been able to take the news," Bisimwa said.

Dr Mukwege, currently in the United States, was more upbeat in his message on Twitter following the news.

"Thanks to all of you who have supported our work recently. The struggle to end sexual violence in conflict and peacetime continues."

But one woman from Bukavu did not hide her disappointment, resignation and anger at the decision.

"That's the way of the world, unfortunately. It's a real disappointment because what the doctor is doing is going unnoticed. The other prizes he has won do not have the same value!" she said.

"It's like he was saving flies. Human lives are perishing here... In Syria the whole world has rallied. And look how France got involved in Mali," she said.

Dr Mukwege's work has earned him numerous nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also been honoured with an award from the United Nations for his human rights activities.

Last October Dr Mukwege narrowly escaped being murdered after a group of armed men broke into his home in Bukavu. He was forced into exile in Belgium and returned in January this year.