86-year-old Francis says a “forgotten carnage” is underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as he begins his trip to two African countries.
Pope Francis has called for foreign powers to stop looting Africa’s natural resources for “the poison of their own greed” after landing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of a visit to two African countries. .
It was the first time a pope had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1985, when it was still known as Zaire after Pope John Paul II visited the Congo in 1985.
“Keep hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo! Hands off Africa!”
Calling the Congo’s vast mineral and natural wealth the “Diamond of Creation”, Francis wants foreign interests to stop dividing the country for their own interests and to end the economic “enslavement” of the Congolese people. demanded recognition of their role in
“Stop choking Africa. History’s first Latin American Pope has long condemned wealthy nations for exploiting the resources of poor nations for their own gain.
Francis pointed out the role that colonial powers such as Belgium played in the exploitation of Congo until the Congo, which is 80 times the size of Belgium, became independent in 1960. He also noted that neighboring countries play a similar role today. said to have fulfilled
The 86-year-old didn’t name Belgium or neighboring countries, but he spared no words to condemn a “forgotten carnage” underway.
“The poison of greed has stained the diamond with blood,” said Francis.
“May the world recognize the devastating events that have taken its toll on local people for centuries, and remember this country and this continent.”
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kinshasa, said that hundreds, if not thousands, of people were on the road following the Pope’s convoy from the airport to the presidential palace on motorbikes.
“The roads were lined with church groups and here in the Congo, students from many Catholic-run church schools were running,” he added.
“Here, the Catholic Church operates about 60% of health and education services, which is what makes the Catholic Church such an important institution here. [in Congo]added Webb.
About half of Congo’s 90 million people are Roman Catholic.
The six-day trip, including a stop in South Sudan, was originally scheduled for July 2022, but was postponed due to Francis’ knee problems, traveling to Kinshasa, forcing him to use a wheelchair on the ground. it was done.
Battle in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Francisco had also planned to stop in Goma in eastern Congo, but the surrounding North Kivu area has been plagued by heavy fighting between government forces and rebel group M23, as well as attacks by ISIL (ISIS)-linked fighters. there is Armed group.
About 5.7 million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, according to the World Food Programme, a fifth of them last year alone.
Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels fighting government forces in the east. Rwanda denies this.
Addressing the Pope on the same stage, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said, “Like the armed militias, the mineral-hungry foreign powers in our soil are a direct and cowardly threat to our neighbor Rwanda.” With support, they are committing brutal atrocities.
The Pope said the Congolese people were fighting to preserve territorial integrity “against a deplorable attempt to divide the country”. The Pope did not name Rwanda in his speeches or take sides in the controversy.
Instead of going to Goma, Francis plans to meet with a delegation from the east traveling to Kinshasa on Wednesday for a private meeting at the Vatican embassy.
The plan calls for people to participate in a ceremony in which they jointly commit to forgive their perpetrators.