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‘Hands off Africa,’ Pope Francis tells the rich world

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Hands off Africa,

  • Pope begins trip to DR Congo and South Sudan
  • François meets the victims of the war in the Congo
  • Trip postponed from July due to Pope’s knee disease

KINSHASA, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Pope Francis denounced the “poison of greed” driving conflict in Africa as he began a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, saying the rich world must surrender realized that people were more valuable than minerals in Africa. the earth under them.

Several tens of thousands of people cheered as he rode from the airport to the capital Kinshasa in his popemobile, some escaping to chase him away while others chanted and waved flags.
But the joyous mood, one of the most rousing welcomes of his trips abroad, was darkened when the 86-year-old pope addressed dignitaries at the presidential palace. He condemned “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity” in Congo, where immense mineral wealth has fueled war, displacement and hunger.
“Hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hands off Africa. Stop suffocating Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a land to be plundered,” said Francis.

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Congo has some of the richest deposits of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, tin, tantalum and lithium in the world, but these have fueled conflicts between militias, government troops and foreign invaders. Mining has also been linked to the inhumane exploitation of workers, including children, and environmental degradation.

“It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to suffer various forms of exploitation,” the pope said, reading his speech in Italian while seated. People listening to a French translation applauded repeatedly.“The poison of greed has bloodied its diamonds,” he said, referring specifically to Congo.
Compounding the country’s problems, eastern Congo has been plagued by violence linked to the long and complex fallout from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group fighting government troops in the east. Rwanda denies this.
“In addition to armed militias, foreign powers hungry for minerals on our soil are committing, with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbor Rwanda, cruel atrocities,” Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said, speaking just before the pope on the same stage on a hot and humid afternoon.

The pope did not name Rwanda in his speech or take sides in the dispute.

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo pushed back against Tshisekedi’s comments. “Obviously this ridiculous obsession with scapegoating Rwanda is President Tshisekedi’s electoral strategy – a distraction from his government’s poor performance and failure to deliver its citizens,” she told Reuters .


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According to the United Nations, around 5.7 million people are internally displaced in Congo and 26 million face severe starvation, largely due to the impact of armed conflict.

About half of Congo’s 90 million people are Roman Catholics, and the Church plays a crucial role in running schools and health facilities in the sprawling Central African country, as well as promoting democracy. .The pope criticized rich countries for ignoring the tragedies unfolding in Congo and elsewhere in Africa.
“One has the impression that the international community has practically resigned itself to the violence that is devouring it (Congo). One cannot get used to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, making millions dead,” he said.Tshisekedi made a similar remark: “While the international community has remained passive and silent, over 10 million people have been horribly killed.
“Originally scheduled last July, the pope’s trip was postponed due to a flare-up of chronic knee disease. Francis had originally planned to travel to Goma in eastern Congo, but that stopover was scrapped due to an upsurge in fighting between M23 rebels and government troops.
In an apparent reference to M23 and other militias active in the eastern regions of Congo, the pope said the Congolese people were fighting to preserve their territorial integrity “against deplorable attempts to fragment the country.
”On Wednesday, Francis will celebrate Mass at an airport in Kinshasa that is expected to draw more than a million people. He will also meet victims of violence from the East.Francis will stay in Kinshasa until Friday morning, when he will fly to South Sudan,
another African country struggling with conflict and poverty.Initially, he will be accompanied for this stage of his journey by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
head of the world Anglican Communion, and by the moderator of the Church of Scotland. The religious leaders described their joint visit as a “pilgrimage of peace” to the world’s youngest nation.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 from predominantly Muslim Sudan after decades of conflict. Two years later, the inter-ethnic conflict turned into a civil war that killed 400,000 people. A 2018 deal ended the worst of the fights.Additional reporting by Justin Makangara, Benoit Nyemba, Sonia Rolley and Stanis Bujakera, and Philbert Girinema in Kigali; Written by Estelle Shirbon and Philip Pullella; Editing by Alexandra Hudson, Barbara Lewis and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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