March 27, 2023
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‘Hands off Africa,’ Pope Francis tells rich world

KINSHASA — Pope Francis denounced the “poison of greed” driving conflicts in Africa as he started a go to to Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, saying the rich world needed to understand that individuals have been extra treasured than the minerals within the earth beneath them.

Many tens of hundreds of individuals cheered as he traveled from the airport into the capital Kinshasa in his popemobile, with some breaking away to chase it whereas others chanted and waved flags.

However the joyous temper, one of the vibrant welcomes of his international journeys, turned sombre when the 86-year-old pope spoke to dignitaries on the presidential palace. He condemned “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity” in Congo, the place huge mineral wealth has fueled conflict, displacement and starvation.

“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hands off Africa. Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered,” Pope Francis stated.

Congo has a number of the world’s richest deposits of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, tin, tantalum and lithium, however these have stoked battle between militias, authorities troops and international invaders. Mining has additionally been linked to inhumane exploitation of staff, together with kids, and environmental degradation.

“It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation,” the pope stated, studying his speech in Italian whereas seated. Individuals listening to a French translation applauded repeatedly.

“The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood,” he stated, referring to Congo particularly.

Compounding the nation’s issues, japanese Congo has been affected by violence related to the lengthy and sophisticated fallout from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the M23 insurgent group preventing authorities troops within the east. Rwanda denies this.

“As well as armed militias, foreign powers hungry for the minerals in our soil commit, with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbor Rwanda, cruel atrocities,” Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi stated, talking simply earlier than the pope on the identical stage on a sizzling, muggy afternoon.

The pope didn’t identify Rwanda in his handle or take sides within the dispute.

Rwandan authorities spokesperson Yolande Makolo rebuffed Mr. Tshisekedi’s feedback. “It’s obvious that this ridiculous obsession with scapegoating Rwanda is President Tshisekedi’s electoral strategy — a distraction from the poor performance of his government, and failure to deliver to their citizens,” she advised Reuters.

An estimated 5.7 million individuals are internally displaced in Congo and 26 million face extreme starvation, largely due to the impression of armed battle, in accordance with the United Nations.

About half of Congo’s inhabitants of 90 million are Roman Catholics and the Church performs an important position in operating faculties and well being amenities within the sprawling central African nation, in addition to selling democracy.

The pope criticized rich international locations 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 devouring it (Congo). We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths,” he stated.

Mr. Tshisekedi made the same level: “While the international community has remained passive and silent, more than 10 million people have been horribly killed.” 

First scheduled for final July, the pope’s journey was postponed due to a flare-up of a power knee ailment. Francis had initially deliberate to journey to Goma, in japanese Congo, however that cease was scrapped due to a resurgence in preventing between M23 rebels and authorities troops.

In an obvious reference to the M23 and different militias energetic in Congo’s japanese areas, the pope stated the Congolese individuals have been preventing to protect their territorial integrity “against deplorable attempts to fragment the country”. Reuters

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