‘Hands Off Africa! Stop choking Africa'- Pope Francis says in DRC
Pope Francis has condemned the exploitation of Africa and urged the outside world to acknowledge the catastrophic things that have been done in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa at large and respect its people.
In his first speech in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, Pope Francis urged the international community to give the central African country its autonomy while not turning a blind eye to exploitation and violence, the National Catholic Register reported.
“This country and this continent deserve to be respected and listened to; they deserve to find space and receive attention,” the Pope said Jan. 31 in the garden of the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa.
“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo!” he continued, as spectators cheered and applauded. “Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: Africa is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”
Pope Francis landed in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC, on Tuesday afternoon in the first leg of a six-day trip that will also include South Sudan.
The Pope met privately with President Felix Tshisekedi before an audience with the country’s authorities, diplomats, and representatives of civil society.
“May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny! May the world acknowledge the catastrophic things that were done over the centuries to the detriment of the local peoples, and not forget this country and this continent," the Pope said. “We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths that remain mostly unknown elsewhere.”
Pope Francis’ speech noted the DRC’s endurance of political exploitation, what he called “economic colonialism,” child labor, and violence.
Violence in eastern DRC has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.
Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with victims of violence from the eastern part of the country on Feb. 1 in Kinshasa following a Mass that is expected to draw two million people. Roughly half of the 90 million people in the DRC are Catholic.
The Pope will stay in Kinshasa until Friday morning when he will fly to South Sudan, another African country grappling with conflict and poverty in the company of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the global Anglican Communion, and by the Church of Scotland Moderator.