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    NewsAfricaThe Pope in the Congo: “Take your hands off Africa. Stop suffocating her!”

    The Pope in the Congo: “Take your hands off Africa. Stop suffocating her!”

    Francis landed this Tuesday in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the first stop on the trip that will also take him to South Sudan until Sunday, two of the most dangerous countries on the continent and one of the few places where Catholicism maintains its presence. vigor. A trip that had to be postponed last July due to the Pope’s knee problems, as he himself recalled during the flight. As soon as he arrived, before the president of the country, Felix Tshisekedi, he began to explain his vision of the conflicts that plague the country. “Keep your hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo, don’t touch Africa. Stop suffocating it, because Africa is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny ”, he launched into a long and profound speech in which he defended from beginning to end the dignity of the continent against political abuses: internal and international.

    Francis arrives in the Congo at a particularly delicate moment for the region. The violent escalation, which last year cost the life of the Italian ambassador to the country, Luca Attanasio, assassinated near the city of Goma, has forced the cancellation of the scheduled stop in this city in the northeast of the country, precisely due to insecurity. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo, tormented by war, continues to suffer, within its borders, conflicts and forced migration, and continues to suffer terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of man and of Creation. This immense country full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, hit by violence like a punch in the stomach, seems to have been out of breath for a long time.

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    A large part of the violent conflicts that have affected Congo have occurred in recent times due to the exploitation of deposits, especially minerals such as coltan, a fundamental element for the manufacture of telephones or computers. The Pope referred to it directly. “This country, abundantly pillaged, is not capable of benefiting sufficiently from its immense resources: it has reached the paradox that the fruits of its own land make it a foreigner for its inhabitants. The poison of greed has bloodied their diamonds, ”he pointed out before revealing the purpose of his trip. “Looking at this town, one has the impression that the international community has almost resigned itself to the violence that devours it. We cannot get used to the blood that has flowed in this country for decades, causing millions of deaths without many knowing it. Let it be known what is happening here. May the peace processes that are underway, which I encourage with all my strength, be supported by facts and that the commitments be maintained”.

    Beyond the violence caused by the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources, political and ethnic conflicts have also constituted an inexhaustible source of annihilation in the African country; Between 1998 and 2007 alone, 5.4 million people died in Congo, according to the NGO International Rescue Committee. The latest UN data estimates that between June 2021 and March 2022 in the North Kivu and Ituri regions, 1,261 civilians were killed by armed groups. Francisco asked the president of the country to avoid “falling into tribalism and opposition.” “Stubbornly taking sides with one’s own ethnic group or with particular interests, fueling spirals of hatred and violence, is detrimental to everyone, since it blocks the necessary chemistry of the group. [] The problem is not in the nature of people or ethnic and social groups, but in the way they choose to be together. The willingness – or not – to help each other, to reconcile and start anew, makes the difference between the darkness of conflict and a bright future of peace and prosperity.

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    Francis with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, during the welcome ceremony at the Palace of the Nation.YARA NARDI (REUTERS)

    The region’s problem, however, often comes from its rulers as well. Tshisekedi will have to win a second term in elections to be held in the autumn and in which he is not assured of victory. “Those who hold civic and government responsibilities are called to act with transparency, exercising the position received as a means to serve society. How important it is to flee from authoritarianism, the desire for easy profits and the greed for money. [] And, at the same time, favor the holding of free, transparent and credible elections; further expand participation in peace processes to women, youth and marginalized groups; seek the common good and the safety of the people above personal or group interests; reinforce the presence of the State throughout the territory; take care of the many displaced people and refugees”. With Tshisekedi by his side, watching, Francisco remembered a lapidary phrase from Saint Augustine. “If we take justice away from governments, what do they become if not large-scale gangs of robbers?” he pointed out.

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    The Pope closed his speech by remembering the ecological side of the conflict, one of the great obsessions of this pontificate. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to one of the largest green lungs in the world, which must be preserved. As in the case of peace and development, in this field it is also important to have broad and fruitful collaboration that allows effective intervention, without imposing external models that are more useful for those who help than for those who are helped”.

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