Pope Francis tells world ‘Hands off Africa’ on trip to the Congo

Pope Francis has condemned foreign powers and said they must stop taking Africa’s natural resources for the “poison of their own greed”. The Supreme Pontiff said the rich world must realise that people are more precious than minerals.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The head of the Catholic church is visiting two African countries this week in order to deliver a message of peace and reconciliation.

He will visit Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Friday.

The visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been the first time a Pontiff had visited the country in over 30 years, as Pope John Paul II visited in 1985 when the country was still known as Zaire.

Tens of thousands of people lined up to see Pope Francis as he travelled from the airport to the presidential palace, with some people chasing after the popemobile while others chanted and waved flags.

When the Pontiff arrived and began to speak to dignitaries and in a speech, he spoke of the “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity” that have happened in the Congo.

He said: “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.”

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Pope Francis’ speech was spoken in Italian and translated into French for the audience, and there were cheers and applause from the crowd as they listened.

The Pope continued in his speech: “It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation.

“The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood.”

The Congo has some of the world’s richest deposits of many precious minerals, such as gold, copper, cobalt, tin, tantalum and lithium, which have influenced conflicts between militias, goverment troops and foreign invaders.

The mining of these minerals has been linked to the exploitation and human rights abuses of the workers, which can include children workers.

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Eastern Congo has been in conflict connected to the complex fallout from the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the Congo has accused Rwanda of backing a rebel group fighting government troops in the east, but Rwanda denies this.

The Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi also gave a speech with Pope Francis on stage, and said: “As well as armed militias, foreign powers hungry for the minerals in our soil commit, with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbour Rwanda, cruel atrocities.”

However, Pope Francis did not name Rwanda in his speech and took no sides in the conflict.

Yolande Makolo, a spokesperson for the Rwandan Goverment, spoke about the Congolese President’s words and said: “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.”

This post is originally appeared on Express UK

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