On Tuesday January 31, 2023, Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a historic three-day tour. During his speech, responding to the welcome statement by DRC president Felix Tshisekedi, he openly condemned the invasion of the DRC by foreign forces, the attempts at the balkanization of the country, the looting of natural and mineral resources, and the on-going genocide commited against the Congolese people and refugees for decades by foreign forces. Referring to the crimes as a "forgotten genocide", Pope Francis promised to voice the concerns to the World. The condemnation came as the Rwandan army, under the cover of M23 rebels, has continued its advances, systematically massacring civilians, looting resources and advancing on the balkanization plan targeting the entire Eastern DRC ( see here DR Congo - Rwanda - Uganda: DRC Balkanization Plan In Progress While Congolese People Living a Nightmare Similar to the 1990-1993 Rwandan Tragedy.)
The speech by Pope Francis followed the welcoming statement by DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, in which he pointed to the invasion of DRC by the Rwandan army, saying that "the hospitality that characterizes the Congolese people has been undermined by the enemies of peace, mainly from neighboring countries”.
Pope Francis appeared to build on previous statements by many prominent leaders, including those of the United Nations and the Catholic Church, calling on the Congolese people to stand up against Rwandan invasion ( see here DR Congo: The UN and the Catholic Church Call For a Firm Action and the People to Stand up Against Rwanda and M23 Rebels and DRC-Rwanda Crisis: Rwandan Army Accused of War Crimes; Belgian King Philippe Condemns Rwanda; Focus on Prince Charles and Pope Francis ).
“Mr. President, you spoke of the forgotten genocide from which the DRC is suffering. While you, the Congolese people, are struggling to safeguard your dignity and the integrity of your country against the despicable attempts to fragment the country, I come to you in the name of Jesus as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace,” Pope Francis said.
“Tormented by war, the DRC, within its borders, continues to suffer from conflicts, forced migrations and terrible forms of exploitation unworthy of man and creation. This huge and vibrant country, hit by violence, seems to have lost its breath," Pope Francis added.
Pope Francis Call on Multinational Companies Looting the DRC and Africa"
Meanwhile, Pope Francis called on multinational companies and others exploiting and looting the DRC and Africa in general to stop the pillage and preying on innocent people. "Take your hands off the DRC, take your hands off Africa," Pope Francis said, before adding:
Because of systematic plunder by multinationals and other forces, this country has been unable take sufficient advantage of its immense resources. Hence, we are facing the following paradox: in this country, the fruits of the land have become “foreign” to the inhabitants. The poison from the greed has bloodied the diamonds. It is a drama to which the more economically advanced world often closes its eyes, ears and mouths. But this country and this continent also deserve to be respected and listened to. Hence, I tell that world the following: "Stop suffocating Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited nor a land to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its destiny." "
Pope Francis warned the Congolese people against becoming the slaves of the mineral ressources.
“I would like to speak to you, the congolese people, using an image that well symbolizes the luminous beauty of this land: that of the diamond. Dear Congolese women and men, your country is truly a diamond of creation; but you, all of you, are infinitely more precious than all the good things that come out of this rich soil! ".
Pope Francis ended his call inviting the Congolese to prioritize peace, despite years of invasions, wars, and massacres.
“We cannot get used to the blood that has been shed in this country, for decades now. Millions of people have been killed and the world has closed its eyes. The World needs to know what has been happening here, and hence needs to make sure that the terms of the ongoing peace agreement are respected by the parties" .
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Pope Francis is in DRC after Canceling many Planned Visits to DRC.
Pope Francis is in Kinshasa until Friday, February 3, 2023. He will then fly to South Sudan, which has been a major conflict zone for decades and is devastated by dire humanitarian tragedies.
In Kinshasa, he was welcomed by tens of thousands of people, chanting and waving flags and escorting him in his popemobile.
Pope Francis had planned to visit Eastern DRC in July, 2022, but the trip was cancelled. According to reports from the Vatican, the cancellation was due to ongoing health issues, including knee prroblems. The cancellation had increased the focus on the on-going wars in DRC, as the pontif had planned to visit North-Kivu, and meet with top Catholic Church leaders, including those from Rwanda.
It was the second time Pope Francis cancelled trips to DRC. On March 13, 2017 Pope Francis cancelled a long planned trip to DRC in July-August 2017. The trip cancellation was due to an already complex and deteriorating political situation in the DRC.
Pope Francis, then, announced the trip cancellation in an interview with the German national newspaper Die Zeit, saying that:"It was planned that I travel to the two Congo's, but things are not well with Kabila; I believe I would not travel there."
During his dictatorship, Joseph Kabila remained a close ally to Paul Kagame and allowed him to occupy most of Eastern DRC and to infiltrate and dominate DRC government and military institutions (see here DR Congo: Pope Francis Cancels Trip as Impasse of CENCO's Brokered Deal Remain)..
@AfroAmerica Network 2023