Pope Francis was welcomed in Kinshasa, at the Palace of the Nation, by the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi.
“Get your hands off Africa!” From the start of his visit to Kinshasa on Tuesday, where he was warmly welcomed, Pope Francis denounced the “economic colonialism” that “is unleashed” especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a vast country plagued by endemic violence.
Stop suffocating Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited nor a land to be plundered, launched the pope, in a speech in Italian delivered to the authorities and the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace.
His words were applauded, resonating particularly in the DRC, a country with immense wealth and fertile soil, where two-thirds of some 100 million people live on less than $2.15. per day.
Economic colonialism was the work of multinationals and distant countries, but neighboring countries of the DRC are now also accused of plundering the resources of the DRC, which benefits economically and fuels conflict.
The DRC is notably facing the resurgence of the armed group M23 which has conquered, in recent months, large swaths of territory in North Kivu, a Congolese province bordering Rwanda, accused of interference by Kinshasa.
Speaking before the Pope, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi reiterated these accusations. In addition to armed groups, foreign powers greedy for the minerals contained in our subsoil are committing, with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbor Rwanda, cruel atrocities, he declared.
< p class="e-p">The eastern DRC has dozens of armed groups, including Islamist rebels who target civilians. The pope's visit comes two weeks after a bloody attack claimed by the armed group Islamic State (IS) in a Pentecostal church in North Kivu.
In his speech, Francis urged the Congolese not to slide into tribalism and confrontation and encourage the ongoing peace processes so that commitments are kept.
He doesn' ; has also not spared the ruling class, calling for free, transparent and credible elections in the face of the threat of corruption, while a presidential election is scheduled in the country on December 20.
< p class="e-p">The Church playing a major role in the society and politics of the DRC, the Congolese expected from the pope a message on this terrain of democracy, in addition to that of conflicts.
As of Tuesday morning, people from Kinshasa had begun to gather near the international airport, where the plane of the sovereign pontiff landed at the beginning of the afternoon.
To the sound of chants, drums, marching bands and tom-toms, the crowd swelled over the hours, growing denser and more impatient. I saw an angel, declares a young girl, transported with joy after seeing the pope in his popemobile.
On the approximately 25 km leading to the city center, the official convoy was greeted by tens of thousands of people massed along the main avenues of the megalopolis of some 15 million inhabitants.
I didn't want to miss this opportunity to see him face to face, said Maggie Kayembe, in her thirties, in the crowd to AFP. The pope always preaches peace wherever he goes, and peace, we really need it, adds the young woman.
Initially scheduled for July 2022, this visit had been postponed due to the knee pain of the 86-year-old pope, who travels in a wheelchair, but also security risks in Goma, in the east of the country, a stage eventually deleted.
On Tuesday evening, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in a prayer vigil at Kinshasa's N'dolo airport, where they will spend the night, before a giant mass on Wednesday morning at which more than one million faithful are expected.
In recent days, preparations had accelerated in the Congolese capital, where banners and giant billboards compete with messages of welcome for the first pope to visit the country since John Paul II, in 1985.
During his four-day visit, Francis will also meet victims of violence, clergy and representatives of ;charities.
In his first speech, the leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics also spoke about the environment, education and social and health problems , themes to which he should return in his next speeches.
This is the François' fortieth international trip since his election in 2013, the fifth on the African continent. After Kinshasa, on Friday he will join Juba, capital of South Sudan, the youngest state in the world and among the poorest on the planet.