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Pope Francis condemns ‘economic colonialism’ in Africa on visit to DRC | Pope Francis

Pope Francis denounced “economic colonialism” in Africa, denouncing the “poison of greed” for minerals when he began a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tens of thousands of people cheered, chanted and waved flags as he drove from the airport to the capital Kinshasa in his pop car.

But the mood changed when the Pope delivered a speech to dignitaries at the presidential palace, denouncing the “terrible forms of exploitation unworthy of humanity” in the Congo, where vast minerals are fueling war, displacement and famine.

In his speech, Francis said that the history of the DRC has been hampered by conflict and a history of foreign domination.

“Political exploitation gave way to economic colonialism, which was just as enslaving,” he said.

“As a result, this country, which has been massively looted, has not benefited from its vast resources,” he told an audience of Congolese politicians and other dignitaries, speaking in Italian.

“It is a tragedy that these lands and, in general, the entire African continent continue to be subjected to various forms of exploitation,” he said. “The poison of greed smeared the diamonds with blood,” he said, referring specifically to the Congo.

“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop strangling Africa: this is not a mine to be plundered, and not a place to be plundered,” he said to applause.

The 86-year-old pontiff was the first pontiff to visit the Congo since John Paul II in 1985, when the country was still known as Zaire. About half of the 90 million people in the Congo are Catholics.

His message will resonate with the DRC, a vast Central African country of about 100 million that gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Despite the huge reserves of minerals, timber and fresh water, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries in the world. About two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2.15 a day, according to the World Bank.

The conflict is also devastating the east of the country, where M23 rebels have taken over swaths of territory since late 2021. The violence in the east is linked to the long and complex aftermath of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

The United Nations estimates that about 5.7 million people are internally displaced in the Congo, and 26 million people suffer from severe hunger, mainly due to the effects of the armed conflict.

Francis, in his speech, supported the ongoing peace efforts in the region and said that “we cannot get used to the bloodshed that has accompanied this country for decades.”

The Pope criticized rich countries for turning a blind eye and ears to the tragedies unfolding in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa.

“It seems that the international community has practically come to terms with the violence that devours it. [Congo]. We cannot get used to the bloodshed that has accompanied this country for decades and claimed millions of lives,” he said.

Francis will remain in Kinshasa until Friday morning before flying to South Sudan, another country struggling with conflict and poverty.

He will initially be accompanied on this leg of the journey by the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Moderator of the Church of Scotland. The religious leaders called their joint visit “a pilgrimage of peace.”

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