Pope Francis on Tuesday criticised those he said have been keen on stifling progress in Africa, and especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, telling the rich world that the people in the continent are more precious than the minerals in the earth beneath them.
Speaking shortly after he arrived in Kinshasa, the Catholic pontiff said the region is not only suffering internally with conflict but also from what he called “a terrible form of exploitation”.
"While you Congolese struggle to safeguard your dignity and territorial integrity against the despicable attempts to fragment the country, I come to you, in the name of Jesus, as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace".
"It is tragic that Africa still suffers from various forms of exploitation," he said.
According to him, after "political colonialism, an "equally enslaving economic colonialism has been unleashed".
"Get your hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo, get your hands off Africa. Stop smothering Africa; she is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be robbed," the pope said.
Pope Francis Tuesday arrived at N'djili International Airport at 2.40pm and was greeted by a large crowd of Catholic clergy and some members of the government led by Prime Minister Sama Lukonde, while President Félix Tshisekedi was waiting for him at the Palais de la Nation ( State House), 25 kilometres from N'djili airport.
A warm welcome
Along the streets of Kinshasa, the Pope received a warm welcome from the people of Kinshasa, who lined up Lumumba Boulevard, greeting the pontiff as he passed.
Cardinal Fridolin a Ambongo led the masses on this welcome.
"I am happy to be here, in this land so beautiful, so vast and so luxuriant, which embraces, to the north, the equatorial forest, in the centre and towards the south, the high plateaus and the wooded savannahs, to the east, the hills, mountains, volcanoes and lakes, to the west, other great expanses of water, with the Congo River joining the ocean," the Pope said in his message, which was delivered in Italian.
"I have longed to be here," he told President Tshisekedi in the garden of the Palais de la Nation.
Before the pope spoke, President Tshisekedi welcomed in a speech that described the situation in the country, highlighting the war that is currently shaking the DRC.
Enemies of peace
"The lives of our people are still deeply linked to religious convictions that reflect the dynamism and vitality of their faith. These convictions structure our collective action, and the lives of our families are largely based on these religious values. Among these values is hospitality, which is a cardinal value shared by all our families and our people.
“Unfortunately, it has to be said that over the last three decades, this hospitality that characterises us has been undermined by the enemies of peace and terrorist groups, mainly from neighbouring countries," Tshisekedi said, citing Rwanda as a supporter of the rebel groups.
He said in 30 years of violence in the east of the DRC, 10 million people have died due to, among other things, "foreign powers greedy for the minerals in our Congolese subsoil".
For almost 20 minutes, Pope Francis poured out his heart to the people of DR Congo.