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Pope releases new book: Hands off Africa!

by Heather Preston
Pope in DRC.JPG - Banner image
Simone Risoluti/Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

A new book condemning the exploitation of Africa has been released by the Vatican Publishing House.

Entitled: “Hands off Africa!” the publication is a collection of papal speeches and testimonies from Pope Francis’ recent apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.

The title alludes to a speech he gave in DRC earlier this year, in which he said “Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited, or a land to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny!”

The pontiff took a week long ecumenical “Pilgrimage of Peace” to the war-torn nations in January, in an effort to promote reconciliation from conflict and independence from foreign interference.

Pope Francis visited the DRC from 31th January to 3rd February 2023, following in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II, who visited there in 1980 and 1985.

Rebel groups have been locked in a conflict with the government there for three decades.

Whilst there, Francis condemned the historic exploitation of Africa, arguing that its “political colonialism” has given way to “economic colonialism that is equally enslaving.”

"As a result, this country, massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its immense resources," he said in an address to Congolese politicians, bishops and other dignitaries.

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote the book’s preface. Focusing on Francis’ time in DRC, she writes that the greatest tragedy of the situation is "not the internecine conflicts but the silence of the world", which "speaks to the continued devaluing of African humanity by a world that nevertheless eagerly consumes African resources."

She says, Pope Francis' visit to the DRC, and his "potent" messages there, read as "a necessary rebuke" to wealthy nations.

During the Pope’s time in South Sudan – his first visit to the country, he called on politicians to lay their differences aside for the good of the people.

The predominantly Christian country has been wracked by civil war since 2013, following its independence in 2011. Despite a peace deal in 2018, bouts of fighting between opposing forces have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians there.

On his last day in the country, the Pope held an open air Mass at the John Garang Mausoleum, Juba which was attended by 100,000 people according to the Vatican.

He pleaded with the congregation to reject the “blind fury of violence” and focus on peace building in the nation.

In 2019, Francis pledged to visit South Sudan when he hosted the country's two warring leaders, President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar.

The pontiff asked the leaders to respect a hard-fought ceasefire for their people before kneeling before the two foes and kissing their feet.

Adichie says the Pope’s message is that “not merely that Congo – and, by extension, Africa – matters but that it matters for one reason only.

“Not for its resources, which the global North depends on, not for fear that the continent could become again the scene of Western proxy battles as happened during the Cold War, but simply because of the people. Africa matters because Africans matter."

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