VATICAN – A week ahead of his scheduled trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC and South Sudan, Pope Francis denounced a ‘colonialist mentality’ of the international community towards Africa in an interview with AP.
“There is a historical, geographical reality. In Italian it is said ‘Africa va fruttata,’ that is, Africa is meant to be exploited.
“And that is a kind of colonialist mentality that remains,” said Francis on Tuesday.
He pointed to a problem of attitude towards the African continent.
“A kind of colonialist mentality…remains,” said Francis.
“That is a problem of our attitude and of not yet (having the) courage of total independence on their part.”
Earlier in January Francis had sent his condolences to the victims of a bombing on a Pentecostal church in eastern DRC.
Islamic militants claimed the attack, which killed at least 14 people and injured more than 60.
Francis is due to arrive in the capital of Congolese – Kinshasa on Jan 31 for a three-day visit.
The Pope’s visit, earlier scheduled for July last year, was meant to include a stop in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The Vatican scrapped that leg off the trip, amid a new wave of attacks in parts of North Kivu.
Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defence militias fight for land and power.
“Africa is in turmoil,” said Francis talking about the ‘internal wars’ afflicting the continent.
“And is also suffering from the invasion of exploiters,” he added.
Francis also addressed what he called a problem of ‘tribalism’ in Africa.
“The tribalism is also very strong, for example to appoint a bishop in a diocese, one has to look carefully, that he belongs to the group – not to say tribe – that he belongs to the group,” he said adding that during a visit to Kenya, a crowd chanted repeatedly “no to tribalism.”
“It was a scream from the whole stadium. They themselves feel that difficulty; it is a people that are consolidating itself more and more in freedom.”
The fighting has exacerbated eastern Congo’s dire humanitarian crisis.
Almost six million people are internally displaced and hundreds of thousands are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations.
While he won’t be going to Goma, Francis will meet with some residents from the east and victims of the conflict in Kinshasa before heading to South Sudan – where he will meet with internally displaced persons and take part in an ecumenical prayer service at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba in a visit scheduled for February 3-5.
Meanwhile, a suspended bomb exploded at a market in eastern Congo on January 25 – injuring at least a dozen people, authorities said.
An unknown person detonated a bomb inside a bag in North Kivu’s Beni town, said Tharcisse Katembo, a local official.
“Damage was documented (and) at least 12 people were injured. They were injured in the lower limbs, others in their upper limbs and others were hit in the head,” he told reporters in Beni.
The victims were taken to the hospital and an investigation instituted, said Katembo.
No one claimed responsibility for the bomb. However, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces – ADF, which is believed to be linked with the Islamic State extremist movement, have been increasing in North Kivu, according to the United Nations.