Pope Francis in Africa: “Hands Off the Congo”

Whoever wrote the speech the Pope gave to the authorities, civil society and diplomatic representatives in Kinshasa on Jan. 31, delivered a little poetic jewel. Francis used the image of diamonds to both address the potential wealth of the country, and expose foreign looting of its resources. He also compared the many qualities of diamonds to those of human beings, celebrating the latter’s unique value, which surpasses all natural wealth and other living matter. He attacked the depredations by foreign interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.): “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered”.

His attack has been understood as support for D.R.C. President Félix Tshisekedi and his allies in the East African Community, against Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who protects foreign-run mining operations in eastern Congo.

While “many have offered Africa help in the effort to combat climate change and the coronavirus”, the Pope noted, cooperation needs allow effective intervention “without imposing external models that are more useful to those who help than to who are helped”.

One such external model is the pseudo-environmentalist opposition to the Transaqua project for water transfer from the Congo basin to the Chad basin, which the Congo government has adopted under external pressure. In reporting about the state of the project on Feb. 1, CGTN correctly explained that it “ would involve 12 countries working together to build a 2400 km long canal to move about 100 billion cubic millions of water from the [Congo basin] every year… The canal was also intended to generate hydro-electricity at several points along its length. It was also seen as a solution to its security crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. The project would help reduce conflicts over water and instability in the Lake Chad region.” However, the D.R.C. “has opposed the project and a section of French scientists say the large scale project could cause irreversible environmental damage”.

After being approved by all member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 2018, the project was stalled, but the Nigerian government recently took it up again and is seeking financing from the African Development Bank. However, the outgoing Water Resources Minister, Suleiman Adamu, told the Nigerian Guardian that the war in Ukraine has diverted the international community’s attention from matters of socio-economic development.

Indeed, we would add, the international community has committed over $100 billion to keep the killing going in Ukraine (Devex data), while, with the same amount of funding, two Transaquas could be built to save human lives in Africa!

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