In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press at the Vatican, just a week ahead of his scheduled trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, Pope Francis denounced a “colonialist mentality” of the international community toward Africa.
“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 toward the African continent.
“A kind of colonialist mentality…remains,” Francis said.
“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 Democratic Republic of Congo.
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.
When it was originally scheduled for July, the trip was supposed to include a stop in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The Vatican scrapped that leg of the trip, amid a new wave of attacks in parts of North Kivu.
Continent afflicted by “internal wars”
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.
In The AP Interview on Tuesday, 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 is consolidating itself more and more in freedom.”
The fighting has exacerbated eastern Congo’s dire humanitarian crisis.
Almost 6 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.