Pope Francis' meeting with young people in the DRC Pope Francis' meeting with young people in the DRC 

“Hands off Africa!” – Pope’s new book hits stores

A new book from Pope Francis, condemning the continuing exploitation of Africa by Western powers, is released with a preface by the Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

By Joseph Tulloch

“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!”

These were the words of Pope Francis on his first day in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year. 

Today, the Vatican Publishing House announced the release of a new book – written in Italian and entitled Hands off Africa! – collecting all the Pope’s speeches during that trip, as well as those from his visit to South Sudan immediately afterwards.

Crucially, however, the book does not contain only the Pope’s voice, but also those of those he met during his journey. In both the DRC and South Sudan – two countries torn by vicious conflict – Pope Francis listened to the testimonies of war victims, and their stories, too, are included in the volume. 

The preface, meanwhile, is written by the Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who said that the book “brings me a small sliver of hope for Congo, and for the beloved and broken-hearted continent that I call home.”

A ‘Pilgrimage of Peace’

Pope Francis visited the DRC and South Sudan from the 31st of January to the 5th February of this year. 

The week-long visit, which he referred to as a ‘Pilgrimage of Peace’, aimed at promoting reconciliation in the conflict-ridden countries, as well as promoting their independence from foreign interference. 

In the DRC, he met with government officials, bishops, and young people, saying that “political colonialism” of Africa has given way to “economic colonialism”, which he called “equally enslaving.”

In South Sudan, meanwhile, he addressed feuding politicians, conflict between whom has devastated the country, stressing that “Now is the time to say: No more of this!

The DRC and the silence of the world

In her preface, Adichie focuses in particular on the Pope's trip to the DRC, "a country whose resources have long been exploited, a country exhausted by pillage and conflict, a country desperate to be made whole again."

The greatest tragedy of the situation, she says, 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." In this context, she says, Pope Francis' visit to the DRC, and his "potent" messages there, read as "a necessary rebuke" to wealthy nations. 

"His message", she continues, "is 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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22 May 2023, 13:34