By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed French citizens on coronavirus and confinement measures on Monday. In that address, he announced the possibility of canceling the debt of African countries to assist them in their fight against the Covid-19 virus.
The French President made this statement toward the end of his speech during which he extended lockdown measures in the country till 11 May. He also called for unity in the fight against the virus. The world is at a “moment of truth”, he said, and it is our “responsibility to build new forms of solidarity and cooperation.”
Turning his thoughts towards Africa, he said: “We must also know how to help our African neighbours fight the virus more effectively. We must help them economically too by canceling their debts.”
Pope Francis’ call
During his Urbi et orbi blessing on the occasion of Easter Sunday on 12 April, Pope Francis appealed for international sanctions to be relaxed in the light of the present circumstances caused by the pandemic. Noting that vulnerable people tend to be abandoned, Pope Francis made this call so that the countries on which sanctions have been imposed would be able to “provide adequate support to their citizens.” The Pope also reminded the world that this is not the time for indifference, self-centeredness or division.
“May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations,” Pope Francis said.
France has been the third country most affected by the coronavirus in Europe, after Italy and Spain. There have been 136,779 confirmed cases with over 14,000 deaths and 35,435 recovered patients. Since 17 March, the French population has been asked to stay home as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on 14 April.