Pope Francis is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan next week. This trip, which requires great courage, physical and moral, demonstrates his desire to visit what he describes as the “peripheries” of the major world centers of power. To tell the truth, the term is improper, geographically, for its first stage. The DRC is a giant of Africa, by its area and its natural wealth. It is likely to play an important role in the fight against climate change if it knows how to preserve its immense tropical forest and its biodiversity. But the country is one of the poorest in the world. The state is weak, and the east of the territory has been torn apart for nearly thirty years by the violence that rages in the provinces close to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The pope was to go to this region, to Goma, in July 2022, in a first version of this trip canceled for health reasons. Finally, he will only go to Kinshasa, the capital, before flying to South Sudan.
Eastern DRC, which he will therefore not see, remains one of the most unstable regions in the world. The richness of the subsoil maintains a permanent insecurity there. The fever for gold, coltan and other rare metals exacerbates ethnic rivalries and corruption. It attracts predators who divert the exploitation of resources from the country. It excites the greed of Uganda and Rwanda, two militarized states led by strongmen in power for several decades, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame. The drama of this region began during the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. A victorious offensive led by Paul Kagame put an end to the tragedy but caused the flight to the DRC of 1.5 million Hutus, with among them leaders of the genocidal apparatus. Since then, the Rwandan civil war has moved to its neighbour. Uganda and Rwanda have participated in two wars in the DRC which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and they continue to intervene there. Different massacres in recent weeks have again caused the flight of tens of thousands of people. According to a report published in 2021 by the Congolese Catholic Church, there are at least 3 million displaced people in the east of the country. One hundred and twenty armed groups are said to be active there.
It would take a strong and legitimate state to restore security. However, the Kinshasa government is distant, and President Félix Tshisekedi, who came third in the December 30, 2018 election, only came to power after a sleight of hand with his predecessor Joseph Kabila. Stabilizing the country, where the UN maintains its longest and most important blue helmet mission, will be long and difficult. The support of the United States, Europeans and international financial organizations keeps the administration and the army in a state of survival. The regime can also count on other less fussy supporters, notably China. It is above all civil society, with the leading example of gynecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize 2018, which plays the role of spur in favor of democracy and freedoms. Networks linked to the Catholic Church also play an active role. The visit of Pope Francis will bring them strength and perseverance.
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