Pope Francis visited DRC from 31 Jan to 3 Feb and his visit meant a lot to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who have been claiming for peace, stability  and climate justice. Laudato Si Mouvement in collaboration with 350 Africa conducted a series of actions in Kinshasa and a twitterstorm in order to call the attention of Pope Francis on the project of auctioning 27 oil blocs and 3 gas blocs by the DRC government. In the DRC, our local team LSM chapter and 350 Africa volunteers managed to post banners and posters on strategic roads from  the airport and at the  places of the Pope’s meeting. On 29 Jan  2023, a strategic meeting with Laudato Si animators  happened at Lycee Mpiko, a secondary school owned by Assumptionists sisters, where it was discussed how to appear with  our messaging during the Pope’s visit.

On the 30th we did a screening of The Letter at University of Mazenod which is a Catholic University that belongs to the Congregation of Oblates of Mary Immaculate brothers. There was also participation  of  students from  University of Kinshasa and this was covered by Data TV and Mishapi TV.

After the screening we held a strategic meeting with the admiration  team of  the University, Radio Maria, Data TV and Mishapi  TV trying to see  how they will address  our question during Pope Francis Media press upon his arrival. Unfortunately the invitation to all media to attend that Media Press was canceled by the government on the evening  of 30 January  the  night before Pope’s arrival, among local  media only National TV was allowed to approach  where the Pope was giving his speech.

On the same day, evening time, the Virunga documentary was  screened at “Palais du Peuple” during the  Pope’s Festival and the  message was given to  all choirs and participants.

The 31st Jan was the day to welcome Pope Francis. Supported by REBAC which is  the Ecclesial Network for Protection of Congo Basin working under CENCO; we worked  together strategizing the  whole week and  choosing which strategic places to  take during our actions.

Despite tough  security and politics during  that time, we are so happy  for  the actions that  we were able to conduct and we find our satisfaction in  the speech of  Pope Francis at Nation Palais: Hands off the Democratic  Republic of Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa! It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny”

Pope Francis highlighted mining because it is the one that has wounded the whole DRC before oil and gas exploitation becomes an issue. Deep in the same speech we find also a call to multinationals companies to withdraw their plan to invest in oil and gas in DRC, as he says in Laudato Si “..all is connected ” , mining  ,  oil  extraction are all dug from  the stomach of our common home, causing  same effects on environment, human right,  justice  and lack of peace in DRC.

On  Friday 3rd Feb  We held our last partners meeting between REBAC and LSM at CENCO, and another one at Laudato  Si Missionaries  Centre with  two agendas: domestication of our LSM Chapter and collaboration in actions. 

It was an  opportunity to extend our partnership in the DRC Catholic church, with various Laudato Si groups , with climate  Movements and media.

The way forward will be  a stakeholders engagement  in Kinshasa, build a  common understanding on the issue of auctioning of 27 oil blocks and 3  gas blocks and draw common goals that could be achieved through various strategies.

Much appreciation goes to 350 Africa, LSM  global  and  REBAC, for supporting that series of actions, we also give a bit up to LSM  DRC chapter in collaboration with  350 Africa volunteers in  DRC for their great plans at coordination  amidst hot politics and tough  environment.

Steeven Kezamutima: Programs Coordinator Francophone Africa