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