Pope Francis took to Kinshasa a legacy of historical combat against exploitation of poor communities for which he was known in his native Argentina, writes Okello Oculi

It is not clear if television newsreels showing a vibrating lake of black faces was telecast in Buenos Aires for fear that it might raise awkward noises in local slums. The last time a Black NGO activist went to get a passport to travel to the United States of America immigration officials denied that there were Afro-Argentineans.

It was a ‘’Papal Bull’’ (Holy Decree) which shared out the Americas to Portugal and Spain for colonisation and exploitation. Divinely guided Papal wit also gave legitimacy to hunting for human beings in Africa to replace genocidal killings of native populations in these lands.

These historical legacies opened potential floodgates for legal demands for ‘’Crimes Against Humanity’’ and ‘’Reparations’’ against the Vatican government and governments in the Americas.

In 1988, Mariapia Fanfani, a vigorous and charming wife of a former president of Italy, assembled at Rome novelists and poets drawn from Africa outside Maghreb, and European immigrants across Southern Africa. The goal was apparently to build her record for a possible Nobel Prize for Peace.

We were seated around the stage where Pope John-Paul 23rd blessed pilgrims from global provinces. The event boasted the imperial reach of Catholicism; the charisma oozing out of the physical body of that Pope and its contrast to the dull cynical and seasoned look of old Cardinals and heads of the bureaucracy which surrounds and tames a passing charisma. Pope Francis must inject into this Kafkain forest of intrigues holy, bold and radical African reformers.

Apart from Muslim Tunisia, Algeria and Sudan, liberation wars were led by Catholic baptistees. Robert Mugabe (in Zimbabwe); Samora Machel and Eduardo Mondlane (in Mozambique); Patrice Lumumba of Congo; Amilcar Cabral in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde were martyed. Agustinho Neto of Angola was believed to have been poisoned.

 Mwalimu Nyerere, a devout Catholic, was the custodian of Africa’s collection Liberation Committee. Leading poorly armed people into the sunshine of freedom from brutal centuries of exploitation and slave-labour by Catholic Portugal and rebel Catholics in Britain must be a condition of Sainthood.  Pope Francis must help the Catholic community to recognise and honour the historic responsibilities which these heroes of liberation undertook.

Pope Francis was a young priest when brutal dictatorships across Latin America provoked the birth of ‘’Liberation Theology’’. Bishops and priests who preached it were brutally murdered by state security thugs.

 Paradoxically, despite the regime of ‘’Crime Against Humanity’’ sustained as forms of government in South Africa, South West Africa (now Namibia), the Vatican either encouraged or shamelessly ignored the silence, indifference and cowardice of its European and African priests, bishops and cardinals.

The absence of courageous anti-apartheid late Bishop Desmond Tutu (of the Anglican Church), among the Catholic Clergy remains a scandal. While the United States, Britain and Scandinavia continue to punish Zimbabwe for refusing to pay reparations to European immigrant farmers, they continue to remain silent about British and Euro-American companies inflicting bodily brutalities and economic robberies against Africa. Decades of looted mineral resources and fertile soils demand reparations.

The United States is currently led by a Catholic Irish descendant. France is predominantly Catholic. Both countries host the most powerful 830 companies which a United Nations Committee accused of supplying weapons to the over 120 militia groups that kill, burn homes and drive communities from areas known to contain rich mineral resources. The Pope mentioned this problem. He should convene a Vatican Conference against resource-based violence in Africa to be attended by Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Felix Tshesekedi of DRC and ECOWAS leaders whose mineral deposits have attracted hired terrorists.

The pandemic of violence reflects a determination to block post-colonial development in Africa. The notion that Euro-America can only continue to prosper by looting and blocking human and material development in Africa is evil and short-sighted. German industry is carrying out a roaring trade with a highly developing China. Poverty in Africa means a market for cheap low quality consumer goods: cheap plastic sandals, box of matches, powdery biscuits instead of high quality Marakesh leather sandals, self-driving cars and computer piloted helicopters.

As a Jesuit clergyman, Pope Francis knows that one of the crimes of colonialism was the wastage of African brain-power by limiting converts to reciting the 10 Commandments and the ‘’Lord’s Prayer’’. The Vatican should establish schools which feed into a Jesuit-type University in every region of the African Union.

The DRC bloomed into a thousand flowers of Inventions under Mobutu Sese Seko. I hope Pope Frances demanded to hear the rendering of ‘’MISA LUBA’’ –a thrilling Zairean/Congolese rendering of a Catholic Mass. It took New York’s music market by storm in 1971.  

Prof Oculi writes from Abuja

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