Category Archives: Central Africa

People calls African city slums wounds inflicted by gross inequality


Pope Francis visited a Nairobi slum on Friday, calling such areas “wounds inflicted” by a wealthy and powerful elite and urging Africa’s governments to do more to lift their people up from poverty.

The pope, making his first visit to the continent, has championed the plight of the poor both in public declarations and his own way of life, shunning the institutional perks of the Vatican.

Even before he became Latin America’s first pope in 2013, he was known as the “the slum bishop” because of his frequent visits to the shantytowns of Buenos Aires.

Kenya is the first stop on his Africa tour, which also takes him to Uganda and the Central African Republic, a grindingly poor nation riven by Muslim-Christian sectarian conflict.

While calling for religious dialogue and appealing for steps to address climate change when he visited the U.N. offices in Nairobi, Francis has regularly returned to his concern about inequality and poverty in his homilies and speeches.

On his last day in Kenya, the pope visited Nairobi’s Kangemi district, a neighbourhood of potholed roads, open sewers and jerry-built shacks for homes, lying a few hundred metres from smart apartment blocks and gated residential compounds.

Addressing slum dwellers, charity workers and clergy in St. Joseph the Worker Church, the pope spoke of the “dreadful injustice of urban exclusion” represented in such poor areas.

“These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries,” he said.


He criticised “faceless private developers who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your schools” but he said communal values in poor districts showed there was an alternative culture to the “god of money.”

Children from a school run by the Catholic nuns and priests sang for the pope in the simple church of cinder blocks and wood, built across the road from a row of homes made of corrugated metal.

Francis said one of biggest challenges was a lack of basic amenities. “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water,” he said, adding no “bureaucratic pretext” should deny a family clean water.

The pope said Africa was not alone in facing what he called a “new colonialism”, a theme he has addressed in travels elsewhere and which he says includes demands of agencies for austerity that most hurts workers and the poor.

Welcoming the pope Musonde Kivuva, archbishop of Mombasa and president of Kenya’s branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, thanked the pope for setting an example of humility with his simple life and for his calls for change.

“More can be done and should be done in all our slums. We do not need to wait for the Holy Father to come,” he said.

Later on Friday, he travels to Uganda, which like Kenya been struck by Islamist militant attacks. On Sunday, he flies to the Central African Republic, where dozens of people have been killed in violence since September.

(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Toby Chopra)

A million children in desperate need in Central African Republic


Dakar — More than a million children in the Central African Republic are in urgent need of humanitarian aid while almost half of those under five are malnourished, the United Nations said on Friday ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the conflict-torn country.

The majority Christian nation plunged into tumult when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels briefly seized power in a 2013 coup.

Sectarian violence has plagued the country since and fresh fighting broke out in Bangui two months ago, the worst violence in the capital this year, when the murder of a Muslim man triggered reprisal attacks on a largely Christian neighbourhood.

Some two million children have been affected by violence which first broke out in December 2012, and 1.2 million now need urgent aid, said the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.

“The violence that has plagued this country has had a devastating impact on the lives of children,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF representative in the Central African Republic.

“The humanitarian needs are overwhelming, to meet them we need access and we need greater international support.”

The conflict has uprooted 400,000 people within the country and forced half a million to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, while recent insecurity and attacks on convoys have hindered aid deliveries and lifesaving activities, UNICEF said.

Clashes between mainly Christian anti-balaka militias and mainly Muslim Seleka factions initially cast doubt on the pope’s visit, and risk derailing internationally-backed elections now due on Dec. 27 after being postponed in October due to violence.

Pope Francis is due to arrive in the country on Sunday, and Central Africans on both sides of the religious chasm, even the Seleka, have rallied behind the visit, reducing the risk that his presence could add fuel to the fire of communal tensions.

“We are hopeful that … the Pope’s visit will promote reconciliation in a country that is in desperate need of peace,” Fall added.

UNICEF has received $37 million of the $70.9 million it needs to provide urgent lifesaving interventions for the most vulnerable children in the Central African Republic this year.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Kenya – Pope celebrates huge mass, calls for peace and reconciliation


Many thousands of people have been celebrating Mass with Pope Francis at a university campus in Kenya.

Pope Francis made a plea for traditional values, saying “the health of any society depends on the health of its families”.

The Pope earlier urged Kenyans to work for peace and reconciliation on his first trip as pontiff to Africa, amid a rise in militant violence.

He arrived in Kenya on Wednesday, the first stop on a three-nation tour.

Crowds in the capital, Nairobi, waited in the rain at the University of Nairobi sports ground since the early hours of Thursday morning.

People rushing to get inAFP People rushed to get in the queue to hear the Mass at the university
Crowd in the rainAFP Crowds then waited in the rain to join those inside
Pope talking to bishopsReuters Pope Francis was wearing a robe that was specially embroidered for the occasion

Wearing a robe embroidered to look like beads worn by the Maasai, Pope Francis told them: “Our faith in God’s word calls us to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters in the one human family.”

He also spoke about abortion and the need for a caring society: “We are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, and threaten the life of the innocent unborn.”

Eyewitness: Benjamin Gakuru at the Mass

People queuing in the rainImage copyrightAFP

It was raining the whole night, but people slept in the rain in order to see Pope Francis.

The Pope was very happy to see thousands and thousands and thousands of people.

They came from all corners of Kenya and other parts of the region: DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

At the Mass people were screaming and raising their flags, and everything was fantastic. People were very excited, excited, excited.

And Pope Francis appealed to young Kenyans “to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity”.

He said they “should reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination”.

‘Be prophets of peace’

The hashtag #PapalMass has been trending on Twitter in Kenya as people have been reflecting on the event and the pontiff’s message.

Gachiru said on Twitter that the mass “has reminded us of the beauty of simplicity and the power of ritual. The songs rang true to the Kenyan heart”.

Amatikide Murunga said that she was “feeling very blessed and inspired by the Pope’s visit to Kenya. [He is] truly a symbol of love”.


  • Christian population is 517 million (63% of total)
  • Protestants make up more than half the number
  • Catholics make up about a third
  • Muslim population is 248 million (about 30% of total)
  • 1.1 billion Christians expected by 2050
  • 670 million Muslims expected by 2050

Profile: Pope Francis

Source: US-based Pew Research Center 2011 survey

Before the Mass, Pope Francis met religious leaders from other faiths and other Christian denominations, who he said should be “prophets of peace” in a violent and hate-driven world.

Referring to attacks carried out by the militant Islamist group al-Shabab in Kenya, he said that God’s name “must never be used to justify hatred and violence”.

The Pope earlier said conflict and terrorism fed “on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration”.

A leading Muslim cleric in Kenya welcomed the visit, saying it gave hope to the “downtrodden in the slums”.

The BBC’s Anne Soy said that security was very tight for the Mass, but the pontiff played down security fears, joking that he was “more worried about the mosquitoes”.

Soldiers patrol during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis on the campus of the University of Nairobi, KenyaEPA Security was tightened ahead of Pope Francis visit
Pope meeting other religious leadersAP The Pope told other religious leaders that interreligious dialogue was essential

Pope Francis’s five-day visit will also see him go to Uganda and Central African Republic, which has been hit by Christian-Muslim conflict.

He is later on Thursday expected to visit the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme.

He has already spoken of a “grave environmental crisis” facing the world, and said leaders needed to promote “responsible models of economic development”.

Speaking on Wednesday he also made a veiled reference to corruption by calling on leaders to work with integrity and transparency, says the BBC’s Joseph Odhiambo in Nairobi.

President Kenyatta has called on the Pope to pray that Kenya succeeds in its fight against corruption.

About 30% of Kenyans – including President Kenyatta – are baptised Catholics.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) gives a thumb to Pope Francis at the State House of Nairobi on 25 November2015.AFP President Uhuru Kenyatta gives Pope Francis a thumbs up at Nairobi’s State House
Crowds of people gather on the roadside as Pope FrancisAFP About 30% of Kenyans are Catholic

Pope Africa – Francis calls for efforts to stop religion being used to incite violence


Pope Francis said on Thursday dialogue between religions in Africa was essential to teach young people that violence and hate in God’s name was unjustified, speaking in Kenya which has been the victim of a spate of Islamist militant massacres.

Bridging divisions between Muslims and Christians is a main theme of his first tour of the continent that also takes him to Uganda, which like Kenya has been victim of Islamist attacks, and the Central African Republic, riven by sectarian conflict.

“All too often, young people are being radicalised in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” the pope told Muslim and other religious leaders gathered in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

“Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential,” he said at a morning meeting with about 25 religious leaders in the Vatican embassy here.

He stressed that God’s name “must never be used to justify hatred and violence.”

He referred to Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamists’ 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall and this year’s assault on Marissa university. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past two years or so, with Christians sometimes singled out by the gunmen behind the raids.

The chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supreme), Abdullah El-Busaidy, also called for cooperation and tolerance.

“As people of one God and of this world we must stand up and in unison, clasp hands together in all the things that are essential for our collective progress,” he said at the meeting, adding doctrinal differences should be put aside.

The pope’s tour will also seek to address the continent’s fast-growing Catholic population, with the number of African Catholics expected to reach half a billion by 2050.

A third of Kenya’s 45 million people are Catholics and tens of thousands of them gathered in pouring rain to attend the pope’s open-air Mass in central Nairobi later on Thursday.

“I am hoping that the pope is going to talk to young people and tell them especially to spread the word of peace and also give us hope,” said 24-year-old Purity Wanjiku, who was standing amidst a sea of people sheltering under umbrellas.

Wanjiku was from Nairobi, but others had travelled from across the country, like Mark Odimo from the port city of Mombasa who simply said: “My aim is to see the pope.”

Thousands of police officers, some mounted on horses, were deployed in Nairobi to protect the pope and control the crowds. Uganda, where al Shabaab carried out attacks in 2010, has also promised tight security.

The most hazardous stop may be the Central African Republic, where dozens of people have been killed since September in violence between mostly Muslim Selena rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias. The pope has brushed off safety concerns.

Later on Thursday, the pope visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi, where he is expected to address climate issues.

(Writing by Edmund Blair)

Pope in Africa – Francis calls for Christian-Muslim reconciliation


Pope Francis (L) greets his host Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after he delivered his speech during a reception at the State House in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, November 25, 2015.

Pope Francis called on Wednesday for ethnic and religious reconciliation at the start of his first tour of Africa, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic population and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions.

The trip will see the head of the Catholic Church travel to Kenya and Uganda, both victim of Islamist militant attacks, and the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by Muslim-Christian strife.

In a speech delivered shortly after arriving in Kenya, the pope urged world leaders to pursue responsible economic development and to protect nature for future generations.

Francis is expected to address climate issues when he visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday.

“To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing,” the pope said in Nairobi.

He was speaking at State House, the official residence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a Catholic along with about 30 percent of Kenya’s 45 million people. As the pope drove into Nairobi from airport, thousands lined the roads to greet him.

Africa’s Catholic Church is expanding quickly, with the number of faithful expected to more than double to half a billion in 2050. The number of Muslims on the continent is also forecast to rise by about the same amount to 670 million.

At State House, the pope called for responsible development in Africa and elsewhere. One of his first actions in Kenya was to plant a tree on the State House grounds.

“The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature,” he said. “We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to the future generations.”

Millions of Christians – Catholics and otherwise – are expected to turn out for public celebrations of Masses during the tour, presenting a challenge for national security forces to keep the pontiff and the vast crowds safe.

Kenya has suffered a spate of attacks by Somalia’s Islamist group al Shabaab in the past two years that have killed hundreds of people, including the 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67. Kenya has also been plagued by ethnic tensions.

“Recent events around the world have indeed taught us that we must do even more to bring unity and understanding between faiths, between ethnicities, between races, but also between nations,” Kenyatta said at State House.

Thousands of police have been deployed in Nairobi and officers will also be out in force in the Ugandan capital Kampala, which the pope visits next.

Potentially the most hazardous stop may be the third in the Central African Republic. Dozens of people have been killed there since September in violence between mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias.

The pope brushed off security worries, telling reporters on his flight: “The only thing I’m concerned about is the mosquitoes. Did you bring your spray?”

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and John Stonestreet)

The Pope’s African tour – Kenya, Uganda and CAR

Mail and Guardian

The pope was scheduled to visit Kenya, Uganda and CAR during his first trip to Africa, one plagued by security fears and potential rain disruptions.

Pope Francis boarding the plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome for his trip to Africa to address its fast-growing Catholic congregation. (Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

Pope Francis was flying to Kenya on Wednesday on the first leg of a landmark trip to Africa that is fraught with security fears and faces possible disruption by torrential rain.

The 78-year-old pontiff, the third pope to visit the continent, is also scheduled to visit Uganda and Central African Republic (CAR) before flying back to Rome on Monday.

Against the backdrop of recent jihadist attacks, more than 10 000 police will be deployed in both the Kenyan and Ugandan capitals while the CAR leg of the tour could yet be curtailed or cancelled depending on security conditions in a country that has been wracked by sectarian conflict of late.

Greeting reporters on his plane, Francis said he was delighted to be making his first visit to Africa. “I go with joy to meet Kenyans, Ugandans and our brothers in Central Africa,” he said.

And he played down fears for his safety by joking: “I’m more worried about the mosquitoes.”

Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga said airforce surveillance planes would be deployed “to ensure our skies are clear of any possible threat. The security is going to be heavy.”

Full schedule
A packed schedule will see the Pope visit a Nairobi slum, a shrine to Christian martyrs in Uganda and a mosque and a refugee camp in CAR. A total of 19 speeches will include a major statement on the environment ahead of the Paris climate change summit.

Francis was due in Nairobi at around 5pm (14:00 GMT). Vast crowds were anticipated in the Kenyan capital for his public appearances, with Thursday having been declared a public holiday.

Karibu [Welcome to] Kenya” read Wednesday’s headlines in the Standard and Star newspapers, while the Daily Nation reported that elders from the Kalenjin tribe in the Rift Valley were planning to travel to Nairobi to present Francis with a bull.

With the bulk of the planned events outdoors, there were fears the unusually heavy El Niño rains forecast for later in the week could prove challenging with many fearing local infrastructure would be unable to cope.

The CAR leg of the trip has been maintained despite warnings from French peacekeepers there that they cannot guarantee Francis’s security.

Vatican officials say a last-minute change of programme will only happen if Francis is made aware of a precise threat that could endanger the thousands of believers expected to come and see him, many of whom will be travelling long distances from neighbouring countries.

Francis is scheduled to use an open-topped popemobile regularly during the trip.

‘Holy Door’
Aides say he is determined that the sombre context will not affect his plans, particularly for the CAR part of the trip, where he is due to open a “Holy Door” in Bangui’s cathedral 10 days before the start of a Catholic Jubilee Year dedicated to the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the plane, Francis said he had a special reason for wanting to visit Bangui, which he would explain on the flight back.

Vatican experts have framed the opening of the door as symbolic of the pope’s concern for those on the fringes of the Catholic community and his desire to create a “poor Church for the poor”.

It may not happen, however. CAR acting president Catherine Samba Panza could opt to cut the visit to a few hours in Bangui airport, the one area where the French military say they can be fairly sure of protecting the leader of the world’s 1.2-billion Catholics.

That would mean scrapping a visit to a camp for people displaced by CAR’s sectarian conflict, a stop to pray at a mosque in Bangui’s notoriously dangerous PK5 neighbourhood and a stadium mass.

Given the potential for thousands of pilgrims to be disappointed, Francis is said to be stubbornly resisting any curtailment of his schedule but ultimately it is his security advisers who will decide.

African importance
Francis is the third pope to visit Africa, a continent that now counts one in six of the world’s Catholics and whose importance to the Church is to grow significantly over the coming decades.

Paul VI became the first pope of modern times to set foot in Africa when he visited Uganda in 1969 and John Paul II, dubbed “the African” by a senior cleric, managed to visit 42 countries on the continent during his long papacy.

With international climate change talks in Paris coming up immediately after the Africa trip, there will be particular interest in Francis’s comments when he visits the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

In Uganda, he will honour Christian martyrs, celebrating a mass to commemorate the first African saints: 22 young men burned alive in 1886 by royal order because they refused to renounce their faith or become sexual slaves. – AFP

Somalia – reports that Al Shabab will behead Islamic State sympathisers

allAfrica/The Star (Nairobi)

Infighting within al Shabaab on whether to support al Qaeda or the Islamic State has led Shabaab to warn it will behead IS sympathisers in Somalia.

A statement was issued by al Shabaab spiritual head Sheikh Abdalla, through Radio-Andulus, aimed at stemming internal divisions and a possible split owing to growing ISIS influence.

Al Shabaab has in the past few weeks been battling internal rivalry, with two opposing factions fighting over allegiance to al Qaeda or ISIS.

Abdalla warned ISIS sympathisers will be beheaded immediately.


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