Outside forces ravaging Africa: Vatican

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – A Vatican document coinciding with Pope Benedict's trip to Africa says "outside forces" are complicit with corrupt leaders to fuel wars, traffic weapons and back politicians irrespective of human rights and democracy.

The document on Africa was released on Thursday, three days into his trip as the Vatican was still trying to contain the damage from his comments on the use of condoms to fight AIDS.

Without going into details, the document criticised "multinational organisations" that, hand-in-hand with some African leaders, invaded the continent in search of natural resources.

Pope Benedict handed the 60-page document to bishops at the end of a mass for tens of thousands of people at a stadium on Thursday morning in the capital of Cameroun on his last full day here. He files to Angola on Friday.

"Outside forces, in complicity with men and women on the African continent, exploit the wounded state of the human heart…," says the working document prepared by a Vatican committee for a synod of Roman Catholic bishops from Africa due to take place at the Vatican in October.

"They fuel wars so as to sell arms. They back those in power, irrespective of human rights and democratic principles, so as to guarantee economic benefit (such as) the exploitation of natural resources … they threaten to destabilise entire nations and to eliminate persons who wish to free themselves from their oppression," it said.

The document, which spoke of "a process organised to destroy African identity" through modernity, did not specifically name the outside forces or any African country or leader.

Many African countries have huge mineral and hydrocarbon deposits whose value is, in theory, enough to finance infrastructure projects, create jobs and raise living standards. 

CORRUPTION RAMPANT

Critics say senior officials use these resources to enrich themselves, depriving treasuries of much-needed cash.

Nigerian state oil firm Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, for example, has been plagued by corruption for decades, with billions of dollars of oil money going to a handful of influential Nigerians while the rest of the country lives on less than $2 a day.

Guinea is the world’s top exporter of aluminium ore bauxite, but most of its population live in poverty.

The document says: "Multinational organisations continue to systematically to invade the continent in search of natural resources. In complicity with African leaders, they oppress local companies, buy thousands of hectares of land and expropriate populations from their land."

The trip is still overshadowed by the controversy sparked when the pope said condoms "increase the problem" of AIDS.

A Washington Post editorial on Thursday said: "That the pope chose to question the value of condoms in fighting the nearly 28-year-old scourge while heading to the continent whose people are most affected by it is troubling."

French newspaper Le Monde said: "Nobody ever said that condoms were the only solution to fight against AIDS. But to argue that they aggravate the pandemic is very serious and irresponsible. His predecessor John Paul never went that far."

Leading members of the governments of France, Belgium and the pope’s native Germany have bluntly criticised the pope. 

The Vatican spokesman defended the pope’s stand, saying Benedict was merely re-stating the position of his predecessors that fidelity within heterosexual marriage and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS.

In his first event on Thursday, day the pope met 22 Muslim leaders and urged Christians and Muslims in Africa to shun inter-religious violence.