In DR Congo, a stage built for the Pope's visit collapses: 'It's a disgrace'
Pope Francis is expected in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, from January 31 to February 3. But a platform stage where he was supposed to speak collapsed in the Martyrs Stadium on January 30. Repairs were launched the same day, but some Congolese consider this episode a "shame" for their country.
Pope Francis' visit is the first by a pontiff to the Democratic Republic of Congo since that of John Paul II in 1985. But the incident that occurred in the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa the day before his arrival, is causing some people to cringe: the stage from which he is due to speak on Thursday has collapsed and is damaged.
'What fell down was not the podium. It was the metal structure for the lights'
According to the authorities, this incident was due to a storm that hit the city during the night. Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman, told Top Congo FM:
A bad weather event is a natural phenomenon. [...] What fell down was not the podium. It was the metal structure for the lights. [...] Everything is being done to put it back in place.
In fact, repairs were launched the same day, according to Edmond Izuba, a Congolese journalist who will be covering the pope's visit. He too says that the structure collapsed due to strong winds.
The company E-Proxy has been charged with setting up the various sites where the pope will visit, including the Martyrs Stadium, and is therefore supposed to repair the podium.
At a press briefing the evening of January 30, Jesus-Noël Sheke, the head of the company, said that one of the structures had been "bent" by the weather. He also said that it was installed according to FIFA standards - not allowing damage to the stadium – and Vatican standards – involving the use of structures "that weigh a lot". He also said that work had started on the same day.
Pape François en RDC: Tribune Papale en finition.... derniers réglages ! @PatrickMuyaya @LukondeSama @Alexis_Gisaro66 @Presidence_RDC @nskazadi pic.twitter.com/yQmVzNJPVE— Jesus-Noël SHEKE (@Jesusnoelshek) January 23, 2023
Following the incident, some Congolese deplored the incident on social networks and said they hoped the podium would not collapse again on Thursday during an event where 80,000 young people would be in attendance.
'I think the infrastructure work was botched'
Felix Kabena is one of our Observers in Kinshasa, where he is a member of the RFI listeners' club:
What happened is a disgrace. Kinshasa has faced several disasters recently, due to the heavy rains in the last few weeks: National Highway 1 was split in two, about thirty people died as a result of landslides. So how well could the structure erected in the Martyrs' Stadium withstand all kinds of bad weather? Only the engineers assigned to the job will be able to answer this question...
I think that the infrastructure work [for the Pope's visit] was botched and that it did not escape the vultures in our institutions. Our country has already witnessed several cases of embezzlement of funds intended for construction.
'Fortunately, this did not happen the day the pope arrived'
Father Jean Simon works in the parish of Saint Thomas, in Kisenso, a town on the outskirts of Kinshasa:
When you set up infrastructure, you have to make sure that they are solid, to avoid failures, and you have to work with competent people. Here, we are in the middle of the rainy season, so this was a parameter that had to be taken into account. Fortunately, this did not happen the day the Pope arrived: that would have been really shameful.
The pope's arrival is eagerly awaited in this country of 110 million residents, more than 40 percent of whom are Catholics, making it the largest Catholic population in Africa. Eleven events are planned for his visit, including a large mass at Ndolo Airport, where a million faithful are expected. However, the pope will not visit Goma, in the east of the country, as initially planned, because of ongoing conflicts between armed groups.
Following his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the pope will travel to South Sudan.