Pope Francis lands in Kenya at start of landmark Africa tour

Jennifer Huxta , AFP | Pope Francis arrived in the Kenyan capital on November 25, 2015

Pope Francis was greeted by huge crowds, choirs and dancers as he landed in Kenya's capital Nairobi Wednesday on the first leg of a three-nation tour of Africa, his first trip to the continent as pontiff.


The flags of both Kenya and the Vatican flew from the airplane's cockpit as it taxied to a stop, where Francis was met by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta with a red carpet welcome.

The 78-year-old pope smiled and waved as he emerged from the airplane, and was greeted with cheers from excited crowds as he stepped onto Kenyan soil.

In a speech delivered shortly after his arrival, Francis urged world leaders to pursue responsible economic development and warned of the need to tackle poverty as a key driver of conflict and violence.

"Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration," he said after talks with Kenyatta at Nairobi’s State House.

Security fears

Francis, who will also visit Uganda and troubled Central African Republic (CAR) on a six-day trip, is only the third pontiff to visit the continent, home to one in six of the world’s Catholics.

All three countries have significant Catholic communities but have been troubled by civil conflicts and violence.

The pope is expected to call for the need to address inequality to ensure peace and end conflict.

On a trip fraught with security concerns, thousands of police and troops have been deployed with key roads closed in the capital Nairobi, to ensure the pontiff's visit is peaceful.

Al Qaeda's affiliate in the Horn of Arica, al Shabaab, have launched a string of attacks against Kenya because they have troops deployed in Somalia.

Officials have said 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, with French peacekeepers there saying they cannot guarantee Francis’s security.

But the pope has played down fears for his safety, joking while on the flight to Kenya that he was "more worried about the mosquitoes".

‘Momentous day’

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper on Wednesday said the country was honoured to welcome Francis on his first stop.

"It is a momentous day and heralds joy and hope for the people of Kenya,” the editorial read. “The pope has indicated that he intends to speak on peaceful co-existence at a time when the country is rocked by many divisions – political, ethnic, class, and religious."

A packed schedule will see the Pope visit a Nairobi slum, a shrine to Christian martyrs in Uganda and both 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, which opens on November 30.

Francis touched on the subject in his remarks in Nairobi on Wednesday, calling for greater efforts to protect the environment.

“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.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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