mickeytopogigio saidI'm not going to bash the pope, or Catholics, but isn't the pope just an irrelevant figurehead now?
Personally, I think the papacy's realm of control should be strictly relegated to his particular religious tradition or at least within the general Christian ecumeny - that is to say, inter religious dialogue and general church councils.
That being said, he is indeed a figure-head who's moral advice (whether one agrees with it or not) is just as deserving to be heard as that of the Dalai Lama, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even (sad to say) Rick Warren. Acting on it is an entirely different issue.
The unfortunate thing about the whole issue in Africa (out of the many that already exist) is that the line of demarcation between religion and national identity is unclear and unstable at best. In cases where clergy have more sway than elected or imposed leadership, it makes sense that people will follow their advice.
Looking at Central America in the '60s through the '80s we have groups of opressed people with no voice but the Church to help defend them. Granted, Liberation theology turned out to be somewhat of a failed experiment, but it was something that the people needed and worked to end a lot of bad deals.
As for the whole no-condom thing. John Paul II did a lot of scientific and ethical surveys on the subject, especially discussed in his Theology of the Body lectures, but the fact remains that as long as the Catholic Church subscribes to Thomist "Natural Philosophy" there's a slim chance that they'll allow condoms anytime soon.