The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, called on Thursday evening "the youth" of his country to "organize themselves into groups of vigilance" in the face of the M23 rebellion which, he reaffirmed, benefits from "the support of Rwanda".
Rwanda has "expansionist ambitions, with the main interest of appropriating our minerals", he accused, in a Message to the Nation broadcast by national television.
"To do this, it is working to destabilise eastern Congo to create a lawless zone to satisfy its criminal appetites," the DRC president continued, deploring that the various diplomatic initiatives undertaken to ease tensions have not led to "any tangible result".
The eastern DRC has been plagued for nearly three decades by violence from armed groups, many of them inherited from the wars that bloodied the region in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Tensions have been particularly high between Kinshasa and Kigali since the resurgence at the end of 2021 of the M23 ("March 23 Movement"), a former Tutsi rebellion that has taken up arms again, reproaching Kinshasa for not having respected agreements on the demobilisation of its fighters.
Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of supporting this rebellion, which Kigali contests by accusing the DRC of collusion with a Hutu rebel movement in Congo. "False accusation", Félix Tshisekedi hammered.
"The war that has been imposed on us (...) requires sacrifice," he said, calling on his compatriots to "put aside (their) differences" to stand together. "The nation needs the commitment of all its daughters and sons," the president continued.
He also asked the Congolese "not to give in to xenophobic remarks and other speeches of hatred or stigmatisation of Rwandophone communities".
But "in response to the strong demand from the youth, I invite them to organise themselves into vigilance groups in order to support, accompany and sustain our armed forces". He also "renewed" his appeal to young people who have the vocation "to enrol massively" in the army.
After several weeks of calm, the M23 rebellion has been on the offensive since 20 October in the territory of Rutshuru, in the province of North Kivu, where it has seized several localities on a strategic road serving Goma, a major strategic city in eastern DRC.
The Rwandan ambassador has just been expelled by the DRC, which also announced earlier this week the recall of its chargé d'affaires in Kigali.