With less than two weeks to go before the presidential election, the Democratic Republic of Congo's incumbent president who is running for re-election, was Sunday (Dec. 10) on the campaign trail in Goma.
Félix Tshisekedi's meeting which was under heavy security took place as large swathes of the North Kivu province are controlled by M23 rebels.
"On December 20, I need your votes so that we can continue the fight to liberate our country. I promise you that this fight will continue, and we will rid our country of the M23 terrorists who have been brought in by their leader Paul Kagame."
"We are going to put an end to their barbaric reign, and to the terrorism that has plunged the Congolese people into mourning for decades”, he added.
Thousands of residents of the North Kivu provincial capital attended the meeting despite the rain.
The city is one of the largest in the DRC's east.
Building a strong army
Tshisekedi urged more Congolese to enlist in the armed forces to fight the M23 rebels.
"I've told you that we've started the work of rebuilding our army, and I need young people, courageous men and women who love their country, to fill the ranks of our army. We've already received 40,000 of them, but we still need more of you."
Economy and security are the main themes of the incumbent president's campaign. He faces some 20 opponents.
The M23 rebellion has displaced thousands of people. Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels. U.N. experts have linked the rebels to Rwandan forces. Kigali denies the accusations.
M23, largely comprised of Congolese Tutsis, stroke a deal in 2013 with the Congolese government and vowed to lay down arms. The group took up arms again at the end of 2021, accusing Kinshasa of failing to respect commitments on the demobilization of its fighters.
It has since often clashed with government forces and United Nations peacekeepers, who are slated to gradually withdraw from Congo at the government’s request.
Roger Mibenge, candidate for National Deputy expressed his support for Tshisekedi saying, "He has our support because of his achievements and his reaction to Rwandan aggression. We think we still need him for the next 5 years to finish the job he started.”
Over 250 South Sudanese soldiers left on Friday (Dec. 08) the Democratic Republic of Congo's east. After the Kenyans, the South Sudanese are the latest group from an East African Community (EAC) regional force to withdraw fromeastern DRC.
Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defense militias fight for ore, influence and money.