More than 80,000 spectators attended the Opening Ceremony of the Francophone Games ©Kinshasa 2023

The Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi declared the Francophone Games officially open in front of more than 80,000 spectators at the Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecôte in Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi addressed the crowd at the Opening Ceremony of the Games where he paid tribute to the "victims of unjust aggression" in eastern DR Congo.

The Games are being staged against the backdrop of ongoing violence in the east of the country between the M23 rebels and DR Congo’s military.

Rwanda is being accused by the DR Congo of backing the M23 rebellion, leading to rising tensions between the two African countries.

On the day of the Opening Ceremony, the DR Congo’s army claimed that the Rwandan military had attacked its security forces when attempting to cross the border.

Rwanda’s Defence Ministry has since dismissed the allegations as "baseless".

Louise Mushikiwabo, secretary general of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF), is the former Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mushikiwabo was expected to attend the Opening Ceremony only for OIF official Caroline St-Hilaire to take her place after her office claimed that she had not been invited.

Speaking at the ceremony, Tshisekedi praised the nations that had agreed to take part in the multi-sport event.

"These Games are also a strong symbol in that they represent the solidarity of French-speakers with the Congolese who are victims of unjust aggression in the east of our country and of the massive looting of our natural resources by armed and terrorist groups of all edges, with the support of certain neighbouring countries," said Tshisekedi in a report by Congolese news website

"We express our most sincere thanks to the member countries of La Francophonie who were kind enough to send their athletes and artists to take part in these Games.

"This act is intended to be a witness of trust, the support and encouragement that the member countries of our organisation send to our people and their leaders.

"Know that your presence in Kinshasa strengthens the faith of the Congolese people in La Francophonie, particularly in this moment of adversity because it is in difficult times that we recognise our true friends."

The Games were originally scheduled to take place in 2021 only to be postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Democratic Republic of Congo army has accused Rwandan forces of staging an incursion across the country's border ©Getty Images
The Democratic Republic of Congo army has accused Rwandan forces of staging an incursion across the country's border ©Getty Images

New Brunswick in Canada was initially awarded the event but withdrew due to financial issues before Kinshasa stepped up to take on the hosting duties in 2019.

"To all the competitors, I know that you have prepared well and that each of you has the legitimate ambition of winning the final victory in your chosen discipline," said Tshisekedi.

"However, I remind you that the Games of La Francophonie do not want to be not just a simple competition where only victory counts, but rather a great celebration of excellence and friendship between the peoples and the member countries.

"I therefore urge you to show sportsmanship, conviviality, to respect the rules of the art and to participate in a fair competition."

Around 3,000 athletes between the ages of 18 and 35 from more than 40 countries are set to compete across nine sports at Kinshasa 2023.

Competition is due to start tomorrow and run until August 6.