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Congolese Footballer Banned from Rwandan team for making war solidarity gesture

Congolese footballer Heritier Luvumbu landed back in Congo DRC, after making a political gesture to show solidarity to his home country. It has cost him his place at a top Rwandan club.

The Rwandan football club, Rayon Sports announced that it has "parted ways" with the midfielder.

Heritier performed the same gesture that the Congolese football players did before kick-off at their AFCON semi-final game against Ivory Coast, to show solidarity with victims of the war or invasion for use of a batter word, in the east of the country. This had led to him receiving a 6-month ban from the club. DR Congo have consistently accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group, who are killing, raping and torturing civilians in the east. Rwanda has maintained denial of the allegation.

Luvumbu ended up in trouble after covering his mouth with his left hand while pointing his fingers to his temple, mimicking a gun, after scoring from a free-kick in last Sunday's game against Police FC.

The gesture is a way of calling for peace in DR Congo's troubled eastern region, where a recent surge in violence by the M23 rebel group follows decades of deadly conflict. The very next day after Luvumbu performed that gesture and drew attention to the crisis, his club released a statement denouncing his "bad conduct". On the 13th February, Rwanda's Football Association confirmed the suspension of the midfielder from playing for six months. The reason given was because it "prohibits the use of political symbols or words in football".

Shortly after, Rayon Sports followed with a second statement, which simply read: "Rayon Sports and the player Heritier Luvumbu Nzinga agree contract termination by mutual agreement.". DR Congo's Sports Ministry said that Luvumbu had arrived back in his home country that same day. Before leaving DR Congo, Luvumbu played for AS Vita Club, founded in 1935 and one of the oldest football clubs in the capital Kinshasa.

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