Football: Nzinga Luvumbu’s Celebration Sparks Outrage in Rwanda

In Kigali, on February 12, 2024, a controversy has emerged involving Rayon Sports, a prominent football club in Rwanda, and one of its players, Héritier Nzinga Luvumbu, of Congolese origin. The issue has sparked significant discussion on social media, with some supporters of the Rwandan government calling for the team to dissociate from Luvumbu. The player celebrated a goal in a manner that is said to mimic gestures associated with officials from his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who have accused Rwanda of contributing to the unrest in the DRC’s eastern regions. While this celebration has been criticized by some as merely an act of pointing fingers at Rwanda, it broadly appeals for an end to the violence and aggression plaguing eastern Congo. This method of celebration was previously used by the DRC’s national football team, the Leopards, before a match in the Africa Cup of Nations held in Côte d’Ivoire.

The incident took place during a match between Rayon Sports and Police FC on Sunday, February 11, at the Kigali Stadium in Nyamirambo, where Rayon Sports emerged victorious with a 2-1 scoreline. Rayon Sports is known for its large fan base within Rwanda.


Kakooza Nkuliza Charles, also known as KNC, a Rwandan media personality and the CEO and founder of Radio 1 Rwanda, TV1 Rwanda, and the Gasogi United Football Club, expressed his views on the matter in a conversation with journalist Angelbert Mutabaruka on Monday, February 12, 2024. KNC, in a vehemently angry tone, stated that Rayon Sports should immediately sever ties with Luvumbu, whom he referred to as a “politician” rather than a player. KNC argued that Luvumbu’s actions are of concern to all Rwandans and likened them to an incident where Congolese fans attempted to defame President Kagame in Côte d’Ivoire, a plan that was ultimately unsuccessful. He suggested that Luvumbu’s actions on Rwandan television were politically motivated, thus rendering him a politician rather than an athlete. KNC urged that the relevant authorities should make a decisive ruling on this matter.

The discourse around Héritier Nzinga Luvumbu’s actions and the subsequent reactions illuminates the complex interplay between sports, politics, and national identity. It also highlights the sensitive nature of the relationship between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, against a backdrop of ongoing tensions and conflicts in the region. As this story develops, it will be essential to follow the responses from Rayon Sports, the Rwandan government, and the broader football community.