The decision to dismiss a Rwandan footballer increases concerns about the UK’s controversial plan regarding asylum seekers.

The decision to dismiss a Rwandan footballer increases concerns about the UK’s controversial plan regarding asylum seekers.

Last weekend, when a football player from Congo made a short gesture after scoring in a match in an East African league, it seemed like just a topic of conversation among the onlookers.

However, the move made by midfielder Héritier Luvumbu during the match in Kigali has elicited a strong response from Rwanda, bringing renewed attention to a government that has been accused of exacerbating the deadliest conflict in the world as it enters a potentially unstable period.

The match started with a goal by Luvumbu, who is a player for Rayon Sports in Kigali. He scored from a free kick against Police FC. In a short moment of celebration, he covered his mouth with his left hand and pointed his fingers to his temple, mimicking a gun gesture. This was a show of support for those who have lost their lives in the continuing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is estimated that the crisis has resulted in over six million fatalities, making it a severe humanitarian crisis.

Before their recent semi-final match against Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations, players on DRC’s national team had made a comparable gesture.

However, on Tuesday, Luvumbu was unexpectedly suspended for six months by the Football Association of Rwanda and his contract was terminated. Within two days, he was compelled to leave Rwanda and went back to the Democratic Republic of Congo where he soon met with the sports minister.

Rwanda’s response has been perceived as excessively protective amidst growing connections between the East African country and a violent rebel organization responsible for chaos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The infamous M23 rebel group has successfully surrounded Goma, a city with a population of two million and a crucial hub in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This has resulted in the blockage of important routes and hindered access to essential resources such as food and medical care. If the M23 gains control of this major African city, there will be increased pressure on Rwanda to put a stop to their suspected funding of a militia that has been accused of committing heinous acts including murder, sexual assault, and forced displacement in the DRC.

In 2012, the M23 rebel group formed with the goal of defending the Tutsi people in eastern Congo, who had been facing persecution and discrimination. The United States and United Nations have accused Rwanda of supporting and training the M23, making it one of the most well-equipped and organized armed groups in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rwanda has consistently denied these allegations.

Last week, amidst escalating violence, there were reports of protests in eastern DRC, with accusations of complicity against Rwanda and western nations regarding M23.

The handling of Luvumbu’s case has sparked concerns about the UK government’s proposal to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda. In November, the UK supreme court deemed the plan illegal, as it would put asylum seekers at risk of being sent back to their home country.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, declared that Rwanda is secure and has implemented a law that would supersede the ruling of the supreme court. The recent expulsion of Luvumbu by Rwanda has sparked doubts about his claim that it is a safe destination for individuals.

On Saturday, the organization Freedom from Torture released a statement expressing that Rwanda’s response to Luvumbu should compel Sunak to reconsider his approach. Kolbassia Haoussou, from Freedom from Torture, stated, “This event once again brings attention to the government’s unethical plans to relocate refugees to Rwanda. Instead of continuing with a policy that will put survivors of torture in harm’s way, it is time for the prime minister to take a stand and leave this ‘cash for humans’ deal in the past.”

The UK government’s own records that aimed to justify Sunak’s Rwanda policy have recently acknowledged that the country has concerns with its human rights record regarding political opposition, dissent, and freedom of speech.

On Monday, a parliamentary committee responsible for protecting rights stated that the prime minister’s plan for Rwanda is not compatible with the UK’s obligations towards human rights.