Fabien Kalala Shambuyi, 24, of Ottawa was supposed to return home for Christmas.
Credits: University of Ottwa
Fabien Kalala Shambuyi, 24, was supposed to return home for Christmas but was arrested at the Kinshasa airport in the Congo and thrown in jail.
Family, who learned he had been freed early Saturday, said Shambuyi was jailed due to his close ties with that country's opposition leader.
"It's beautiful what is happening to us," said Shambuyi's brother Eric Kunda A. Tombe, adding family were hoping Shambuyi would be able to get on a plane back to Ottawa as soon as possible.
"We've missed Christmas," he said Saturday. "You can't have Christmas when one of you is missing. We always get together this time of year and draw names. Imagine if you drew Fabien's name and he wasn't here to give a gift to."
The family had feared for his life and launched a Facebook campaign appealing for others to lobby for Shambuyi's release. It was on that page they announced Shambuyi's release.
"We have great news," the Facebook page reads. "We would be ungrateful to not think about those who showed your love, sympathy, friendship and support. Thanks to our God who has done great things in her family and He continues to manifest Himself up to this moment."
Tombe said he believes public pressure and the Canadian government's involvement led to his brother's release.
"We are very grateful," he said.
Shambuyi was travelling as a security guard for Etienne Tshisekedi, who ran against recently re-elected Congolese president Joseph Kabila.
Family friend Henriette Yakibonge said Shambuyi was tossed in jail for insulting the president.
The family didn't celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 "because everybody's spirit is down," said Tombe, who added he was "disappointed" in the efforts of Canadian foreign affairs.
Shambuyi lives with a sister in Nepean and works as a security guard.
The young football player, a criminology student, is listed as a defensive end on the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 2010 roster and also played for the Junior Riders.
Ottawa's Congolese community staged three protests at the Democratic Republic of the Congo Embassy in Ottawa earlier this month.-- With files from Kelly Roche