The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from Democratic Republic of the Congo

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This page contains a list of the greatest Congolese Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 19,576 Politicians, 17 of which were born in Democratic Republic of the Congo. This makes Democratic Republic of the Congo the birth place of the 106th most number of Politicians behind Guinea-Bissau, and Laos.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Congolese Politicians of all time. This list of famous Congolese Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Congolese Politicians.

Photo of Patrice Lumumba

1. Patrice Lumumba (1925 - 1961)

With an HPI of 75.03, Patrice Lumumba is the most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 92 different languages on wikipedia.

Patrice Émery Lumumba ( ; 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961), born Isaïe Tasumbu Tawosa, was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as the Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960, following the May 1960 election. He was the leader of the Congolese National Movement (MNC) from 1958 until his execution in January 1961. Ideologically an African nationalist and pan-Africanist, he played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. Shortly after Congolese independence in June 1960, a mutiny broke out in the army, marking the beginning of the Congo Crisis. After a coup, Lumumba attempted to escape to Stanleyville to join his supporters who had established a new anti-Mobutu state called the Free Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was captured en route by state authorities under Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, sent to the State of Katanga and, with the help of Belgian partisans, executed by the separatist Katangan authorities of Moïse Tshombe. He was seen as a martyr for the pan-African movement. In 2002, Belgium formally apologised for its role in the execution.

Photo of Mobutu Sese Seko

2. Mobutu Sese Seko (1930 - 1997)

With an HPI of 72.69, Mobutu Sese Seko is the 2nd most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga ( ; born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu; 14 October 1930 – 7 September 1997), often shortened to Mobutu Sese Seko or Mobutu and also known by his initials MSS, was a Congolese politician and military officer who was the 1st and only President of Zaire from 1971 to 1997. Previously, Mobutu served as the 2nd President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1965 to 1971. He also served as the 5th Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity from 1967 to 1968. During the Congo Crisis, Mobutu, serving as Chief of Staff of the Army and supported by Belgium and the United States, deposed the democratically elected government of left-wing nationalist Patrice Lumumba in 1960. Mobutu installed a government that arranged for Lumumba's execution in 1961, and continued to lead the country's armed forces until he took power directly in a second coup in 1965. To consolidate his power, he established the Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole legal political party in 1967, changed the Congo's name to Zaire in 1971, and his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972. Mobutu claimed that his political ideology was "neither left nor right, nor even centre", though nevertheless he developed a regime that was intensely autocratic. He attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence through his program of "national authenticity". Mobutu was the object of a pervasive cult of personality. During his rule, he amassed a large personal fortune through economic exploitation and corruption, leading some to call his rule a "kleptocracy". He presided over a period of widespread human rights violations. Under his rule, the nation also suffered from uncontrolled inflation, a large debt, and massive currency devaluations. Mobutu received strong support (military, diplomatic and economic) from the United States, France, and Belgium, who believed he was a strong opponent of communism in Francophone Africa. He also built close ties with the governments of apartheid South Africa, Israel and the Greek junta. From 1972 onward, he was also supported by Mao Zedong of China, mainly due to his anti-Soviet stance but also as part of Mao's attempts to create a bloc of Afro-Asian nations led by him. The massive Chinese economic aid that flowed into Zaire gave Mobutu more flexibility in his dealings with Western governments, allowed him to identify as an "anti-capitalist revolutionary", and enabled him to avoid going to the International Monetary Fund for assistance. By 1990, economic deterioration and unrest forced Mobutu Sese Seko into coalition with his power opponents. Although he used his troops to thwart change, his antics did not last long. In May 1997, rebel forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila overran the country and forced him into exile. Already suffering from advanced prostate cancer, he died three months later in Morocco. Mobutu was notorious for corruption, nepotism, and having amassed between US$50 million and $125 million during his rule. He was known for extravagances such as shopping trips to Paris via the supersonic Concorde aircraft.

Photo of Laurent-Désiré Kabila

3. Laurent-Désiré Kabila (1939 - 2001)

With an HPI of 66.48, Laurent-Désiré Kabila is the 3rd most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Laurent-Désiré Kabila (French pronunciation: [lo.ʁɑ̃ de.zi.ʁe ka.bi.la]) (27 November 1939 – 16 January 2001) usually known as Laurent Kabila (US: ), was a Congolese rebel and politician who served as the third President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1997 until his assassination in 2001. Kabila became known during the 1960s Congo crisis as an opponent of Mobutu Sese Seko. He took part to the Simba rebellion and led the Communist-aligned Fizi rebel territory until the 1980s. In the 1990s, Kabila re-emerged as leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFLC), a Rwandan and Ugandan-sponsored rebel group that invaded Zaire and overthrew Mobutu during the First Congo War from 1996 to 1997. Having now become the new president of the country, whose name was changed back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kabila found himself in a delicate position as a puppet of his foreign backers. The following year, he ordered the departure of all foreign troops from the country following the Kasika massacre to prevent a potential coup, leading to the Second Congo War in which his former Rwandan and Ugandan allies began sponsoring several rebel groups to overthrow him. During the war, he was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, and was succeeded ten days later by his 29-year-old son Joseph.

Photo of Moïse Tshombe

4. Moïse Tshombe (1919 - 1969)

With an HPI of 62.72, Moïse Tshombe is the 4th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Moïse Kapenda Tshombe (sometimes written Tshombé; 10 November 1919 – 29 June 1969) was a Congolese businessman and politician. He served as the president of the secessionist State of Katanga from 1960 to 1963 and as prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1964 to 1965. Tshombe was born to an aristocratic Lunda family and ran several businesses in Katanga Province before becoming involved in politics, cofounding the pro-Western, anti-communist CONAKAT party in 1958 and advocating for autonomy for Katanga province. Following the Republic of the Congo-Léopoldville's accession to independence in June 1960, Tshombe became president of the autonomous province, and soon came into conflict with the central government's leftist prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Accusing Lumumba of communist sympathies, Tshombe declared Katanga's independence as the breakaway State of Katanga, becoming a major actor of the Congo Crisis. Following Lumumba's overthrow and execution by Tshombe's supporters in 1961, the Katanga rebellion was suppressed in 1963, forcing Tshombe into exile. The following year, he was made prime minister of the country as part of a new coalition government against the Simba rebellion by Lumumba's supporters. In 1965, he founded the CONACO alliance, which comfortably won the March and April general elections. However, he was dismissed as Prime Minister in October of that year, being replaced by Évariste Kimba. Following the November 1965 coup which ended the Congo Crisis, he was charged with treason and was forced into exile again. He died four years later.

Photo of Félix Tshisekedi

5. Félix Tshisekedi (b. 1963)

With an HPI of 59.86, Félix Tshisekedi is the 5th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo (French: [feliks ɑ̃twan tʃisekedi tʃilombo]; born 13 June 1963) is a Congolese politician who has been the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 24 January 2019. He is the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the DRC's oldest and largest party, succeeding his late father Étienne Tshisekedi in that role, a three-time Prime Minister of Zaire and opposition leader during the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko. Tshisekedi was the UDPS party's candidate for president in the December 2018 general election, which he was awarded, despite accusations of irregularities from several election monitoring organisations and other opposition parties. The Constitutional Court of the DRC upheld his victory after another opposition politician, Martin Fayulu, challenged the result, but Tshisekedi has been accused of making a deal with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. The election marked the first peaceful transition of power since the state became independent from Belgium in 1960. Since the Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition, which is aligned with Kabila, still controlled the parliament and provincial governorships, Tshisekedi's ability to govern or even appoint a new Prime Minister was limited for the first six months of his term. He named his coalition partner and political heavyweight, Vital Kamerhe, as his Chief of Cabinet, at first having designated him prime minister but not having the parliamentary support to have him successfully appointed. In May 2019 he reached a deal with the parliament's Kabila-aligned majority to appoint Sylvestre Ilunga prime minister. On 27 July 2019, negotiations finally ended between Tshisekedi and the parliament, agreeing on the formation of a new cabinet. In May 2024, he managed to foil a coup attempt targetting him.

Photo of Antoine Gizenga

6. Antoine Gizenga (1925 - 2019)

With an HPI of 57.07, Antoine Gizenga is the 6th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Antoine Gizenga (5 October 1925 – 24 February 2019) was a Congolese (DRC) politician who was the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 30 December 2006 to 10 October 2008. He was the Secretary-General of the Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié, PALU).

Photo of Joseph Kabila

7. Joseph Kabila (b. 1971)

With an HPI of 55.30, Joseph Kabila is the 7th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.

Joseph Kabila Kabange ( kab-EE-lə, French: [ʒɔzɛf kabila]; born 4 June 1971) is a Congolese politician who served as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between January 2001 and January 2019. He took office ten days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila in the context of the Second Congo War. He was allowed to remain in power after the 2003 Pretoria Accord ended the war as the president of the country's new transitional government. He was elected as president in 2006 and re-elected in 2011 for a second term. Since stepping down after the 2018 election, Kabila, as a former president, serves as a senator for life. Kabila's term was due to expire on 20 December 2016, according to the terms of the constitution adopted in 2006. Officials suggested that elections would be held in November 2016, but on 29 September 2016, the nation's electoral authority announced that the election would not be held until early 2018. Talk focused on the need for a census before holding elections. In August 2018, Kabila announced that he would step down and not seek reelection in the December 2018 general election. He was succeeded by Félix Tshisekedi in the country's first peaceful transition of power since independence. Independent observers felt Tshisikedi had lost heavily to another candidate, Martin Fayulu, and that Kabila had fixed the official result for the candidate most likely to be most helpful to him in the latter's post-presidency period. While in power, Joseph Kabila faced continuous wars in eastern Congo and internal rebel forces supported by the neighboring governments of Rwanda and Uganda. In 2021, it was reported that Kabila embezzled over $138 million during his presidency.

Photo of Étienne Tshisekedi

8. Étienne Tshisekedi (1932 - 2017)

With an HPI of 54.87, Étienne Tshisekedi is the 8th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba (14 December 1932 – 1 February 2017) was a Congolese politician and the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), formerly the main opposition political party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A long-time opposition leader, he served as Prime Minister of the country (then called Zaire) on three brief occasions: in 1991, 1992–1993, and 1997. He was also the father of the current President, Felix Tshisekedi. Tshisekedi was the main Congolese opposition leader for decades. Although he served in the government of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in various positions, he also led the campaign against Mobutu, and was one of few politicians who challenged the dictator. Tshisekedi and his UDPS party boycotted the 2006 elections organized in Congo on claims that elections were fraudulent and were systematically rigged in advance. He was a candidate for President of Congo in the 2011 elections that many national and international observers, notably the Carter Center, have said lacked credibility and transparency. Having officially lost to incumbent Joseph Kabila, Tshisekedi nevertheless declared himself the "elected president" of Congo. Policemen and Kabila's presidential guards were subsequently stationed at every corner that gives entrance to Tshisekedi's residence, placing him under unofficial house arrest. His son Félix became president in 2019.

Photo of Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi

9. Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi (1930 - 2007)

With an HPI of 49.06, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi is the 9th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi, C.I.C.M. (French pronunciation: [fʁedeʁik ɛtsun zabi bamœ̃ɡwabi]; 3 December 1930, Belgian Congo – 6 January 2007, Leuven, Belgium) was cardinal and Archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was the DRC's foremost Catholic prelate from 1991 until his death in 2007.

Photo of Joseph Iléo

10. Joseph Iléo (1921 - 1994)

With an HPI of 48.41, Joseph Iléo is the 10th most famous Congolese Politician.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Joseph Iléo (15 September 1921 – 19 September 1994), subsequently Zairianised as Sombo Amba Iléo, was a Congolese politician and was prime minister for two periods.

People

Pantheon has 18 people classified as Congolese politicians born between 1919 and 1971. Of these 18, 9 (50.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Congolese politicians include Félix Tshisekedi, Joseph Kabila, and Sylvestre Ilunga. The most famous deceased Congolese politicians include Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila. As of April 2024, 1 new Congolese politicians have been added to Pantheon including Joseph Iléo.

Living Congolese Politicians

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Deceased Congolese Politicians

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Newly Added Congolese Politicians (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 9 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.