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.
With an HPI of 72.81, Patrice Lumumba is the most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 84 different languages on wikipedia.
Patrice Émery Lumumba (; 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) 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. A member of the Congolese National Movement (MNC), he led the 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 1960, a mutiny broke out in the army, marking the beginning of the Congo Crisis. Lumumba appealed to the United States and the United Nations for help to suppress the Belgian-supported Katangan secessionists led by Moïse Tshombe. Both refused, due to suspicions among the Western world that Lumumba secretly held pro-communist views. These suspicions deepened when Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance, which the CIA described as a "classic communist takeover". This led to growing differences with President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and chief-of-staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, as well as with the United States and Belgium, who opposed the Soviet Union in the Cold War. After Mobutu's military coup, Lumumba attempted to escape to Stanleyville to join his supporters who had established a new anti-Mobutu rival state called the Free Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was captured and imprisoned en route by state authorities under Mobutu. He was handed over to Katangan authorities, and executed in the presence of Katangan and Belgian officials and officers. His body was thrown into a shallow grave, but later dug up and destroyed. Following his execution, he was widely seen as a martyr for the wider pan-African movement. Over the years, inquiries have shed light on the events surrounding Lumumba's death and, in particular, on the roles played by Belgium and the United States. In 2002, Belgium formally apologised for its role in the execution. In 2022, a gold-capped tooth, all that remained of his body, was repatriated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Belgium.
With an HPI of 72.41, Mobutu Sese Seko is the 2nd most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (; born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu; 14 October 1930 – 7 September 1997) was a Congolese politician and military officer who was the president of Zaire from 1965 to 1997 (known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1965 to 1971). He also served as 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 even by African standards of his time. 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 military 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 the embezzlement of between US$4 billion and $15 billion during his rule. He was known for extravagances such as shopping trips to Paris via the supersonic Concorde aircraft.
With an HPI of 65.72, Laurent-Désiré Kabila is the 3rd most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
Laurent-Désiré Kabila (French pronunciation: [lo.ʁɑ̃ de.zi.ʁe ka.bi.la]) (27 November 1939 – 18 January 2001) or simply Laurent Kabila (US: pronunciation ), was a Congolese revolutionary and politician who was the third President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1997 until his assassination in 2001.A longtime opponent of Mobutu Sese Seko, he led 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 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 including the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC). During the war, he was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, and was succeeded ten days later by his 29-year-old son Joseph.
With an HPI of 62.33, 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.
With an HPI of 57.33, Félix Tshisekedi is the 5th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 52 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 get him appointed. In May 2019 he arrived at 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.
With an HPI of 55.04, Antoine Gizenga is the 6th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 34 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).
With an HPI of 53.92, Étienne Tshisekedi is the 7th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 24 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), the main opposing 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. 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.
With an HPI of 53.60, Joseph Kabila is the 8th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 66 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. While in power, Joseph Kabila faced continuous wars in eastern Congo and internal rebel forces supported by the neighboring governments of Uganda and Rwanda.
With an HPI of 46.19, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi is the 9th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 16 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 Roman Catholic prelate from 1991 until his death in 2007.
With an HPI of 44.80, Sylvestre Ilunga is the 10th most famous Congolese Politician. His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba (born 1947, Katanga Province, Belgian Congo) is a Congolese politician who was appointed as the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 2019, formally establishing his government in August 2019. He has had a long political career going back to the 1970s, having held a number of ministerial cabinet posts, and was previously a professor at the University of Kinshasa since 1979. Ilunga has also been the secretary general of Congo's national railway company. He has a reputation as an experienced public servant and technocrat, as well as an ally of former President Joseph Kabila.
Pantheon has 18 people classified as politicians born between 1919 and 1986. Of these 18, 10 (55.56%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Félix Tshisekedi, Joseph Kabila, and Sylvestre Ilunga. The most famous deceased politicians include Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila. As of April 2022, 1 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Charles Kahudi.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 8 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.