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Justin-Marie Bomboko, the first Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Mr. Justin Bomboko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Congo (Leopoldville), during his press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York. ⁣⁣(October 19, 1961)

Mr. Justin Bomboko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Congo (Leopoldville), during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York. ⁣⁣(October 19, 1961) | Credit: UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky

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Justin-Marie Bomboko, the first Congolese to hold the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, emerges as a prominent figure in Congolese politics due to his active role in the country's journey towards independence.

Born on September 22, 1928, in Bokele, Mbandaka (formerly Coquilhatville), Bomboko received his primary education in his hometown before pursuing higher studies at the Ecole des Sciences Politiques et Administratives in Lovanium-Kisantu, Bas-Congo.


His exceptional abilities led him to occupy a significant position in the colonial administration of his town. However, seeking new academic horizons, Bomboko decided to pursue further studies abroad at a young age.


He enrolled at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he immersed himself in the field of Political Science for several years. During this period, he was appointed president of the Congo-Belgium and Ruanda-Urundi students in Belgium, showcasing his growing leadership and influence.

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Foreign Minister Justin Bomboko speaking at the UN Security Council session on the Congo in New York. (August 1960) | Credit: Walter Sanders/LIFE/Time Inc

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A pivotal moment in Bomboko's trajectory occurred from January 20 to February 20, 1960, when he participated in the historic round table discussions held in Belgium. Despite still being a student, he engaged alongside prominent political figures of the time, including Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Moïse Tshombe.


These consultations resulted in crucial resolutions, such as the organization of elections and the establishment of new institutional leaders. In May, Bomboko was elected as a national deputy.


Following Congo's independence, Bomboko temporarily relinquished his parliamentary seat to assume the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prime Minister Patrice Emery Lumumba's post-independence government. This appointment solidified his position as a senior member of the ministry.

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Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Foreign Minister Justin Bomboko at N'djili airport awaiting the arrival of King Baudouin for the independence ceremonies. (June 29, 1960) | Credit: FIFA/SNS Group/VI Images

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On September 4, 1960, he assumed the interim Prime Minister role after Mobutu's coup d'état, which curtailed the power of President Joseph Kasa-Vubu, who disagreed with Prime Minister Lumumba.


In August 1961, Bomboko was reappointed as the head of diplomacy, the position he favored, before being assigned to the Ministry of Justice in 1963. However, this appointment was short-lived as Moïse Tshombe ascended to the role of Prime Minister, replacing all former leaders. Bomboko temporarily regained his seat in the National Assembly during this period.


On November 24, 1965, Mobutu seized power, establishing himself as a strongman. Recognizing Bomboko's experience and capabilities, he reinstated him as Minister of Foreign Affairs, alongside Étienne Tshisekedi as Minister of the Interior.

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President Mobutu and Foreign Minister Justin Bomboko. (1967) | Credit: Eliot Elisofon

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Additionally, Bomboko served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in 1981. Later, he was appointed as Zaire's ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and other countries.


During the transition period in 2002, Bomboko assumed the role of Vice-President of the Senate, and in 2010, President Joseph Kabila honored him by elevating him to the Order of National Heroes, recognizing his significant contributions to the nation.

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Henock Kalala - (LEBEAUZAÏRE)

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Pictures of Justin-Marie Bomboko. (1960) | Credit: Albert Fenn/LIFE ─────────────────────────────────

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