Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons

Several years of unrest have continued within the country, but this did not deter the resilient spirit of these Congolese stars.
Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons

The Democratic Republic of Congo was born on 17 May 1997 after Mobutu Sese Seko fled what was then called Zaire, and the nation was taken over by the government of Laurent Kabila and renamed.

Several years of unrest continued within the country, but this did not deter the resilient spirit of Congolese citizens from going on to make global contributions in their respective fields.

These are some of Congo’s proudest exports.

1. Dikembe Mutombo

Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons

A historic and globally celebrated basketball player, Mutombo made his mark as one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) most talented players.

An 8-time all-star player who has played for several star teams in the league, and holds the second highest defensive record to date, Mutombo has become more well known for his humanitarian work since his retirement in 2009.

His foundation, the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation works to alleviate the living conditions of the less privileged in Congo.

In 2007, the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation completed and opened the doors to one of its major projects thus far, a $29 million, ultra modern, 300 bed hospital on the outskirts of Kinshasa.

Mutombo still works with NBA to groom and scout young basketball talents from across Africa through the Basketball Without Boarders program.

2. Dr. Denis Mukwege

Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons

Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynaecologist, human rights activist and Nobel Peace laureate from east Congo. He has become the world’s leading specialist in the treatment of wartime sexual violence, and a global campaigner against the use of rape as a weapon of war.

The son of a pastor, he knew he would be a doctor at the age of 8 after accompanying his father to go and pray for a young, terminally ill boy. He told his father, “You can pray, but I will give medicine”.

In 1999, he founded the Panzi Hospital and Foundation on the outskirts of Bukavu. He soon became a specialist in dealing with cases of wartime rape, as thousands came to the hospital seeking refuge from the war in DR Congo at the time.

It was his work fighting against rape as a weapon of war that set him aside for the special recognition that was the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

3. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya

Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons: Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya

A champion of peace, dialogue and human rights, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya is a prelate of the Catholic Church who was the Archbishop of Kinshasa from 2007 to 2018.

He became increasingly vocal against former President Joseph Kabila when he disagreed with the results of the 2011 Election saying the results “do not conform either to truth or to justice”.

Towards the end of his tenure, he stood up against the use of violence by the government towards protesters, and called on President Joseph Kabila to respect term limits.

4. Laetitia Kandolo

Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons: Laetitia Kandolo

Laetitia Kondolo has built a power brand for herself as a creative director and stylist in global fashion, having worked with clients such as Madonna, Rihanna, Jay Z and has been on tour with the Black Eyed Peas.

Having studied at the Fashion School of Paris, she launched her first menswear line in 2016. She named the clothing line Uchawi, a Kiswahili name which etymologically means magic.

For her, Uchawi is “a state of mind in which magic exists, magic operates and the impossible dies.”

As part of her commitment to insure that her work added value to her nation, Kondolo partnered with the Congolese styling school ISAM ((Insitut Superieur des Arts et Metiers), to co-produce the clothing brand. In a country plagued with a difficult history and infrastructural issues, job opportunities can be difficult to come by.

Hence her mission to help develop the local textile-making industry, empower women through employment chances, as well as grow a sense of pride for products made locally.

5. Fally Ipupa

Congo’s changemakers at 22: Celebrating DRC’s icons: Fally Ipupa

Singer, songwriter, dancer and philanthropist, Fally Ipupa is a multiple award-winning entertainment icon in Africa and beyond. From singing in his local church choir at a young age, he was later identified by legendary Congolese artist, Koffi Olomide, and started his journey in entertainment as a part of Olomide’s group ‘Quartier Latin International”.

He has been recognized with awards by MTV, BET, KORA Awards and AFRIMMA to name a few.

With over 2 million followers across his social media platforms, Fally Ipapa is a dynamic voice and influencer representing the young people of DR Congo today.


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