Central Africa Time Zone UTC+02:00
Capital City Kinshasa
Currency Congolese franc
National Day 30 June
With a long-standing diplomatic career under her belt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s new Ambassador Her Excellency Ms Marie Marguerite Ndjeka Opombo has held many posts across the globe, the latest of which was First Counsellor at the Embassy in the UK (2009-14). Returning to the capital earlier this year, she has observed that London continues to be “a beautiful and culturally rich city. I’ve always admired the numerous museums, impressive National Library and the green landscape that competes with our own back home.”
Acquiring an international outlook from a young age, the college authorities persuaded Ms Ndjeka’s parents to send her to Belgium for further studies at the age of 15. Studying there at the Higher Institute of Economic Science and the Institute of Higher Education in Social Communication, she also graduated with a teaching degree. She also has a Business English degree from Manchester University.
Prior to her diplomatic career, Ms Ndjeka held leadership positions at Air Portugal (1979-1987), the DRC National Documentation Centre as well as several positions at the DRC Office of the President. The first of her immediate family to become a diplomat, Ms Ndjeka says she “benefited from invaluable support provided by [her] parents, brothers and sisters, and of course, some colleagues in the diplomatic service.” She also says, however, that she believes that her path was predestined: “I believe it was all planned by God. My Director at the Office of the President was appointed Ambassador and asked me to move with him. Since I like discovering new places, I didn’t hesitate to take the position of Administrative Officer at the Consulate of the DRC in Ndola in 1987. Then in 1999, I was promoted to First Secretary in charge of political affairs.” And so it began.
Her posting in Zambia lasted until 2000, and involved Ms Ndjeka taking part in several official missions with Congolese delegations that included a special meeting of the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the SADC on the security of the DRC Eastern border; the Extraordinary Summit of the Head of States of the SADC on the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, the Sub-Committee of Experts in charge of the restitution of assets seized by Zambia and the DRC, and of the Central Committee of the DRC in 1981 in Conakry, Guinea.
She describes her work in the Lusaka Embassy as “a major step forward in my career.” It was here that she became Chargé d’Affaires whenever the Ambassador was away. When she was later transferred to Zimbabwe, she was assigned similar responsibilities. Over the years, she also represented the DRC at many meetings and discussion panels related to regional issues with the SADC, COMESA and the African Union and as part of bilateral cooperation with the hosting countries.
Given that the post of Ambassador in London had been vacant for almost three years, Ms Ndjeka is aware that she has her work cut out for her. She explains her key priorities as improving bilateral relations between the UK and DRC, plus “ensuring greater visibility of my country in order to put the DRC back on the world map.” Of course, this involves “promoting and attracting foreign investment in all sectors of development and tourism, and improving trade relations with the UK, especially with DFID, to safeguard and protect the interests of the state and of Congolese nationals residing in the jurisdiction.” She continues: “Currently, my country is more than in need of consistent diplomatic support to uphold its international and national sovereignty.”
While the country prepares for “major milestone” presidential and general elections currently set for 23 December 2018, Ms Ndjeka’s aim is “to gain support from all our partners in order to allow fair, peaceful and free elections that will enshrine peace and stability in the country and ensure the DRC achieves its objective of becoming an emerging country in 2030 as advocated by the Head of State, the incumbent President.” This also involves the challenge of “gathering support from the entire international community to accompany the National Independent Electoral Commission to complete the full process of the elections as planned.”
What does she like doing in her downtime? “Reading books is my hobby. Why? Simply because books are the best school you can ‘attend’ while on a plane, on a train or even in your bathroom. By reading, one can learn a lot.”