His Excellency

Mr Ndolamb Ngokwey

Ambassador of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo

New Ambassador of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) His Excellency Mr Ndolamb Ngokwey has been consistently impressed by London’s culture and history. “His Majesty King Charles III recently described London as ‘a community of communities,’ and I agree. I recently visited Carl Marx and Sigmund Freud’s graves, which was extraordinary. While studying for my PhD in Social Anthropology at UCLA in the 1980s, these men shaped my thinking!” he exclaims. Since arriving in London in May with his wife, they have been inspired by the number of universities, parks and the cultural diversity of the capital – all inspiration for his love of writing poetry.

Ambassador Ngokwey recalls his credentials presentation at Buckingham Palace as one of the proudest moments of his life. “All of my four children and family came to London from around the world, and to see their joy, as well as the joy of the Congolese community was a significant event.”

Growing up, his father was a teacher, going on to become a politician and then a civil servant, all professions centred around the idea of service. “As children we moved to around ten cities, and although it was difficult to establish new friends in each place, it was also a positive experience to discover and experience new locations. Now I’ve found myself moving around the world for my profession – also one of service – and similarly taking my children with me. It has been my destiny to do the same – although my work has focused on peacekeeping, development and humanitarian affairs.”

The Ambassador started working for UNICEF, living in four different African countries as a Programme Officer and Representative in the 1990s. Stints then followed in the Caribbean, New York and Côte d’Ivoire gradually climbing the UNICEF ladder. He recalls one of the most memorable days of his career in Mozambique as the UN Resident Coordinator from 2006. “When I arrived, a young girl approached me and remarked: ‘You look just like us!’ After 50 years of the UN’s presence in Mozambique, this was the first time one of their representatives had been African. That was an emotional moment.”

Considering these years, Ambassador Ngokwey notes: “UNICEF focuses on children and women, and the holistic things that influence them, like health and nutrition, which are part of development. One of my roles here today is to make sure the UK supports DRC in our roadmap of development.  My experience at UNICEF has prepared me for the role today in that sense.”

Then came a role as Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of the DRC in his capacity as chairperson of the African Union. “I oversaw a huge portfolio: climate change, nutrition, food security and health, which included COVID. As a member of the board, one of our challenges was to mobilise funds and to allocate them to different countries, depending on the priority. Of course, the allocation was never enough so that was a true challenge and big responsibility. Despite the huge pressure of the COVID pandemic, we were lucky that we had established our African Centre for Disease Control two years earlier, which was very professional with excellent funding. That really helped us to navigate the system.”

Ahead of his arrival in London, Ambassador Ngokwey received specific instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “I must represent my country and protect its interests and citizens in the UK.” To do this effectively, he has been busy getting to know the people. “I have been doing a lot of work with pastors, community leaders, students and influencers to meet them and get to know them. One of my greatest joys has been to see that the British of Congolese origin are doing many great things in Britain.”

Furthermore, he has plans to strengthen the relationship between DRC and the UK economically and culturally. Following Brexit, the Ambassador believes “there has been a clear option for the UK to strengthen its relationship with Africa. So in that sense, DRC is pleased to be part of that new wave, and the new momentum of doing more with Africa.” He continues: “Right now, trade is still low between our two countries and the objective during my four-year tenure here is to move it a little bit further.”

Following COP28, the Ambassador wants to highlight that “we consider ourselves to be the country of solutions to climate change. Our President coined that phrase to emphasise that DRC offers the world many solutions to that problem – especially when you consider the size of our country and forests.” His government also has some concerns.  “We are not the greatest polluters, yet they want us to pay as if we are. Also, on the issue of financing, many meetings and promises have been made, but none of them have been met so far.”

The challenges for DRC don’t stop there. One of the Ambassador’s great frustrations is that things are changing in DRC for the better, but this is not widely known. “People keep referring to the old narrative when things were not so good. We have a communication challenge here: we must show facts, and although we there are still challenges, we must explain that things are moving in the right direction.”  

Ambassador Ngokwey also considers “the silent critical humanitarian emergency with the war in the east of the country, which relates to minerals. Many people are dying and being displaced every day. School and health facilities have been destroyed.  People are not talking about this and not doing enough. Although the international community are trying to help, I admire the Congolese families who are hosting these displaced people. They are the true heroes. They are themselves poor, but when they see this misery, they want to share the little they have.”

Looking to the future, Ambassador Ngokwey notes: “DRC has its traditional friends, but with the rapidly changing situation in the world, we are seeing that it is possible to have new friends too. But, of course, this does not mean we are abandoning our old friends.”