Henri Lopes

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Henri Lopes
Lopes in 2012
Prime Minister of Congo-Brazzaville
In office
28 July 1973 – 18 December 1975
PresidentMarien Ngouabi
Preceded byAlfred Raoul (1969)
Succeeded byLouis Sylvain Goma
Personal details
Born(1937-09-12)12 September 1937
Léopoldville, Belgian Congo
(now Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Died2 November 2023(2023-11-02) (aged 86)
Suresnes, France
Political partyCongolese Party of Labour
Alma materSorbonne

Henri Lopes (12 September 1937 – 2 November 2023) was a Congolese writer, diplomat, and politician. He was Prime Minister of Congo-Brazzaville from 1973 to 1975, and became Congo-Brazzaville's Ambassador to France in 1998.

Early life and education[edit]

Lopes was born across the Congo River in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), the capital of the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), on 12 September 1937.[1][2] He received his primary education in Brazzaville and Bangui in Central African Republic, then went to France in 1949 for his secondary and higher education.[1] While there, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Black African Students and was President of the Association of Congolese Students from 1957 to 1965. Returning to Congo in 1965, he was a history professor at the École normale supérieure d'Afrique Centrale in Brazzaville from 1965 to 1966, then Director-General of Education from 1966 to 1968.[3]

Political and diplomatic career[edit]

Under President Marien Ngouabi, Lopes became Minister of National Education in January 1969[4] until becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in December 1971.[5] He was included on the five-member Political Bureau of the Congolese Labour Party (PCT) in December 1972.[6] Subsequently, he was Prime Minister from 1973 to 1975.[7] He visited China in early 1975, but could not meet with Chairman Mao Zedong because Mao was ill.[8] Lopes and his government resigned following a meeting of the PCT Central Committee in December 1975, and Louis Sylvain Goma was appointed to replace him.[9]

After working as political director of the party newspaper Etumba from 1975 to 1977,[10][7] Lopes was reappointed to the government as minister of finance on 5 April 1977;[11] he served in that position until Justin Lekoundzou was appointed to replace him in December 1980.[12] Subsequently, he worked at UNESCO as Assistant Director-General for Culture and Deputy Director-General for Africa from 1981 to 1998.[7]

On 26 October 1998, Lopes presented his credentials as Congo-Brazzaville's Ambassador to France;[13] while posted in Paris, he was additionally accredited as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and the Vatican City.[7]

In 2002, Lopes was a candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the international organization La Francophonie, but he withdrew his candidacy under pressure on the night before the vote, which was held on 20 October 2002 and resulted in the unanimous election of Senegal's Abdou Diouf.[14]

In mid-2015, it was reported that Lopes planned to retire from his post as Ambassador to France, which he did later that year.[15]

As a writer[edit]

In addition to his political and diplomatic career, Lopes was an author. His most recognised work is the satirical novel Le Pleurer-rire [fr] ("The Laughing Cry", 1982). Other works include the short-story collection Tribaliques [fr] ("Tribaliks," 1971), as well as the novels La Nouvelle romance [fr] (1975) and Sans tam-tam [fr] (1977). His last novel, Le Méridional (2015), was praised as "a fine portrayal of the life of an African long residing in France, narrated by a writer whose life bears some resemblances to Lopes's own".[16]

Tribaliques received the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire in 1972,[17] and in 1993 Lopes received the Grand prix de la francophonie of the Académie française for his entire body of work.[18]

In November 2015, he delivered the keynote address at the 22nd International African Writers' Day Conference, organized by the Pan African Writers' Association (PAWA) on the theme "Celebrating the life and works of Chinua Achebe; the coming of age of African Literature?", in Accra, Ghana.[19] During the conference Lopes received the award of Honorary Membership of PAWA, alongside other honorees who included the late Kwame Nkrumah, Emeritus Professor Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Dr Margaret Busby, James Currey, Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, Dr Joyce Rosalind Aryee and others.[20]

Lopes also wrote the words to "Les Trois Glorieuses", which served as the national anthem of the People's Republic of the Congo from 1970 to 1991.[21]


Henri Lopes died in Suresnes, France, on 2 November 2023, at the age of 86.[1]

Selected bibliography[edit]

See also: fr:Catégorie:Roman d'Henri Lopes

  • Le Méridional (Éditions Gallimard, 2015, ISBN 978-2070148271)
  • Une enfant de Poto-Poto (Éditions Gallimard, 2012, ISBN 978-2070136087)
  • Ma grand-mère bantoue et mes ancêtres les Gaulois. Simples discours (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, ISBN 978-2070715879)
  • Le Lys et le Flamboyant (Paris: Seuil, 1997, ISBN 978-2020200967)
  • Le chercheur d’Afriques (Paris: Seuil, 1990, ISBN 978-2020849609)
  • Le Pleurer-rire (Présence Africaine, 1982, ISBN 978-2708704046)
    Translated into English by G. Moore as The Laughing Cry: An African Cock and Bull Story (Readers International, 1987, ISBN 978-0930523336)
  • Sans tam-tam (Éditions CLE, 1977, ISBN 978-2723500135)
  • La Nouvelle romance (Yaoundé: CLE, 1975, ISBN 978-2723604727)
  • Tribaliques (Yaoundé: CLE, 1971, ISBN 9782266012850)
    Translated into English as Tribaliks: Contemporary Congolese Stories (Heinemann African Writers Series, 1987, ISBN 978-0435907624)

Selected awards[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Décès à Paris de l'écrivain panafricaniste et homme politique Henri Lopes" (in French). Congolese Press Agency [fr]. 4 November 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  2. ^ International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004, Europa Publications, p. 339.
  3. ^ "Henri Lopes, écrivain diplomate"[permanent dead link], presse-francophone.org (in French).
  4. ^ Rémy Bazenguissa-Ganga, Les voies du politique au Congo: essai de sociologie historique (1997), Karthala Editions, p. 150 (in French).
  5. ^ Bazenguissa-Ganga, Les voies du politique au Congo, p. 194 (in French).
  6. ^ "Mar 1973 - New Draft Constitution. - Government Reorganization. - Suppression of Alleged Plot.", Keesing's Record of World Events, volume 19, March 1973, Congo, p. 25,776.
  7. ^ a b c d Congo Brazzaville: Les hommes de pouvoir, number 1, Africa Intelligence, 29 October 2002 (in French).
  8. ^ "Mao's failure to receive visitors is laid to a cold", Reuters, 15 March 1975.
  9. ^ "Jan 1976 - New Government - Former Prime Minister's Visits to China and France - President's Visit to Soviet Union - internal Developments", Keesing's Record of World Events, volume 22, January 1976, Congo, p. 27,556.
  10. ^ Bishop, Cecile (January 2012). "The Aesthetics of Tyranny: African Dictatorships and the Work of Criticism" (PDF). King's College London. p. 43.
  11. ^ Bazenguissa-Ganga, Les voies du politique au Congo, p. 241 (in French).
  12. ^ Bazenguissa-Ganga, Les voies du politique au Congo, p. 274 (in French).
  13. ^ "Remise de lettres de créance" Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Official Journal of the French Republic, Number 251, 29 October 1998 (in French).
  14. ^ "Abdou Diouf, premier francophone", Afrik.com, 20 October 2002 (in French).
  15. ^ "Congo-Brazzaville : Henri Lopes quitte son poste d’ambassadeur en France", Jeune Afrique, 10 August 2015 (in French).
  16. ^ Adele King, "Le Méridional by Henri Lopes" (review), World Literature Today, November 2015.
  17. ^ "Biografski dodaci" [Biographic appendices]. Republika: Časopis za kulturu i društvena pitanja (Izbor iz novije afričke književnosti) (in Serbo-Croatian). XXXIV (12). Zagreb, SR Croatia: 1424–1427. December 1978.
  18. ^ "Prix de l'Académie: Henri LOPES". Académie française. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  19. ^ Edmund Smith-Asante, "Writers must interact with students — Prez Mahama", Graphic Online, 9 November 2015.
  20. ^ Evelyn Osagie, "Echoes of Achebe's works at writers’ show", The Nation (Nigeria), 25 November 2015.
  21. ^ "Hommage à Philippe Mockouamy, le plus grand chef de la fanfare congolaise". Journal de Brazza. 27 December 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2023.
  22. ^ "Henri Lopès | Doctorats honoris causa". www.ulaval.ca. Université Laval. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  23. ^ "Guinea university awards honorary doctorate to Congo's Henri Lopes" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, StarAfrica, 25 April 2013.
  24. ^ "Décret du 3 avril 2015 portant promotion et nomination", Légifrance (in French).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Title last held by
Alfred Raoul
Prime Minister of Congo-Brazzaville
Succeeded by