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Zaire Table of Contents



Relations with the West

Zairian political scientist Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja argues that "the United States eventually replaced Belgium as the major arbiter of Zaire's destiny, but continues to deal with Zairian affairs within a multilateral strategy of imperialism in which Belgium and France are its key partners." For Crawford Young, in contrast, Mobutu's survival has been due in large measure to his success in multiplying external patrons. These two views, only partly contradictory, illuminate two aspects of the foreign relations of Mobutu's Zaire, which is both dependent and uncontrollable.

The Mobutu regime has long enjoyed, and is perceived as depending on, the support of Western powers: first Belgium, then also France, and the United States. Because of its size, mineral wealth, and strategic location, Mobutu's Zaire was able to capitalize on Cold War tensions to garner support from the West. In the interest of maintaining stability in Central Africa and in exchange for his support for their foreign policy goals in Angola, Western powers rewarded Mobutu with substantial economic and military assistance and for the most part maintained silence in the face of growing evidence of the abuses of his regime. In the early 1990s, however, with Zaire facing severe internal turmoil, and with the ending of the Cold War superpower rivalry in Africa between the United States and the former Soviet Union, the country's main Western allies, reversing earlier positions, have put pressure on Mobutu to improve his human rights record and to institute multiparty democracy.

Data as of December 1993