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Foreign Influences

In the years since independence, Zaire has benefited from a variety of foreign military assistance. President Mobutu was adept at playing one country against the other to gain increased aid. Nevertheless, by the early 1990s, Zaire was receiving less foreign assistance as Mobutu's hold on power became increasingly precarious. In addition, the end of the Cold War superpower competition was accompanied by a decrease in superpower involvement and interest in African affairs and thus in willingness to provide military aid to the region.

Belgian influence predominated within the ANC after independence. All the arms and equipment with which the new Congolese force began its existence were of Belgian origin, as were the training, organization, and military doctrine. During the early independence period, however, other Western influences became more important. After the withdrawal of UN forces in June 1964, the Congo established bilateral military assistance relationships with Belgium, the United States, Italy, Israel, and Britain. Much of the aid provided by these countries was in the form of grants, but some assistance was also provided by military technicians and advisers. The Congo's Western allies also made advanced and specialized training available to Congolese military personnel.

By the late 1960s, military assistance fit a pattern that continued into the early 1990s with slight modifications. Belgium directed its aid primarily to ground forces and military schools; Israel trained airborne personnel; Italy worked with the air force; and the United States provided logistics support. Subsequently, France replaced Israel for airborne training and Italy for the air force.

During the 1970s, China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK--North Korea) also began cooperation and training relationships with the FAZ. In the 1980s, China provided military equipment and spare parts to Zaire, assisted in repairing and maintaining Chinese-built T-62 medium main battle tanks and other armored vehicles, and maintained the navy's Chinese-built fast patrol craft. A Chinese military delegation arrived in Zaire in February 1990 to assess the work of Chinese advisers who had spent several years training soldiers of the 41st Commando Brigade, a rapid intervention unit of the FAZ in Kisangani. The North Koreans, who once maintained a 400-man mission in Kinshasa, withdrew during the mid-1970s, but military cooperation resumed in 1985 with the training of the Kamanyola Division. In October 1990, Zaire and North Korea discussed the possibility of upgrading the military cooperation between the two countries.

In late 1991, unconfirmed reports circulated that South Africa had undertaken the training of Zairian troops. Fifteen South African military instructors reportedly were in Zaire, at a military base near Kitona in Shaba. Some reports also suggested that South Africans were helping establish special units intended to harass Mobutu's political opponents.

By 1992 foreign military training relationships with Zaire's major allies had largely dissolved because of the country's deteriorating political situation. In the 1980s, Belgium had provided advisers to the 21st Infantry Brigade and ran the Officers Basic Training Course, the Command and Staff School, the Naval Officers Basic Course, and a variety of other schools. But by mid1990 , relations between the two countries had broken down over the Zairian government's human rights abuses, and by late 1990, there were no longer any formal military training relationships between Belgium and Zaire.

The French had trained and advised the 31st Airborne Brigade and the 32d Airborne Brigade, ran an inter-African armor training course, and provided technical assistance to the air force. In early 1989, Zaire ordered French military matériel, including twelve VAB armored personnel carriers and thirteen rebuilt AMX-13 light tanks. But by 1992, France had ended aid to Zaire.

Israel provided military training in the form of advisers, instructors, and technicians, and some Zairian military personnel trained in Israel. In a 1983 five-year agreement, Israel was entrusted with restructuring and upgrading the military capability of the Zairian armed forces and began training and equipping the newly formed DSP. Israel also provided Zaire with weapons systems, including small arms. The status of Israeli military assistance in the 1990s was uncertain.

The United States had long provided Zaire with military assistance and grants, technical and training support, repair and maintenance of United States-supplied equipment, spare parts, as well as weapons. Between 1960 and 1991, Zaire reportedly received an estimated US$38.2 million in grants under the United States Military Assistance Program (MAP), an additional US$18.2 million under the United States International Military Education and Training (IMET) Program (1,356 Zairian students were trained under this program), and US$144.7 million in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements (US$132.7 million of that amount was in the form of Foreign Military Sales deliveries). Payment was waived for US$135.5 million of the FMS agreements. A number of joint American-Zairian military exercises were conducted in the late 1980s, according to published reports. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, American military assistance was increasingly threatened by congressional opposition to the Zairian government's violations of human rights, as well as widespread corruption and maladministration. As a consequence of the worsening repression in Zaire, in November 1990 the United States announced that it had decided to terminate all military and economic aid (except humanitarian aid) to Kinshasa.

Zaire and Egypt entered into a military pact in February 1980. Egyptian military instructors trained the Zairian Civil Guard, as well as units of the FAZ, and Egypt provided Zaire with Fahd armored personnel carriers and other Egyptian-manufactured military equipment. The status of this relationship in the early 1990s was, however, unclear.

Data as of December 1993

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Zaire Table of Contents