Africa Notes: Optimism on Zaire: Illusion or Reality? - November 1985
November 22, 1985
Had Rip Van Winkle been a Zairian specialist, and slept but a few years rather than a century, he would have rubbed his eyes with astonishment to behold the new mood of optimism concerning the outlook for Zaire now widely encountered in Washington's foreign policy community. As recently as late 1982, the consensus among Zaire-watchers in both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government was that prospects were exceedingly poor for the indefinite future. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had all but written Zaire off as beyond redemption. Virtually all academic observers believed that the mal zairois was incurable under existing political arrangements.
The transformation of mood as of the beginning of 1985 was remarkable. The Department of Commerce was offering cheerful tidings to the private sector, advising that Zaire "has significantly improved its economic and financial management, resulting in a brighter outlook for economic recovery and increased opportunities for U.S. business ... " The IMF had declared that the "adjustment program continues to be implemented with a considerable degree of success. World Bank officials, only recently deeply skeptical, were now publicly and privately scrubbing off the many layers of tarnish on the international credibility of Zaire. How did this come about?