As a Peace Corps volunteer who served in Zaire (1982-84) and who still guards a deep love for the country and its people, I cannot sit impassively while Blaine Harden practices his craft.

In an article Jan. 25 and an earlier three-part series in November, Mr. Harden has used his facility with language to present a sinister picture of a beautiful land and people. Particularly offensive was the headline of his second article about a trip down the Zaire River -- "Overloaded, Smelly and Mean."

There is something startlingly absent from Mr. Harden's view of Zaire. It is called humanity. Where is discussion of a people who, although they are often beset by problems, continue to laugh, to dance in the shimmering light of a full moon, to invite strangers such as myself to share their food (which is hard to come by), who love and work and pray and cry? Where is discussion of the wonderful birds, the stately beauty of the palm forests and gorges, and the exuberant cries of children who somersault into the cooling waters of Zaire's many rivers?

Zairois are a compassionate, generous and resilient people. Mr. Harden's work has deeply hurt those of us who have been loved by them.

ANDREA YOCKEY Washington