I would like to respond to Makau wa Mutua's op-ed piece "Zaire Doesn't Deserve That Aid" {Sept. 18}.

With regard to Zaire's protection of human rights, the Department of Citizens' Rights and Liberties was created in 1986 and was the first ministry in Africa dedicated to the protection of human rights. Although perhaps not to the satisfaction of Mr. Mutua, this department has begun to fulfill its mandate to inform the citizenry of their rights and to investigate and prosecute violations of those rights in Zaire.

In the State Department's most recent human rights report, Zaire was praised for implementing several measures that have improved its judicial system. Also, the former head of the Department of Citizens' Rights and Liberties, Nimy Mayidika Ngimbi, has now been named to lead the National Security Council and will work to reform the National Security Services.

Recently, international attention has been focused on Zaire due to unfortunate events at the University of Lumbumgashi. Reports of 50 to 150 deaths at the hands of Zairian security services, however, are unsubstantiated. Regrettably, one student was killed and several others injured in this incident. An inquiry by the parliament has concluded that the authorities in the Shaba region were at fault, and these officials are being prosecuted. The former governor of Shaba, the Shaba district military commander and the vice-chancellor of the University of Lumbumgashi among others have been arrested for their complicity in this incident.

As stated in his speech to the nation on April 24, 1990, President Mobutu has pledged to implement sweeping political liberalization measures and has voluntarily stepped down as head of the national political party. These democratic reforms may not be occurring fast enough for Mr. Mutua, but Prime Minister Lunda Bululu now heads the transitional government and has appointed a new cabinet to begin to implement reforms.

The new constitution of Zaire's Third Republic was drafted and approved by the parliament at the end of June. Since April 24, 1990, Zairians have been actively organizing themselves into political parties (which now total 63), and a free and critical press has emerged. Following local primary elections in 1991, the three leading political parties will compete for political offices in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Zaire has had difficulties in protecting the human rights of its citizenry and establishing a democratic system of government. This is the case precisely because Zaire does not have the resources necessary to properly establish the mechanisms for the maintenance of the rule of law and to create the framework for a democratic government.

Now is the time for the United States to maintain strong ties and to continue to assist the Republic of Zaire in order to encourage the protection of human rights and the process of democratization. TATANENE MANATA Washington The writer is Zaire's ambassador to the United States.