Less than a mile up the road from the little cemetery where headstones on mounds of red earth mark the graves of those killed during last years rebel invasion, a freshly painted sign reads: "With Mobutu our security is totally assured."

The irony is not lost on the 100 or so Europeans who have returned to this mining town in Zaire's Shaba Province, which was occupied for a week last May by rebel forces.

They remember how quickly President Mobutu Sese Seko's army crumbled before the rebels, and not one of them says he is prepared to stay if the Moroccan and Senegalese peace keeping troops in and around Kolwezi are withdrawn.

Few who returned have brought their families with them and Gecamines, the state-owned mining company, admits to having little success in recruiting the additional 150 expatriates it says are needed.

Kolwezi, the center of Zaire's copper and cobalt mining, still bears the scars of last year's invasion in which 1,000 Africans and more than 150 whites were killed.

Ransacked stores on the main street and bullet-peppered houses behind overgrown Bougainvillea hedges, are clearly visible. Other scars, such as falling production at the mines, are hidden in the mining company's balance sheets.

But under the inter-African force, dominated by the Moroccans and Senegalese, attempts are being made to heal the wounds.

Four-course meals are available in the subsidized mine mess. To those who can afford it, the Elysee restaurant offers Foie Gras, Civet De Canard Au Championshipons and crepe suzettes along with a choice of half a dozen French wines.

Dinner for two will probably cost no less than $100 but neither the price nor the plastic tablecloths seem a serious threat to the proprietors' livelihood. A bakery and the town's brewery are back in business and a handful of Greek and Lebanese traders have reopened shops.

Whether Kolwezi recovers fully will depend largely on whether Western powers are prepared to continue footing the bill for the security of the province. The Zairean army is held in universal contempt after its failure to put up a fight during the 1977 and 1978 invasions. It is feared by the local people, who say it is itching to be freed of the restraints imposed by the foreign troops' presence.

The whites have returned basically for the money and a way of life impossible to find in Europe.

"In Europe you have security but no liberty," said a Belgian who has spent 30 years in Kolwezi. "Here you have liberty but no security. But the risk is worth taking."

Many Belgians on contract with Gecamines save $20,000 or more a year. But even liberty and strong financial incentives are unlikely to keep them in Kolwezi if their lives are again left in the hands of Mobutu and his undisciplined troops.

The graveyard on the outskirts of town is a constant reminder of the consequences of such faith.