Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko has decided to renounce U.S. assistance following congressional charges of corruption and legislative actions to reduce the aid, it was reported yesterday.
News accounts from Kinshasa, the Zairian capital, and Paris quoted Zaire's official news agency, AZAP, as saying Mobutu made the decision Wednesday. State Department officials said a U.S. diplomat was called to the foreign ministry the same day to hear that government's position, but the department would not confirm that it has been notified of an aid rejection.
Mobutu, who was in Washington last December conferring with President Reagan and other high officials and seeking additional military aid, returned to the United States last month with 93 of his wives, friends and children in a lavish vacation trip to Florida and New York. The Orlando Sentinel said the Mobutu party may have spent as much as $2 million in expensive hotels and restaurants, trips to Disney World and other activities at a time when Zaire is in arrears in official loan payments to the United States.
Because Zaire is about $3.5 million behind in repayments, U.S. aid to that country has been temporarily interrupted since Jan. 1, officials said.
Mobutu's latest reaction may have been triggered by the vote Tuesday in the House Foreign Affairs Committee to reduce military sales credits for Zaire from $20 million to $4 million, and to reject the administration's request for $15 million in budgetary support. The major motives for the cuts, as indicated in the debate, were to distance the United States from a regime lawmakers described as repressive, unstable and corrupt, and to strike back at the administration for ignoring committee-recommended reductions in last year's aid program.
As reported from Paris, yesterday's statement by the Zairian news agency denounced "insulting remarks" and the "intolerable attitude" of some members of Congress, singling out Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.). In Tuesday's markup session, Solarz said if aid were given to Zaire, it would fatten the private bank accounts of the ruling elite there and he jokingly suggested that a report be required of the Swiss bank account numbers to which the U.S. funds flow.
After hearing of the official news agency reports, Solarz said that, if U.S. aid really has been rejected, "I am pleased to have saved the American taxpayers almost $60 million." The administration's total aid proposal for Zaire in the new budget came to more than $70 million, including military, budgetary, development and food assistance.
The official news agency charged, the reports said, that the "anti-Zaire lobby" in Congress has become more active after Mobutu pulled his country's diamond sales out of the world diamond marketing cartel last year.
The Zairian statement also objected to the hearing last September when the House committee heard former prime minister Nguza Karl-I-Bond, who resigned his post and went into exile last spring, charging corruption and mismanagement by Mobutu. According to Nguza's testimony, Mobutu and close members of his family withdrew more than $150 million in foreign exchange from the Bank of Zaire in 1977-79 alone.
The Zairian news agency also was quoted as complaining yesterday that "the affair of Zaire's vote on the Golan has not brought us any good fortune." This evidently referred to Zaire's Jan. 15 decision, reportedly taken after high-level lobbying from Washington, to abstain on an Arab-backed resolution in the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against Israel for annexing the Golan Heights. Zaire's decision and a similar one by Panama doomed the Arab resolution without requiring a U.S. veto.