For more than five years, the people of Zaire have struggled to survive in a state on the brink of utter collapse. Amid growing economic disarray and infrastructural breakdown, standards of living have plummeted, moral and ethical standards have withered, and violence has risen. Political authority is almost hopelessly fragmented and discredited.

For more than five years, the people of Zaire have struggled to survive in a state on the brink of utter collapse. Amid growing economic disarray and infrastructural breakdown, standards of living have plummeted, moral and ethical standards have withered, and violence has risen. Political authority is almost hopelessly fragmented and discredited. The massive inflow and outflow of Hutu refugees from Rwanda has exacerbated Zaire's multifaceted predicament—a predicament that, for political and economic as well as humanitarian reasons, the international community cannot ignore. But what practical steps can and should be taken by the international community, and which actors (individual governments, multilateral organizations, or NGOs) should take them? In the search for answers to these questions, and for an accurate portrait of the extent and nature of Zaire's malaise, Minority Rights Group (USA)—supported by the United States Institute of Peace and the Carnegie Corporation—initiated a project in 1995 that brought together academics, government officials, and NGO experts to consider the case of Zaire and the prospects for effective preventive diplomacy there. This two-part report presents the results of this project: part I offers a broad-ranging examination of Zaire's predicament; part II presents three suggestions for preventive action to ameliorate Zaire's problems.

Jean-Claude Willame is a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven), where he teaches political anthropology and African politics, and a director of the Institut Africaine—CEDAF in Brussels. After receiving his doctorate in political science from the University of California—Berkeley in 1971, Willame served as a professor at the National University of Zaire in Lubumbashi and director of its Center for Sociopolitical Studies of Central Africa (CEPAC). Since then, he has taught in Boston, Antwerp, Brussels, and Louvain. Willame is widely acknowledged for his expertise on the economies, societies, and politics of Central Africa, and he has participated in many international study groups and missions.

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