Zaire, the former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country in central Africa. Prior to independence in 1960, the country was known as the Belgian Congo. From 1960 until 1971 it was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was also referred to as Congo (Kinshasa). In 1971, a year after General Joseph Mobutu was elected president, the republic adopted the name Zaire (after a local name of the Congo River) as part of a campaign to erase reminders of its colonial past. The name "Democratic Republic of the Congo" was readopted in 1997 after Mobutu was deposed.