UNITED Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata began her first trip to southern Africa on Feb. 22 with a message of thanks to nations that harbored 1.7 million fugitives from war-ravaged Mozambique.
Traveling through Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique on a 12-day tour, Mrs. Ogata will observe efforts to repatriate Mozambican refugees dislocated during the country's 16-year civil war. The repatriation exercise for 1.7 million Mozambicans is the largest ever undertaken in Africa.
``The purpose really is to thank the governments and peoples who have so generously received Mozambican refugees for so long,'' Ogata told reporters in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Since an October 1992 cease-fire in the Mozambican war, about 11,000 refugees have returned home. Another 60,000 are scheduled to return ahead of democratic elections set there for later this year.
According to UN officials, repatriation has been slow because homes, roads, schools, and other facilities were widely destroyed by fighting between the government and Mozambique National Resistance rebels, known by their Portuguese acronym Renamo.
Earlier this month, the UN appealed for $102 million needed to repatriate 600,000 refugees from six countries neighboring Mozambique. The civil war broke out in Mozambique in 1975 and has killed an estimated 600,000 people, most of them civilians. @HEADBRIEF = Ambassador defends visit to S. Sudan
A VISIT to rebel-held areas in the south of Sudan last week by United States Ambassador to Sudan Donald Petterson took place with the knowledge of Sudan's Islamic government in Khartoum, a Sudanese official confirmed Feb. 22.
On Feb. 21, the official Sudan News Agency said Mr. Petterson had not obtained official permission to visit the south. The Agency quoted an unnamed political source as saying Petterson had gone there to facilitate the delivery of arms to the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. Ambassador Hashim al-Seed, head of the political department in the foreign ministry, told reporters that his ministry knew of Petterson's visit, but it had no information about the envoy's alleged involvement in arms deliveries.
Petterson said in Nairobi he had informed officials of the foreign ministry about his trip to the south.
Sudan's government has strongly condemned the visit and accused Petterson of open bias in favor of the rebels. Rebels in the Christian and animist south have fought the Muslim government Army for more than a decade.