Press Releases, 24 July 1996
UNHCR officials in Mozambique on Wednesday ended the largest repatriation and reintegration programme in African history, turning over to the government more than 1,500 projects that will be incorporated in the country's long-term development plans.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner, handed over 1,571 projects worth $80 million in formal ceremonies attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Leonardo Simao and representatives of U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations.
In his remarks, Vieira de Mello praised the generosity of the governments and people in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa and Tanzania for their hospitality towards the more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who sought asylum in the 1980s.
He also congratulated Mozambique for the peace and stability it has achieved so far, and urged Mozambicans to continue to strive for development. He emphasized that the task of reintegration, rehabilitation and development is not yet complete and said UNHCR is committed to support Mozambique.
"In the coming days, I will be visiting the Great Lakes region from where we receive, on a daily basis, images of horror and terror, very similar to those we used to receive from Mozambique before the general peace agreement. I will bring with me the incentive of peace in Mozambique as the best antidote for the despair brought about by the somber situation in that region," Vieira de Mello said.
UNHCR's integration projects included rehabilitation and construction of clinics, hospitals, schools and water facilities. The government and its bilateral U.N. and NGO partners are expected to continue support of the returnee areas as part of Mozambique's sustainable long-term development programmes.
Food distribution to returnees, at its peak reaching more than 1 million beneficiaries, had been phased out by April 1996. UNHCR was also involved in the distribution of seeds and agricultural tools.
The repatriation operation started in 1993 following the signing of a peace accord on 4 October 1992 in Rome that ended 20 years of civil war in Mozambique. More than 1 million people lost their lives and up to 4 million were displaced internally during the conflict.
By October 1995, UNHCR had helped bring home by train, bus, ship and plane some 378,000 Mozambican refugees. Another 1.3 million refugees, mainly from Malawi, returned spontaneously to their districts of origin.
UNHCR has closed down most of its 20 field offices in Mozambique – a process that is expected to be completed by September. UNHCR will then maintain a small presence in the capital, Maputo, to handle refugees and asylum seekers in Mozambique.