Mrs. Ogata's West Africa trip
The High Commissioner is scheduled to leave Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, later today, after an eight-day mission to West Africa. Yesterday, during her last full day in the region, she met with Ivoirian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and the ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Interior. Côte d'Ivoire hosts more than 100,000 Liberian refugees in the west of the country.
On Friday, 26 February, Ogata met Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in Freetown, delivering a pledge of UN support to the country from Secretary General Kofi Annan. UN staff evacuated the capital in early January during a prolonged rebel assault on the city. The High Commissioner said an eventual repatriation of refugees depended on the country returning to stability, adding that it is practically impossible to get humanitarian aid to most of the country at present.
In Liberia, Ogata met President Charles Taylor and visited returnee areas in the remote north of the country. As in previous discussions with Liberian refugees in Guinea, authorities in Monrovia cited the lack of economic opportunity as an impediment to successfully reintegrating the large numbers of Liberians who want to return home. UNHCR has helped 100,000 Liberians repatriate since late 1997. An estimated 160,000 have returned spontaneously during the same period, leaving around 220,000 Liberians outside their country, principally in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea.