Twenty to thirty thousand refugees continue to pour out of strife-torn Mozambique every month, say United States refugee specialists. Over a million refugees have now fled to neighboring countries, and up to three million are displaced inside Mozambique.
But, nevertheless, things are looking up, says Foreign Minister Pascoal Manuel Mocumbi.
``The situation is very difficult ... but there has been much progress since 1986-87,'' Mr. Mocumbi told the Monitor at the end of a ten-day visit to Washington and the United Nations.
He cites economic growth at home, improved ability to aid refugees, and military progress against antigovernment rebels.
The foreign minister specifically highlights growing international support and understanding of his government's decade-long fight against Renamo (Mozambique National Resistance Movement).
Mocumbi says he is pleased with the changed attitude he found in Washington. A year ago, several congressmen were vocally supporting Renamo. Today, they are silent.
``Even the telephone operators know where Mozambique is today. Last year I had to explain that it was in Africa when I tried to call home,'' Mocumbi says.
The changed perception is largely due to a State Department study released last spring that detailed charges of Renamo brutality against civilians.
Mozambique is hopeful that South Africa will stop its aid to Renamo. Last month, South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha visited Mozambique. ``He committed himself to look in his own country to avoid that any help goes from South Africa to Renamo,'' Mocumbi says.
Though South Africa pledged to stop its support in a 1984 agreement with Mozambique, it reportedly still provides logistical support and a communications network to Renamo.
Is Botha serious this time? ``You'll have to ask Mr. Botha,'' the minister replies. ``But we are serious. We hope the other side is.'' Mocumbi adds that expert-level talks between the two countries on economic cooperation have proceeded well since Botha's visit.
``If there is no further oxygen given to [Renamo] from outside forces,'' Mocumbi says, the situation can be brought under control. The government is willing to welcome the rebels back, he adds, and has already granted amnesty to around 2,000 ``former terrorists.''
British training of Mozambican Army units and the presence of troops from Zimbabwe and Tanzania are also yielding results, Mocumbi argues, with fewer rebel attacks this year.
The minister also emphasizes Mozambique's conversion to free-market economics. He credits the shift in economic policies and their firm implementation with 4-percent GNP growth in 1987 and an expected 5-percent jump this year, after years of economic deterioration.
Mozambique is ready to cooperate with South Africa in areas of complementarity, Mocumbi says, but will ``not be blinded by symbolic gestures.'' The real test of South Africa's intentions is if it ``is progressing in bringing an end to apartheid'' and stopping destabilization of the region.