Surely they’re kidding….or are they?
From Zimbabwe comes a report that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is appointing Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a UN international tourism ambassador, in recognition of all he’s done to promote and develop — yes — tourism. According to the Zimbabwe Herald, this is an honor Mugabe will share with Zambia’s President, Michael Sata, because “The two leaders have shown that tourism is central to the development of Africa by naming it as one of the four pillars of economic development.”
One might have supposed that the prime pillar of African development would be to dispense with rulers such as Mugabe, who during more than three decades in power has reduced Zimbabwe from a bread basket of southern Africa to a basket case. But reportedly he is due to sign a “golden book of tourism” on May 28th, in a ceremony to be witnessed by the Jordanian head of the UNWTO, Talib Rifai.
On the UNWTO site I have so far found no mention of this honor being conferred on Mugabe. Neither do I find any denial of this report. The whole thing needs checking with the UNWTO, and I’ve just sent them a query about it. But while we await word of what’s really going on here, I’ll observe that it would be a lot easier to dismiss this sort of story out of hand, had the UN in previous years refrained from such travesties as tapping Mugabe’s regime to head (I am not making this up) the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, or appointing a daughter of Libya’s late tyrant Muammar Qaddafi as a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Program. Perhaps the report of Robert Mugabe, UN tourism ambassador, is a complete misunderstanding, and the UNWTO would not dream of disgracing itself this way? We shall see…