Surely even the United Nations would hesitate over celebrating Zimbabwe’s longtime despot, Robert Mugabe, as a “leader” of any kind?
That’s why, in my previous post, I hesitated to assume the accuracy of a dispatch in the Zimbabwe Herald that the UN World Tourism Organization is appointing Mugabe as one of its “international tourism ambassadors.”
My apologies for doubting the Herald, which, as it turns out, was correct in its report. I sent a query to the UNWTO’s “Principal Media Officer,” as listed on the UNWTO web site, and received confirmation, by email, that the UNWTO is indeed celebrating Mugabe, as part of its “Leaders for Tourism Campaign.” Yes, the UNWTO’s Jordanian secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, will be visiting southern Africa, reportedly this Monday (that’s according to the Herald — the UNWTO did not provide a date) to dignify Mugabe, along with Zambia’s President Michael Sata, as UNWTO “leaders.”
The reason Rifai is going to such lengths, explains the UNWTO press office, is that Zimbabwe and Zambia will be co-hosting the UNWTO’s General Assembly next year, at Victoria Falls. Quite likely that augurs a pleasant excursion for the eminences and UNWTO staff who will be attending the UNWTO’s 2013 General Assembly, plus plenty of diplomatic glad-handing for co-host Mugabe.
Will the UNWTO’s festivities promote better times for the people of Zimbabwe — battered and impoverished as they are, due to decades of Mugabe’s thuggish rule? Well, the UNWTO is a UN organization that includes North Korea and Syria, as well as Zimbabwe, among its members; and seated on its 32-member governing board are such tourism-challenged regimes as those of Zimbabe, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Don’t get your hopes up.