The United Nations’ new international envoy for tourism is none other than Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, The Guardian reports.
Mugabe has been accused of ethnic cleansing, strictly controlling elections and the press, and ruining Zimbabwe’s economy.
The Zimbabwe president is an unlikely choice for the post of UN ambassador, which normally is reserved for high-profile, do-gooder celebrities such as David Beckham and Ricky Martin. Mugabe is also currently subject to UN sanctions that include a travel ban, making the decision to honor him as a “leader for tourism” even more confusing.
The post involves hosting the UN World Tourism Organization’s general assembly next August and fostering the growth of tourism in Zimbabwe and around the world.
The UN’s World Tourism Organization honored Mugabe’s ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, at the same time. Because the Zimbabwean president is not allowed to leave his country, Mugabe signed an agreement with the UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai, and fellow ambassador Zambian president Michael Sata at the shared border of Zambia and Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls.
Several human rights group have expressed their outrage at the appointment, including the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Movement for Democratic Change. British MP Kate Hoey, the chair of a parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, called the announcement “an affront to the people of Zimbabwe” and “disgraceful.”
Mugabe and his political party, Zanu-PF, insisted the leader’s appointment was proof of the progress being made in Zimbabwe.
“The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is not as bad as portrayed,” Rugare Gumbo, a Mugabe spokesman claimed. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, seems to agree, and is urging countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe in order to help the nation’s poor.
The UNWTO states that there is no official ambassador program and that Mugabe has received an open letter from the UNWTO urging him to support tourism and sustainable development for the benefit of the Zimbabwean people.