Along with the Zambian president, Michael Sata, Robert Mugabe has been honoured by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to become ‘leaders for tourism’.
The role is not a formal official one within the UN but it will still allow them to both receive an open letter like all other heads of states involved in the tourism campaign. The honour will also result in Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosting the annual UNWTO general assembly in August 2013. The agreement was made on Victoria Falls Bridge, where the details were signed by all parties.
The move has come as a surprise and has been met by anger among much of the world’s politicians, following years of unrest in Zimbabwe and accusations over Mugabe’s conduct in the past.
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Allegations of ethnic cleansing, media corruption, election rigging and general terror mongering within Zimbabwe have all contributed in Mugabe being banned from traveling to any EU nations.
It is this salient fact that has left world officials perplexed at the nature of the new role Mugabe has been handed.
However, UNWTO have ensured that appointment is more a recognition of the progress being made by Zimbabwe in general, and are using this as an attempt to convince the global population that the country is a safe destination to visit.
Secretary General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai confirmed this, stating: "By coming here, it is recognition, an endorsement on the country that it is a safe destination."
Mugabe’s spokesman, Rugare Gumbo further enforced these claims saying: “The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is not as bad as portrayed".
Despite the current ban being in place, the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay has urged the EU to rethink the embargo in further attempts to stabilise the Zimbabwean economy,
"I would urge those countries that are currently applying sanctions on Zimbabwe to suspend them, at least until the conduct of the elections and related reforms are clear.
"Sanctions should be entirely suspended for people to entirely focus on economic issues that need to be addressed."
Kumbi Muchemwa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) expressed his disgust at the decision however:
"I can't see any justification for the man being an 'ambassador'. An ambassador for what? The man has blood on his hands. Do they want tourists to see those bloody hands?
"Robert Mugabe is under international sanctions, so how do you have an international tourism ambassador who can't travel to other countries?”