"The reality is that the UN is in control of the situation. If you can't defeat them, join them."
5/29/12, "Robert Mugabe asked to be UN 'leader for tourism'" UK Guardian, David Smith
"Improbable as it seems, the Zimbabwean president, who is widely accused of ethnic cleansing, rigging elections, terrorising opposition, controlling media and presiding over a collapsed economy, has been endorsed as a champion of efforts to boost global holidaymaking.
Despite that fact Mugabe, 88, is under a travel ban, he has been honoured as a "leader for tourism" by the UN's World Tourism Organisation, along with his political ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, 75. The pair signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai at their shared border at Victoria Falls on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe's state-owned Herald newspaper quoted Rifai urging tourists from around the world to visit : "I was told about the wonderful experience and the warm hospitality of this country … By coming here, it is recognition, an endorsement on the country that it is a safe destination."
The agreement will also see the two southern African countries co-host the UNWTO general assembly in August next year.
UNWTO said it had not appointed Mugabe to any formal position but acknowledged he would receive an open letter like other heads of state who have joined its leaders for tourism campaign.
The development has stunned human rights campaigners and political opponents, who regard Mugabe as a tyrant....
Mugabe and his allies are subject to EU and US sanctions preventing them from travelling to EU countries including Britain, although he does attend the UN general assembly in New York....Mugabe's Zanu-PF party seized on his UN honour as evidence that opponents and media have exaggerated the country's problems. Spokesman Rugare Gumbo said: "There's no alternative but to accept the reality on the ground. We can theorise about sanctions but the reality is that the UN is in control of the situation. If you can't defeat them, join them: that is what we are witnessing."
He continued: "The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is not as bad as portrayed. If we say this ourselves, you say it's propaganda.
"What do you expect from the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change)? They are paid by the US and Europeans and they have nothing else to offer. They keep making noise but the reality on the ground is different."
UNWTO, which has headquarters in Madrid, insisted that it had not awarded Mugabe an official title. Sandra Carvao, its co-ordinator of communications, said: "Correct would be to say UNWTO has presented both presidents with an open letter which calls for them to support tourism as a means to foster sustainable development in their countries to the benefit of their people and consequently ask them to support the sector in this respect."" via Weasel Zippers