Is Robert Mugabe a UN tourism envoy? NO


by Sunny Hundal    
6:05 pm - May 29th 2012

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There’s been a lot of outrage on Twitter today about Robert Mugabe doing tourism for the UN.

The Guardian’s headline is: Robert Mugabe appointed as UN international envoy for tourism. [update: they've now changed the headline]

I think this is mis-representing the UN position somewhat.

First clue, from the story itself: “UNWTO denied it had appointed Mugabe to any formal position.”

I also checked out the press release by the UNWTO issued (in 2011) when the programme launched – it makes no mention of Mugabe.

On its media site, the UNWTO says: “UNWTO and WTTC will present an Open Letter to Heads of State and Government worldwide, highlighting the importance of Travel and Tourism.”

The open letter doesn’t appoint anyone, especially not Robert Mugabe, to any official position. It merely ends by saying:

In light of this ongoing campaign, I would like to extend an invitation to H.E. ….xxx to join hands with other world leaders, as well as with UNWTO and WTTC, and add his voice to our effort to position Travel and Tourism higher on the global agenda.

In other words, Robert Mugabe got a letter like many other heads of state around the world asking him to promote tourism to create jobs.

You could argue he should be shunned from the UN possibly, but he has definitely not been appointed ‘international envoy’ like the Guardian states.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This has now turned into an international diplomatic spat.

Canada is pulling out of UN tourism body (UNWTO), apparently over Mugabe’s appointment.

But the UNWTO have clarified their position further:

The 155 UNWTO Member States decided, at the 19th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly held in October 2011 in the Republic of Korea, to hold the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe) in 2013.

It was the signing of this agreement, which took place a few days ago, which set off the media frenzy and was interpreted as Mugabe being appointed an ‘ambassador’ or ‘envoy’. He hasn’t.

It is also important, in this context, to note that UNWTO does not have an Ambassadors Programme and that the receiving of the Open Letter implies no legal commitment or official title attribution to the country or the recipient.

The press coverage of this incident has been appallingly bad, with minimal attempt to understand what happened.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. the a&e charge nurse

The mind boggles at the thought of Peter Tatchell’s favourite African leader promoting anything other than terror and self aggrandisement – has the ageing gangster received any other requests from the UN regarding cultural or economic activity in Zimbabwe?

2. Zappanale

This story is a right wing gold mine.

If it were true, they would be able to attack the UN.

Since it isn’t, they can attack the Guardian.

In other words, Robert Mugabe got a letter like many other heads of state around the world asking him to promote tourism to create jobs.

This is, if anything, more ludicrous. Who’s going to take a sunny weekend in Zimbabwe? And how are they going to promote them? “We beat prices like we beat our voters”. “Once people are in Zimbabwe they don’t want to leave! (Though we’ll drive them out eventually…)”.

strange the things that “upset” people in the west. the zimbabwe opposition leader is free as a bird in zimbabwe. compare that to the brave female journalist agnes nkusi in rwanda who criticised the western backed rwandan tyrant paul kagame. she was jailed for 17 years , total silence for the easily offended western politicians and commentators. morgan tsvangirai,the western financed zimbabwe opposition leader must thank his lucky stars he lives in zimbabwe. try being an opoosition activist in china,saudi arabia,bahrain,rwanda ,ethiopia or a host of other western supported regimes.

3 @BenSix

I passed the Zimbabwe embassy in London a few years back, the windows were full of posters promoting tourism in Zimbabwe. What you expect from African tourist promotion: safari wildlife, scenery etc.

4 @Paul

We hear more about lack of human rights/democracy in countries our government doesn’t get on with and vice versa. Not exactly news. Mugabe is still an awful leader though.

#3, the difference is, some of the people Mugabe tortures and imprisons are white and of British descent. You’re aware they count for 100x as many Human Rights Outrage points as regular non-white furriners, right?

It looks as if the ‘honour’ given to Mugabe is down to excited reports from the UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai speaking this week at the ‘celebration’ of Mugabe and Sata agreeing (as respective presidents) to jointly host the UNWTO assembly next year. As ever this was highlighted by the state media as a big honour for Mugabe, and promoted as ‘evidence’ that all is peaceful and law abiding in Zimbabwe – despite the daily reports of detentions and murders of civil society and MDC officials.

It looks as if the ‘honour’ given to Mugabe is down to excited reports about the UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai speaking this week at the ‘celebration’ of Mugabe and Sata agreeing (as respective presidents) to jointly host the UNWTO assembly next year. As ever this was highlighted by the state media as a big honour for Mugabe, and promoted as ‘evidence’ that all is peaceful and law abiding in Zimbabwe – despite the daily reports of detentions and murders of civil society and MDC officials.

I live in Zimbabwe. Yes our economy had been on a downward spiral since about the turn of the millenium. Serious governance issues have been noted with the present, as with prior governments. We do have near-chronic levels of corruption, and the general deportment is far from satisfying, but let me be heard, and heard clearly when I say that this country is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Only that the hyped up, partial and biased media is more than willing to perpetrate and maintain a deliberately distorted image of the situation of the ground. Mugabe may be bad, but has any one of you who condemn him ever bothered to fill in the shoes of a typical African. I really doubt that you have. You are content to maintain Mugabe and Zimbabwe in a memeical representation as epitomes of evil and everything gone wrong. I invite you all to visit this exquisitely endowed country, and make a judgement for yourselves. I can assure you that once you get here, you’ll keep coming back for more.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Wallflower

    RT @InnovateAfrica: That story about Robert Mugabe being named international envoy. Not so true after all. http://t.co/AyOHh9ws

  2. Miléna

    That story about Robert Mugabe being named international envoy. Not so true after all. http://t.co/DDCm68AP

  3. watsonlobf2

    That story about Robert Mugabe being named international envoy. Not so true after all. http://t.co/CagLMmmq

  4. Kate Bomdiggity

    That story about Robert Mugabe being named international envoy. Not so true after all. http://t.co/DDCm68AP

  5. Twittles

    Is Robert Mugabe really the UN's 'international envoy' for tourism as Guardian states? Er, NO http://t.co/rF4qae6g

  6. Benjamin Welby

    Disappointing that the Guardian's Mugabe story sacrificed truth for OUTRAGE http://t.co/zeGawSl5 (h/t @brettkeller cc @conormoody)

  7. Carl Mungazi

    Disappointing that the Guardian's Mugabe story sacrificed truth for OUTRAGE http://t.co/zeGawSl5 (h/t @brettkeller cc @conormoody)

  8. Conor Moody

    Disappointing that the Guardian's Mugabe story sacrificed truth for OUTRAGE http://t.co/zeGawSl5 (h/t @brettkeller cc @conormoody)

  9. Magnus Krantz

    So, the Mugabe story is a canard. Good! Thank you @promemorian for telling me.http://korta.nu/dgvsx

  10. Tim Saunders

    Disappointing that the Guardian's Mugabe story sacrificed truth for OUTRAGE http://t.co/zeGawSl5 (h/t @brettkeller cc @conormoody)

  11. sophia bengtsson

    Critical thinking wins again http://t.co/CSnyVFqW #mugabe #UN

  12. Jesper Svensson

    Det var då för väl! RT @cgmk
    So, the Mugabe story is a canard. Good! Thank you @promemorian for telling me. http://t.co/hVCxLabH

  13. sophia bengtsson

    @billneelyitv also, it is wrong.. http://t.co/CSnyVFqW

  14. Matt Jones

    .@librarygirlknit Apparently he's not – this is just an eye-grabbing headline http://t.co/cL8Op4IY

  15. Ali B

    @TheMichaelMoran According to @sunny_hundal UN didn't ask Mugabe to promote tourism http://t.co/FQDgTFBg

  16. Daniel Reeves

    @mrchrisaddison that story about Robert Mugabe being appointed by the UN to promote tourism isn't true http://t.co/rF4qae6g @Tweeter_Anita

  17. Gareth Winchester

    @laurenlaverne No they haven't http://t.co/AqDBjDep

  18. David Nolan

    @laurenlaverne @timlusher http://t.co/4pK7QZ95

  19. Marianne

    @laurenlaverne Not completely true (thankfully): http://t.co/GUN7xtYh

  20. Daniel Reeves

    @laurenlaverne @timlusher I thought the same, but appaerntley
    #nottrue! http://t.co/GqdX5baj courtesy of @sunny_hundal #Mugabe
    #wegotitwrong

  21. Ralph Hardwick

    @NumbersandLines Stop reading the bloody Guardian…http://goo.gl/9gwEP

  22. Ralph Hardwick

    @NumbersandLines Stop reading the bloody Guardian… http://t.co/r3pU2Zmc

  23. Stuart Mackie

    @laurenlaverne @timlusher #mugabe No, they haven't. http://t.co/Uf6357O0

  24. Jesper Svensson

    @matsknutson Sägs att detta var en anka: http://t.co/hVCxLabH

  25. Neil Henry

    @laurenlaverne @timlusher not true! http://t.co/wMxsWEIJ

  26. Shotgun Shack

    @morealtitude: Mugabe <- joke? seems like it -> http://t.co/h4LjQEaa

  27. Weh Yeoh

    Is Mugabe really the UN envoy for tourism? No. Just bad reporting from the @guardian. http://t.co/DacCVfNF HT @ShotgunShack

  28. AlbionHarrison-Naish

    Is Mugabe really the UN envoy for tourism? No. Just bad reporting from the @guardian. http://t.co/DacCVfNF HT @ShotgunShack

  29. Andy Hicks

    Robert Mugabe is NOT the UN's new tourism envoy. SH found this out by erm, reading. Unlike Guardian subs; twitterverse http://t.co/6vmwo5ft

  30. The Dragon Fairy

    Robert Mugabe is NOT the UN's new tourism envoy. SH found this out by erm, reading. Unlike Guardian subs; twitterverse http://t.co/6vmwo5ft

  31. Ceehaitch

    Robert Mugabe is NOT the UN's new tourism envoy. SH found this out by erm, reading. Unlike Guardian subs; twitterverse http://t.co/6vmwo5ft

  32. Ferret Dave

    Robert Mugabe is NOT the UN's new tourism envoy. SH found this out by erm, reading. Unlike Guardian subs; twitterverse http://t.co/6vmwo5ft

  33. Clare

    Robert Mugabe is NOT the UN's new tourism envoy. SH found this out by erm, reading. Unlike Guardian subs; twitterverse http://t.co/6vmwo5ft

  34. Tamsyn Seimon

    Re Mugabe/UN Tourism leader story – Guardian reported it http://t.co/28VURjdp but it's been debunked http://t.co/ZjWRRidv @nakkazi

  35. sunny hundal

    @KenRoth @karmel80 For Chrissake he is NOT being made into an ambassador http://t.co/O0c3SiMu

  36. Ian Cox

    @DANEgerus except it's not true! see "Is Mugabe really UN envoy for tourism? No" | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/28dQhmxC

  37. Fairmont Pizza

    @AdamParsons1 It's not satire, nor is it true: http://t.co/H5NxS2gJ

  38. Wallflower

    @mistamaliq Nope, just a hasty misunderstanding and bad press. http://t.co/GvXLDfRy

  39. theaardvark

    @NotAPretender A bit more background on the Mugabe thing…. http://t.co/nZATVCzO Smells of an attempt to discredit the UN…

  40. Nathan Lang

    Is Robert Mugabe really the UN's 'international envoy' for tourism as the Guardian claimed? Well, erm, no http://t.co/9SZvv7mo

  41. TomMcArthur

    Is Robert Mugabe really the UN's 'international envoy' for tourism as the Guardian claimed? Well, erm, no http://t.co/9SZvv7mo

  42. Chris Drew

    @BBCFreeSpeech He hasn't, not really. http://t.co/yITw2JDj

  43. Harry Matthews

    @BBCFreeSpeech He hasn't though: http://t.co/UIkz8GBr (h/t @libcon)

  44. Benjamin Welby

    @hackofalltrades ah, the story first broke via the Guardian saying he'd been appointed. The truth is less outrageous – http://t.co/R2WrE8lj

  45. Liam Barrington-Bush

    …So it seems Robert Mugabe has *not* indeed been made UN envoy for tourism. Seems Guardian bollocksed this one: http://t.co/xO6TfWUm

  46. Matt Foster

    Is Robert Mugabe a UN tourism envoy? NO | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JbU4NshU via @libcon

  47. Kiri

    @christinalamb @mattfrei Issue clarified by @sunny_hundal on Liberal Conspiracy. He wasn't appointed as envoy: http://t.co/8Ubwfrd8

  48. Bry (Disco) Volante

    Is Robert Mugabe a UN tourism envoy? NO | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JbU4NshU via @libcon

  49. Pat O'Mahony

    @christinalamb @mattfrei Except of course it seems the UN *haven't* named Mugabe as a global tourism envoy: http://t.co/rUugbQIk

  50. Asa Winstanley

    Is Robert Mugabe a UN tourism envoy? NO | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Em4Qf1fM via @libcon

  51. Moonbootica

    Is Robert Mugabe a UN tourism envoy? NO | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Em4Qf1fM via @libcon

  52. sunny hundal

    Top story on @libcon last week: debunking Guardian claim that Robert Mugabe was appointed an envoy by the UN http://t.co/O0c3SiMu

  53. appleblossombea

    Top story on @libcon last week: debunking Guardian claim that Robert Mugabe was appointed an envoy by the UN http://t.co/O0c3SiMu

  54. Liam McCarthy

    Top story on @libcon last week: debunking Guardian claim that Robert Mugabe was appointed an envoy by the UN http://t.co/O0c3SiMu

  55. PhiloniousTee™

    Mugabe; UN Envoy Or Not?
    http://t.co/Ro8Uleq7

  56. Ronnie Barko

    @KateRobbins It appears to be not exactly true. http://t.co/WQciVyph

  57. Ronnie Barko

    @KateRobbins It appears to be not exactly true. http://t.co/WQciVyph

  58. Kate Robbins

    Just had this sent to me showing that UN have NOT appointed Mugabe as tourism ambassador …. http://t.co/DNYmeWHT&quot;

  59. Bry (Disco) Volante

    @Blake3987 http://t.co/WFESSJmR

  60. In 2011 international visitors spent a record-breaking $153.0 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services « The Communicator

    [...] Is Robert Mugabe really the UN’s envoy for tourism? No (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  61. #14 Links Expat Aid Workers Like « Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like

    [...] outrage than Robert Mugabe? He was apparently (not) asked to be the UN’s Envoy on Tourism. (Debunked here.) But the wave of collective affront was too frothy not to keep riding.  According to [...]





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