Old tyrants never die...they're honored by the UN

No, this move by the UN to ask Robert Mugabe, former tyrant of Zimbabwe, accused of ethnic cleansing and bankrupting his country by allowing 10,000% inflation, to be a "leader for tourism" does not show the dysfunctionality of the United Nations. Nor does it show that the UN is a useless, hopeless gaggle of muddle headed nincompoops.

Right on both counts.

Using Robert Mugabe in any capacity, for any reason, under any circumstances reveals the UN to be just plain evil.


Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has been asked by the UN to champion tourism. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA/Corbis

With a line-up that includes Drew Barrymore, David Beckham, Orlando Bloom, and Ricky Martin, the UN's choice of ambassadors has been known to cause raised eyebrows or the odd smirk.

Seldom, however, has there been such anger, or questioning of the organisation's credibility, as that greeting the appointment of a new international envoy for tourism: Robert Mugabe.

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.

Why doesn't the US - and any other nation that values freedom and the rule of law - resign its seat at the UN and boot the diplomats out of the country over this? Let them set up shop in that garden spot of Zimbabwe. Not as many first class restaurants as New York but I hear they have interesting night life.

The capacity for some people to act so outrageously never ceases to amaze me.