The United Nations (UN) continues to face serious criticism for ‘legitimising’ the Robert Mugabe regime, by allowing a UN tourism conference to go ahead as planned in Victoria Falls this weekend.
Preparations for the high level World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly are almost complete, and more than 140 delegates have so far registered to be part of the conference that begins Saturday.
The meeting is being co hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Zimbabwe’s tourism ministry has been busy using the event as an opportunity to re-launch the country as a desirable tourism destination.
But the meeting comes as the fallout of the July 31st elections continues, with incidents of intimidation, violence, political reprisals and targeted political harassment on the rise. The election itself remains highly disputed, with evidence being gathered proving that the vote was manipulated to secure a ZANU PF victory.
UN Watch, an international group that monitors of the performance of the UN, has called for a boycott of the meeting. The group’s Executive Director Hillel Neuer told SW Radio Africa last week that the UN risked discrediting itself and what it stands for, by allowing the meeting to go ahead.
“We cannot understand how a major UN body would decide to legitimise that government. The government is also using this (the meeting) for propaganda reasons and we think this is the wrong place and the wrong time,” Neuer said.
Human rights activist Ephraim Tapa told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the UN’s decision to allow Zimbabwe to host the meeting is “hypocrisy at its worst.”
“We would have thought this was a good opportunity for the UN to remain true to its values of freedom, of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, which in Zimbabwe were sold short,” Tapa said.
He added: “So we are surprised, we are concerned. If this is the stance of the United Nations, then where else can Zimbabweans turn to (for human rights protection)?”
The UN meeting comes as Mugabe has been endorsed by the regional SADC bloc as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe, disregarding reports of vote rigging that marred the electoral process last month.
SADC has also taken a further step in bringing Mugabe back into the fold, by appointing him to the Deputy Chairmanship of the grouping, a move that puts him next in line for the Chairmanship next year. This decision is being highly criticised, because of Mugabe’s legacy of human rights abuses.
“SADC has ditched us. So the people of Zimbabwe must realise that it is none other than ourselves who must confront this dictatorship and all those who acquiesce with his (Mugabe’s) actions,” Tapa said.