A United Nations agency said Wednesday that it has not appointed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as an official representative for tourism, refuting several newspaper reports that sparked outrage in the United Kingdom.
Sandra Carvão, communications coordinator for the UN World TourismAgency, told CNBC that Mugabe has not received a title from the UN, even pointing out that there is no official UN travel ambassador program.
Mugabe and his ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, were present at Victoria Falls on Tuesday in a ceremony led by the UN World Trade Organization Head Taleb Rifai. They received an Open Letter on Travel and Tourism, but the UN agency said the letter was sent “to all heads of state.”
Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, was named the official destination for the 20th UNWTO holiday conference.
“The receiving of the UNWTO/WTTC Open Letter implies no legal commitment or title attribution to the country or the head of state or government in question,” Carvão said.
Several UK newspapers carried stories variously claiming that Mugabe had been named a UN “ambassador,” “envoy” or “leader,” and quoting sources who complained that the African strongman was made a “ambassador” for tourism.
Mugabe is under a European Union and United States travel ban for the manner in which he has ruled Zimbabwe since his takeover of the country.