By Abdi Ali
Published April 25, 2017
The African Union (AU) has appealed to the mother continent to field and support one candidate during the May 2017 election for the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in Madrid, Spain.
The AU, that has endorsed Dr Walter Mzembi of Zimbabwe as its candidate, urges Seychelles to withdraw the candidacy of Alain St Ange from running and therefore significantly reducing the chance for an African from leading the UN’s specialised agency for travel and tourism.
Kwesi Quartey, the Deputy Chairperson of the Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)-based AU Commission on April 19 urged Africa to “practically demonstrate its unity by putting its support behind the candidates endorsed for positions within the international system”, calling on Africa to vote as a united bloc to increase its chances of winning.
Quartey, speaking on behalf of Moussa Faki Mahamat, the AU Commission Chairperson, was reported to have commented, “we must win this for the first time”, in his clear support for Dr Walter Mzembi of Zimbabwe who has been endoresd by the Southern African Development Community and the 54-member African Unions for the UNWTO post.
He said AU acknowledges tourism as an effective vehicle for sustainable development, key in the building of deeper understanding among people and cultures and for the reinforcement of the quest for greater global harmony and peace.
Dr Amani Abou-Zeit, the AU Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy,and Tourism from Ethiopia submitted a letter to the ministers in charge of tourism from Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Niger, Kenya, Gambia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo who attended the 59th UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa in Ethiopia from April 18-19, 2017, urging them to support the AU-endorsed candidate, Dr Mzembi.
The Ministers are said to have noted the importance of Africa voting as a bloc through its representatives–Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tunisia, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia–in the Executive Council of the UNWTO and for being ‘concerned’ with emergence of Alain St.Ange from Seychelles as a candidate despite the fact that Seychelles participated in all the processes of SADC and the AU to reach the decision for a single African candidate, Dr Mzembi.
Election for the UNWTO Secretary-General’s vacancy that falls vacant in 2017 as Jordan’s Taleb Rifai retires is slated for May 11-12, 2017 in Spain. Africa wants Dr Mzembi to succeed Dr Rifai as the first African ever to serve in the world body since its creation in 1974.
Dr Mzembi calls for unity among African countries in the vote, noting that Africa’s concept of candidature committees at sub regional and cross continental levels, through which he was endorsed, had “secured an African, Dr Gilbert Fassoun Houngbo, former prime minister of Togo, the key post of Director General of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).”
Africa has two other candidates–Dr Mousshira Khatab of Egypt and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia who are contesting for the top posts at the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), respectively–who have been endorsed by the Assembly of the AU.
The Secretary General of the UNWTO is voted for by an electoral college of 33 member states. It is the council that comes up with a single candidate to recommend to the body’s general assembly, UNWTOWire reports.