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UNWTO SG Post Up for Grabs as Former Seychelles Minister Joins Tight Race

Alain St. Ange.
Alain St. Ange.

A former tourism minister of the Seychelles, Alain St. Ange, recently entered the race for the post of secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) despite affirmative endorsement of the Zimbabwean candidate, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU).

St. Ange says he was persuaded by some member states of the United Nations to contest the post, which is the most powerful position of the UNWTO.

“This is something that came up a year and half ago, and different member states of the UN approached me, and said you would be good, we have seen you participating in all the conferences of the UN for tourism and you would be an ideal candidate to put your name forward.

“They even went to the press and pushed my name forward about a year ago … then I looked at it and more recently when I looked at the candidates putting their names forward, I said to myself ‘it is the time to do it’. I feel I am a good candidate, I feel the experience I come with and the passion I have for tourism, it is an ideal time to replace the very big shoes that Taleb Rifai (current secretary general) will leave behind.”

St. Ange wish Zimbabwe’s Mzembi well in contesting for the post saying the best candidate will land the post.

He said Mzembi’s endorsement by SADC and AU does not mean that he is the only candidate from nations represented by these two nations.

“… When President Mugabe was head of the African Union, we found a way that Walter Mzembi became the candidate … It is his right to be candidate, but you can’t buy all the people’s rights to be candidates in a democratic state today to put forward your candidature.”

He praised Mzembi for his accomplishments saying he is a deserving UNWTO candidate. However, he was skeptical about claims submitted by Mzembi on his length of service as a basis for him to contest the UNWTO secretary general’s post as “not substantial”.

“Being the longest serving minister or knowing the longest serving president is not a credential to run with.”

Alain St. Ange with outgoing UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai.
Alain St. Ange with outgoing UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai.

Furthermore he dismissed as misleading remarks linked to Zimbabwean authorities claiming that St. Ange was being sponsored by the West to sabotage Mzembi.

“... Democracy and democratic rights are a must for Africa to move forward. I am saddened if Zimbabwe talks this way because I praise the minister of Zimbabwe, I praise him for the work he has done.

“I think it is more to do with how the world sees you and how the world respects you as a person, as a country working in tourism, as a country which depends on tourism fully. I am saddened by the way Zimbabwe would find a way to try and discredit me using colonial attacks of the past. We do not have two tourism industries we have one tourism (industry) and it is so important we rally the committee of nations together and this will be one of the objectives. I try to bring the world together so there is one tourism state …”

Mzembi declined to comment.

St. Ange said he has clearly laid out plans. “I have submitted a long list of changes I want to implement. They have to be on the agenda as an important point for tackling.”

He spoke sturdily in regard to Seychelles and its participation in the Africa Union.

“We respect it and we are part of it. I don’t get involved into dirty or petty politics of who can win and cannot win. It is the right for everyone to put their name forward and may the best man (or woman) win … And it is this big wide world that will vote for the next secretary general and you can’t limit them by what the president or group wants.”

He also noted that his country has strong links with many nations, including America.

“Seychelles has good relations with the United States of America, and it is the intention of the contending candidate once secretary general we have a port that is used by the US, navy ships and military ships because it’s a safe port, as we have the same conditions of friendships, respect and other countries.”

He said Seychelles is a key player in the tourism industry as it draws millions of international visitors annually.

“Together we make the Seychelles people and live in total harmony, a blend of people that make us an example to the world that people can live in harmony and in peace.”

“I am proud and Seychelles as small as it is , is able today, to stand side by side with much bigger countries and tell the world, we are here, to serve you, we are offering our services. To serve you as real professionals in the field of tourism.”