Seychelles withdraws candidate for UN World Tourism post amid African Union sanctions threat
Alain St. Ange the former Seychelles' tourism minister was among the six candidates nominated by their governments. (State House)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles’ government has withdrawn the candidacy of its former minister of tourism for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) following a request from the African Union (AU) because of the possibility of sanctions against the island nation, the Vice President said Wednesday.
The withdrawal of Alain St. Ange’s candidacy was taken at an extraordinary meeting of the Seychelles cabinet of ministers on Tuesday.
“The government received a note verbal from the African Union dated the 8th of May 2017 asking the government to remove its candidate for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO," Vice President Vincent Meriton told journalists Wednesday.
“There were mechanisms in place which makes provisions for countries not abiding to procedures for nomination of candidates," Meriton quoted the note as saying.
Failure to adhere to the request would have resulted in the AU imposing sanctions on Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
The sanctions would have affected the nomination of any Seychellois for other international posts, the bilateral agreements in trade and commerce with other African countries and the air service agreements between African airlines currently operating in Seychelles and African destinations of the island nation’s carrier, Air Seychelles.
Seychelles has air service agreements with Kenya Airways and Ethiopian airlines, and Air Seychelles flies to South Africa, Mauritius and Madagascar.
The Vice President said he attended two African Union meetings this year and although the subject was discussed in a meeting in April where Seychelles was asked to withdraw its candidate, the issue of sanction was never raised.
Meriton said that this is a lesson learnt for Seychelles. In the future all nominations will be made in close consultation and within established practices governing the endorsement process for candidatures within the international system under the AU and Southern African Development Community (SADC) frameworks.
In the SADC meeting in March last year and the AU in July, member states of the two African grouping including Seychelles had unanimously voted to support the Zimbabwean candidate, Walter Mzembi.
State House said in a statement on Wednesday that although St. Ange’s capacity to lead the UNWTO is unquestionable, as is his vast experience in the field of tourism, Seychelles will stand in solidarity with the AU and support the union’s officially endorsed candidate.
In an interview with the www.touristswatch.com in Madrid, Ste Ange, who has been campaigning for the position for five months, said, “Africa is today loosing because of the decisions taken by the African Union with a list of measures that will be imposed on Seychelles, which people are saying can be considered as blackmail, knowing full well that Zimbabwe cannot take it.”
St. Ange, who is also calling for the United Nations to disqualify Zimbabwe, added that “We (UN) cannot accept a block of countries to exert pressure to remove a genuine candidate. This is blackmail, and blackmail cannot be tolerated. UN should sanction Africa as a whole.”
The elections for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO are scheduled for May 12 in Madrid, during the 105th session of the UNWTO Executive Council. Members will vote to present a new Secretary General for the upcoming General Assembly in China, September 2017. St. Ange was among the six candidates nominated by their governments.
No candidate from Africa has held the UNWTO Secretary General’s post since the inception of the organisation in 1975.