Alain St.Ange this morning addressed the UNWTO Ministers and Country Delegations in what was very much a goodbye speech. An emotional St.Ange took to the podium and was teary eyed as he addressed the gathered Ministers and their respective delegations and spoke about his Government’s decision to force him out of the elections for the position of Secretary General of the UNWTO following threats of sanctions issued by the African Union recently.
The news that Seychelles President Danny Faure has written to Mr Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to request that the candidature of Alain St.Ange be withdrawn has not only been a disappointment for St.Ange personally, but it shocked the world of tourism gathered in Madrid for the 12 May UNWTO elections, and sent the world media and press into overdrive.
After a personal meeting with Mr Rifai last Tuesday afternoon at the UNWTO Headquarters in Madrid to discuss the Seychelles President’s request at this very late stage in the game, St.Ange said that he was devastated and sought legal advice on the unfortunate situation he found himself in.
Alain St.Ange said in discussions with the press after his meeting with Taleb Rifai that:-
The list of candidates for the 2017 UNWTO elections had already been widely circulated with him name on it and his candidature was officially endorsed by the President of the Republic of Seychelles in a notably complimentary letter to the UNWTO;
In this late stage of the game, with but two days to go for the elections, this African Union ultimatum is seen as unreasonable, a display of bad faith, and an embarrassment to himself and to Seychelles as a sovereign Nation.
It is today widely accepted that St.Ange stood amongst the top three candidates with a real chance of winning this election for SG of the UNWTO, a first for Seychelles and a first for Africa. This is an understanding which is widely held by all those present in Madrid for the UNWTO elections.
The Seychelles President was well aware of the Seychelles’ standing responsibilities and commitments within the context of the African Union, but was bowing to the unfair demand by that same African Union, a demand that may be categorised as ‘undemocratic, unfair intimidation to a small island State, and an unacceptable use of strong-arm tactics’ which are today compromising the independence and sovereignty of one of its member States.
“Seychelles’ decision to remove one of their own, the candidate of Danny Faure of Seychelles, unceremoniously from the race in order to comply with directives issued by the African Union (AU) and to support instead the Candidate endorsed by Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are seen as a slap in the face of every patriotic Seychellois. I say this because I have been informed by Vice President Vincent Meriton by telephone on Tuesday afternoon soon after my arrival in Madrid for the elections that the Government of the Republic of Seychelles has considered favourably a formal request from the African Union to withdraw its support for my candidature to the post of SG UNWTO. The Government of the Republic of Seychelles, I was informed, will stand in solidarity with the African Union and support the candidate from Zimbabwe. I regret this decision which comes only two days before the elections and after five months of intense campaigning on behalf of Seychelles,’ Alain St.Ange said.
“I have led a very engaging campaign and with a lot of encouragement coming from the tourism trade and Tourism Ministers alike, and throughout my campaign I benefited from significant encouragement and support from the world at large. Though the support was based on unquestionable personal merit and demonstrated capacity, it is a truism that personal merit is often compromised at the expense of institutionalised, politicised and less transparent selection processes. I do recognise that from time to time there are failures of institutions in facilitating the most effective selection processes. I do not give up as twenty-first century best practice calls on strengthening the emphasis on meritocracy even when institutions fail to safeguard competitive selection processes. I reaffirm today that I remain committed to best practice.”
“As a Seychellois who believes firmly in democracy, I proudly say that I do not take instructions from the African Union, but retain my right to be a free Seychellois. However, I am compelled to abide by the decision of the Seychelles President even though I received no formal notification of his request apart from the Vice President’s short telephone call two days before the elections. The African Union endorsed Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe Candidate, but never was this an imposition by the African Union on Africa. To have two candidates in the race from Africa out of six for the role of SG of the UNWTO doubled our chances of pulling a win for Africa. The IOC (Indian Ocean Commission), on the other hand, endorsed the Seychelles candidate and in their membership sits four African Union Member States.”
The People of Seychelles are disappointed to have missed such a prime and unique opportunity to see their flag flying proudly on the world stage; Thousands of messages received from Seychelles by their own candidate demonstrate this patriotic feeling. The favourable endorsement letter by President Faure spoke of St. Ange’s successes as a Minister and his suitability for the position at the UNWTO. These words of encouragement were echoed by the Hon Patrick Pillay, the Speaker of the Seychelles National Assembly in a message to St.Ange showing that patriotism is alive on both sides of the political divide in Seychelles.
The Seychelles former Minister turned Candidate for the UNWTO position said that President Faure was not the one to have lodged his candidature with the UNWTO, but that he had done this personally and that for this reason he alone could withdraw his candidature. “The letter of my endorsement issued by President Danny Faure of the Seychelles was dated well after the endorsement of the Zimbabwe Candidate by the African Union. The Seychelles President knew of the Seychelles’ standing responsibilities and commitments within the context of the African Union.”