Mugabe Goes to UN Summit To Talk About World Hunger

ROME — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose rule has overseen the virtual collapse of agriculture in his homeland, is leading his country’s delegation at a UN summit this week aimed at combating world hunger, UN officials said Monday.
The Italian news agency ANSA said Mugabe was driven into Rome with a police escort after arriving Sunday night. His visit was also reported by state media in Zimbabwe and confirmed by a Zimbabwe government spokesman.
Mugabe is normally subject to European Union travel restrictions that prevent him and more than 100 other political figures in Zimbabwe from setting foot on EU territory.
The travel restrictions, along with other sanctions, were imposed by the European Union in 2002 because of Zimbabwe’s poor record on human rights. The ban was renewed in 2007.
EU officials say, however, that the ban does not apply to United Nations summits. And Mugabe also attended an EU-Africa summit in Portugal in 2007.
Although the travel ban was imposed by the European Union, it does not take an EU decision to lift it. Instead, it is up to the EU member country concerned, in this case Italy, to decide whether to issue Mugabe a visa.
Mugabe’s appearance at this week’s summit, where he is expected to give his delegation’s speech, is his first official foreign trip since he finished second in a March 29 presidential race. And it comes as his government cracks down on the opposition in the run-up to a June 27 presidential runoff.
Mugabe has overseen Zimbabwe’s descent from a regional breadbasket into an economic basket case, with an increasing number of Zimbabweans unable to afford food.