By Jane Nambi
Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe is in Italy for the papal inauguration ceremony despite having been issued with travel bans by the European Union (EU).
Mugabe headed to Italy on Monday. The 89-year-old president was issued with the travel bans 2002 due to allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe during the presidential elections them. He was hurried from his plane to Rome airport terminal in a black van, together with his wife, Grace, and bodyguards just minutes after landing.
He was met by a priest who welcomed him saying, “On behalf of Pope Francis, welcome to the Vatican, welcome to the Holy See.” He was then taken to a hotel on the famous Via Veneto.
There were no special invitations given to anyone, according to the Vatican. “The Holy See informs everyone that this event is taking place. There are no invitations. There are no privileges and no one is refused. While one country may have problems with someone else, we invite no one. This must be made clear,” a Vatican spokesman said.
The Vatican is a separate state and is not subject to the EU ban.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. He last visited the Vatin in 2005 for Pope John Paul’s funeral, Mugabe caused embarrassment to the British government by shaking hands with a startled Prince Charles, the heir to Queen Elizabeth.