Days after the World Health Organization named Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe as its goodwill ambassador, a move that angered and stunned human rights activists, it has rescinded the appointment.
“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns and heard the different issues that they have raised,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It is my aim to build a worldwide movement for global health. This movement must work for everyone and include everyone.”
Tedros said he consulted the Zimbabwean government and concluded it’s in the organization’s best interests.
The public health agency announced the appointment last week, saying the African leader would focus on noncommunicable diseases on the continent such as heart attacks and strokes.
A public outcry ensued. Angry tweets took aim at Tedros and the public health agency.
“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents and turned the breadbasket of Africa — and its health system — into a basket case,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which monitors the performance of world body.
WHO is part of the United Nations and focuses on international public health.
In making the appointment, Tedros, an Ethiopian and WHO’s first African director-general, had said Mugabe would use his role to ensure other leaders make noncommunicable diseases a priority.
“Zimbabwe … places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all,” he said.
President Mugabe has long been criticized for corruption and abuse of power.