In response to world shock and outrage, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday cancelled its appointment of perennial dictator and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as its new “goodwill ambassador.”
In a statement, WHO’s director general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said he the global response to Mugabe’s appointment had forced him to reconsider his decision.
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised. I have also consulted with the government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization,” Ghebreyesus continued.
The appointment had provoked disbelief around the world because Mugabe is more known for human rights abuses and presiding over an ossified economy than any personal dedication to world health.
In 2008 the charitable group Physicians for Human Rights issued a damning indictment of Mugabe’s dictatorial and repressive regime, saying the mounting health care crisis in the country was entirely manufactured by an inept and inefficient government.
“The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population’s access to food, clean water, basic sanitation and health care,” the physicians said, adding that the result was “the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school and the beatings of health workers.”
Last week, Ghebreyesus had described Mugabe and his government in very different terms, suggesting Zimbabwe was “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.”
Standing next to his 93-year-old appointee, WHO’s director general Tedros Ghebreyesus made the announcement in Uruguay this week while the two were at a conference in the South American country and confirmed his decision on Friday, The New York Times reports.
At least two dozen health groups condemned the choice of Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, saying they are “shocked and deeply concerned” while reminding people of Mugabe’s unenviable record on human rights.