BEVERLY HILLS, October 22, (THEWILL) – The Head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Sunday, reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for the UN agency following widespread uproar.
Tedros had announced the appointment earlier this week during a speech in Uruguay, where he praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.”
But activists, public health experts and key WHO donors like Britain, Canada and the United States swiftly denounced any prospective role for Mugabe, saying Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has collapsed under his 37 years of authoritarian rule.
Tedros, who took charge of WHO in July, said he had “listened carefully” to those who condemned the decision and spoken to the Harare government.
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for (Non-communicable diseases) in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” Tedros said in a statement.
“We have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization adding that his goal was “to build political leadership and create unity around bringing health to all.”
Tedros is the former Health Minister of Ethiopia and his election as the first African leader of WHO was described as a key moment for the continent, where much of organisation’s work is based.
But his decision to honour one of Africa’s most controversial leaders has raised questions about his leadership just four months into his tenure.