The World Health Organization has rescinded its decision appointing Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following global outrage.
“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,” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“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 added.
“For me, what is important is to build political leadership and create unity around bringing health to all, based on WHO’s core values,” Ghebreyesus noted.
President Mugabe was recently in Uruguay where the appointment was made by Ghebreyesus, who is the first Director-General from Africa to head the United Nations specialised agency.
Zimbabweans took to social media in condemnation of President Mugabe’s selection given the country’s prevailing precarious state of health care and Mugabe’s human rights record. Various WHO member countries and rights critics also condemned Mugabe’s selection, criticising it as unfortunate and contradictory.
WHO reversing this decision does not fix our broken health system. But it demonstrates the power we have when we speak out. #GoodwillForWHO?
— Doug Coltart ✊🏽🇿🇼 (@DougColtart) October 22, 2017
Mugabe’s critics in Zimbabwe, and across the world argued his appointment was misplaced considering the near collapse of the country’s healthcare system under Mugabe’s rule. A petition “Mugabe Must Not Be WHO Good Will Ambassador Zimbabwean Are Suffering Because of Him” was created on change.org, lobbying against the appointment.
Following the pressure, Ghebreyesus said he was “Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values”.
Following persistent criticism from Zimbabweans, human rights groups and WHO member states, the UN agency decided to revoke Mugabe’s appointment as goodwill ambassador.
The decision to revoke President Mugabe’s appointment is being welcomed and celebrated by the country’s citizens, who were most vocal against it. The power of social media to influence even the highest political and diplomatic decisions has also been reaffirmed by the cancellation of the appointment.
However, the reversal is likely going to set Harare on a collision course with the WHO. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Jonathan Moyo criticised the decision to rescind Mugabe’s appointment, saying Ghebreyesus is being blackmailed. “It’s a no brainer that @DrTedros was blackmailed by global bullies into cancelling HIS OWN DECISION with the result of leaving @WHO exposed!” Moyo posted on Twitter. Psychology Maziwisa a Zanu PF Member of Parliament criticised the cancellation saying “A very, very disappointing decision by #WHO but not an entirely unexpected one, given the well-known political position of its donors on ZW”.