WHO chief rescinds appointment of Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador

The head of the World Health Organisation has today rescinded his previous decision to appoint of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe as a "goodwill ambassador".

The move follows widespread shock and condemnation from various countries and NGOs around the world.

In a statement, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said: "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.

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.”

Mr Mugabe, 93, the world's oldest head of state, has long been criticised at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy falls apart.

He also faces US sanctions over his government's human rights abuses.

The US called the appointment of Mr Mugabe by Mr Ghebreyesus, WHO's first African leader, "disappointing".

The heads of UN agencies typically choose celebrities and other prominent people as ambassadors to draw attention to global issues of concern, such as refugees (Angelina Jolie) and education (Malala Yousafzai). The choices are not subject to approval.

The ambassadors hold little actual power, and can be fired.

Zimbabwe's government did not comment when Mr Mugabe was originally appointed, but the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper called it a "new feather in president's cap".

The southern African nation was once known as the region's prosperous breadbasket.


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