After widespread shock and condemnation, the head of the WHO on Saturday said that he was “rethinking” his appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador
In a new tweet, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanous said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”
The 93-year-old Mugabe has long been criticized 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.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday said the appointment was “absolutely unacceptable” and “ridiculous.”
“When I heard of Robert Mugabe’s appointment ... quite frankly, I thought it was a bad April Fool’s joke,” Trudeau said during a news briefing. “It is absolutely unacceptable and inconceivable this individual would have a role as a goodwill ambassador for any organization, much less the World Health Organization.”
The US called the appointment of Mugabe by the WHO’s first African leader “disappointing.”
“This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity,” the US Department of State said.
Two dozen organizations released a statement slamming the appointment, saying health officials were “shocked and deeply concerned” and citing his “long track record of human rights violations. They said they had raised their concerns with Tedros earlier to no avail.
The heads of UN agencies and the UN secretary-general typically choose celebrities and other prominent people as ambassadors.
Additional reporting by AFP
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