Critics urge WHO to reverse choice of Mugabe as goodwill envoy

0
462

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) should overturn its decision to appoint Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, global health leaders said on Saturday, describing the move as unjustifiable and wrong.

Britain said Mugabe’s appointment was “surprising and disappointing” and added that it risked overshadowing the WHO’s global work. The United States, which has imposed sanctions on Mugabe for alleged human rights violations, said it was “disappointed.”

“This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations’ ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

“This selection underscores why the United States continues to push for U.N. reform and leadership actions that uphold our shared U.N. ideals.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the appointment at a high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Uruguay on Wednesday.

The meeting was attended by Mugabe, 93. He is blamed in the West for destroying his country’s economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister.

In a speech, Tedros 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”.

The former Ethiopian health and foreign minister, who was elected last May as WHO’s first African director-general, added: “Today I am also honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs.”

But the NCD Alliance, which represents 28 international health groups seeking to combat chronic diseases, said it was “shocked and deeply concerned” to hear of the appointment, given Mugabe’s “long track record of human rights violations”.

Jeremy Farrar, a leading global health specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust charity also said the decision was “deeply disappointing and wrong” and called on Tedros to be brave and reverse it.

“Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for and those that Dr Tedros has stood for since becoming DG and has done over many years,” Farrar said. “Brave leaders are willing to listen, rethink and overturn bad decisions, this is one such case,” he said.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said the WHO chief had made the move seeking broad support for the agency’s work.

“Tedros has frequently talked of his determination to build a global movement to promote high-level political leadership for health,” he said by e-mail.

Human rights activists also criticised the move.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based group UN Watch described the choice by WHO, a United Nations agency as “sickening”.

“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents, and turned the breadbasket of Africa — and its health system — into a basket-case,” he said.

He noted that Mugabe himself had travelled to Singapore for medical treatment three times this year rather than in his homeland.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in GENEVA, Kate Kelland in LONDON and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Nick Zieminski

SHARE
Previous articleMugabe sacked as WHO goodwill ambassador after outcry – statement
Next articleAcacia says can’t pay $300 million upfront that deal with Tanzania calls for
Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.