Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been removed as a goodwill ambassador, the World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Sunday following outrage among Western donors and rights groups at the appointment.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus named Mugabe to the largely ceremonial post at a meeting on chronic diseases attended by both men in Uruguay on Wednesday.
At the time, Mr. Tedros praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide healthcare to all”.
But Mr. Tedros said in a statement that he had listened to those expressing concerns and heard the “different issues” raised.
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in Africa.
”As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” Mr. Tedros said.
The decision had been taken after consultation with the Harare government and was “in the best interests of the World Health Organisation”, he said.
Jeremy Farrar, a global health specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust charity and the NCD alliance, representing health groups combating chronic diseases, welcomed the reversal.
“Dr Tedros deserves all our support to ensure he and WHO build a global health movement that is inclusive and works to improve health for everyone,” Farrar said in a statement.
Zimbabwean member of parliament, Psychology Maziwisa, of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, tweeted.
The tweet said: “A very, very disappointing decision by WHO but not an entirely unexpected one, given the well-known political position of its donors on ZW.”
Several former and current WHO staff had said privately they were appalled at the “poor judgement” and “miscalculation” by Mr. Tedros, elected the first African head of WHO in May.