The World Health Organization rescinded Sunday its appointment of Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador.
“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,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Tedros, who became head of the WHO in July, had announced his appointment of Mugabe two days earlier during a conference in Uruguay, saying that Zimbabwe could “influence his peers in his region” and praising the country’s commitment to providing health care for all.
But over two dozen organizations quickly released a statement slamming the decision, saying health officials were “shocked and deeply concerned” — citing Mugabe’s record of human rights abuses and claiming that the country’s healthcare system has collapsed under his nearly 30-year rule.
The United States called the appointment of Mugabe by WHO’s first African leader “disappointing.”
The United States has maintained sanctions on Zimbabwe since 2003, citing the leader’s use use of millions of dollars to travel abroad, human rights abuses, and accusations of electoral fraud.