Robert Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador just days after being selected


The World Health Organization has rescinded its appointment of Robert Mugabe, the longtime president of Zimbabwe, to a “goodwill ambassador” role.

The action comes days after the Organization named him as a goodwill ambassador, a move that angered and stunned human rights activists, it rescinded the appointment.

WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, known as Tedros, said in a statement Sunday morning that he had “listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns” before making his decision.

The appointment had provoked global head-scratching and outrage because of Mugabe’s track record of human-rights abuses, including violent crackdowns on political dissent, which had earned Zimbabwe international sanctions.


Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi yesterday chose to be diplomatic over the humiliating incident, saying WHO had embarrassed itself more than the President.

“The inordinate noise around the designation of (the) President as WHO Africa global ambassador does not assist the cause in the first place. If anything it is WHO that has benefitted tremendously from its decision in nominating President Mugabe to lead the fight against NCDs through media amplification of WHO itself. We respect the WHO decision as much as we respected the initial decision to honour our President,” Mzembi said.

The public health agency announced the appointment last week, saying the African leader would focus on noncommunicable diseases on the continent such as heart attacks and strokes.

The 93-year-old Mugabe, 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 and the country’s health care system deteriorates. Mugabe also faces U.S. sanctions over his government’s human rights abuses.