HARARE, October 23 – Human rights groups have called for a probe into the appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for the World Health organisation (WHO).
The appointment as ambassador for non-communicable diseases in Africa has been rescinded after WHO, the United Nations agency, came under international pressure.
However, UN Watch, the non-governmental human rights group, said while the ambassadorial role had been withdrawn, a “full, independent and international” inquiry into any possible deals made between the WHO chief
and Zimbabwe’s ruler must be held.
The rights group had denounced Mugabe’s appointment by WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom, as “absurd, immoral and insulting.”
“There must be more to the story,” said UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer.
“How could Dr Tedros, a sophisticated political figure, have chosen to honour a man who has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents, and turned the breadbasket of Africa and its health system into a basket-case?” Neuer asked.
This weekend, Ghebreyesus, the former Ethiopian health minister and first African to lead WHO, announced the withdrawal of the role he had conferred Mugabe.
He cited consultations with stakeholders.
UN Watch argued Ghebreyesus’ statement showed no remorse, nor any mention of Mugabe’s alleged human rights abuses.
“On the contrary, he seems to double down and justify his decision by speaking of the need to include everyone, presumably tyrants as well.”
Mugabe (93) is the world’s oldest head of state. He regularly seeks treatment overseas after presiding over the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health system.
Walter Mzembi, Mugabe’s Minister of Science and Technology, said WHO were the “biggest losers” for withdrawing the role it conferred Mugabe.
“Mugabe is motivated more by the need to save lives than global ambassadorship,” Mzembi said.