The World Health Organisation has reversed its decision to make Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador.
The appointment was described as “laughable” and an “insult” as critics claimed Mr Mugabe’s policies and alleged human rights abuses have run Zimbabwe’s health system into the ground.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had “listened carefully” to the criticism, consulted with the Zimbabwean government and concluded that Mr Mugabe’s removal “is in the best interests” of WHO.
Dr Tedros added: “I thank everyone who has voiced their concerns and shared their thoughts. I depend on constructive debate to help and inform the work I have been elected to do.
The director-general had initially announced the honour at a conference in Uruguay, praising Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health.
He also suggested the 93-year-old could use the role “to influence his peers in his region”.
The appointment was slammed by Zimbabwean opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, which said Mr Mugabe had allowed the country’s health system to fall into a “shambolic state”.
Two dozen organisations – including the World Heart Federation, Action Against Smoking and Cancer Research UK – issued a statement in which they highlighted the Zimbabwean leader’s “long track record of human rights violations”.
Meanwhile, the British Government described the appointment as “surprising and disappointing, particularly in light of the current US and EU sanctions against him”.
Mr Mugabe regularly makes trips abroad for medical treatment.
In May, the President’s spokesman said a “very black” Zimbabwean doctor supervises Mr Mugabe’s medical care at home and the leader only flies abroad for specialist eye treatment.
He also compared Mr Mugabe to Nelson Mandela as he said the leader “cannot suffer bright lights” and looks down to avoid direct lighting. #beepraizblog