WHO cancels Zimbabwe anti-gay leader’s new role after international outrage

The World Health Organization just canceled Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe’s appointment as a goodwill ambassador, following international outrage.

On Wednesday (18 October), WHO’s Tedros Adhanom said in a speech: ‘Today I am honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs [non-communicable diseases] for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs.’

But now the offer’s off the table.

In a follow-up statement, Adhanom said: Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa.

‘As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment.

‘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.

‘It is my aim to build a worldwide movement for global health. This movement must work for everyone and include everyone.

Robert Mugabe is the president of ZimbabweRobert Mugabe is the president of Zimbabwe

‘For me, what is important is to build political leadership and create unity around bringing health to all, based on WHO’s core values.

‘I remain firmly committed to working with all countries and their leaders to ensure that every one has access to the health care they need.

‘We must build bridges that bring us together and help us move forward in our quest to achieve universal health coverage.

‘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,’ he said.

Backlash to the appointment

As a result of the WHO’s announcement, WHO Maternal’s Anthony Costello tweeted: ‘Senior WHO staff dumbfounded.

‘Greatly concerned about the effects this decision will have on our credibility and funding,’ he warned.

Similarly, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted: ‘You appointed Robert Mugabe a WHO goodwill ambassador? What aged dictator is next on the list?’

Human rights activist Hillel Neuer tweeted: ‘UN sick joke of the week: WHO names tyrant Mugabe as global health ambassador. He destroyed Zimbabwe’s health, gets his treatment abroad.’

Robert Mugabe has been the President of Zimbabwe since 1987 and has presided over a regime many call corrupt.

During this time, he said some awful things about LGBTI people. In 2013, he promised hell for gay and lesbians if he was re-elected. In the same speech, he said gay people should also ‘rot in jail.’

He also previously threatened to cut gay people’s heads off, as well as ‘filthy gays destroy nations.’

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