News

WHO chief defends short-lived Mugabe ambassador appointment

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!


GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The World Health Organization's chief lamented Wednesday the "emotional" response to his short-lived appointment last year of Robert Mugabe as the WHO's goodwill ambassador, insisting the decision had been "in good faith".

"There was no judgement problem," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, acknowledging though that the situation was "unfortunate".

Tedros, who took over as the UN health agency's director-general last July, sparked an outcry just a few months into his term when he appointed Zimbabwe's authoritarian president as goodwill ambassador.

In October, Tedros asked the 93-year-old -- who would be pushed from power a month later -- to serve in the role to help tackle non-communicable diseases like heart attacks, strokes and asthma across Africa.

The decision triggered confusion and anger among key WHO member states.

Activists noted that Zimbabwe's health care system, like many of its public services, all but collapsed under Mugabe's regime.

In announcing the appointment, Tedros had hailed Zimbabwe as "a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all".

But after four days of international uproar, Tedros, who is the first African at the helm of the WHO, rescinded the appointment.

While Tedros was hailed for listening to his critics and backing down, the Mugabe storm raised questions about his leadership.

Asked about the crisis Wednesday during his first official press conference since taking office, the WHO chief insisted that the appointment "was done in good faith."

He said "some countries" had suggested the appointment would be useful for Africa, and pointed out that Mugabe had been one of a few leaders who attended a conference on non-communicable diseases, "and he came the whole way to Uruguay to attend… so he showed a strong commitment."

He also stressed that the criticism of the appointment had exploded before the vetting process had begun and therefore before it had formally taken effect.

Mugabe "never even represented us even half an hour based on this appointment," he said.

Tedros said there was a need to balance "emotion and reason" in the response, adding that the reaction appeared to be "more emotion".

The WHO chief, who has served as Ethiopia's minister of health an foreign affairs, pointed to the many challenges facing the world, insisting there is a need to "build bridges", even with leaders deemed problematic.

"I prefer to work with people even if they have some problems on some issues, to work on areas that you can work with," he said.

"I prefer to build bridges, even with the most difficult ones."

ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT