Mugabe WHO goodwill appointment 'unacceptable, ridiculous' and 'contradicts UN ideals'

The US and Canada have sharply criticised the appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador, saying it "contradicts United Nations ideals" and is "absolutely unacceptable" respectively.

Canada's premier said he thought the announcement was "a bad April Fool's joke".

Rebuking the appointment, the the US State Department said in a statement: "The United States government has sanctioned President Mugabe due to crimes against his people and the threat he poses to peace and stability.

"This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity."

Zimbabwe's 93-year-old authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe. Source: AFP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the appointment was "ridiculous".

"When I heard of Robert Mugabe's appointment... quite frankly, I thought it was a bad April Fool's joke," Justin Trudeau said during a press briefing.

"It is absolutely unacceptable and inconceivable this individual would have a role as a goodwill ambassador for any organisation, much less the World Health Organisation," Trudeau said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Source: AFP

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the UN health agency, this week asked Zimbabwe's 93-year-old authoritarian leader to serve in the role to help tackle non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and asthma across Africa.

The decision triggered confusion and anger among key WHO member states and activists who noted that Zimbabwe's health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe's regime.

Faced with a wage of criticism over the appointment, Ghebreyesus said Saturday that he was "rethinking" his decision.