WHO chief reverses Mugabe ambassador appointment

This file photo shows Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe attending a meeting with the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association in Harare on April 7, 2016. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 22 October 2017
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WHO chief reverses Mugabe ambassador appointment

GENEVA: The head of the World Health Organization on Sunday reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, following the widespread uproar.
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for (Non-communicable diseases) in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment” the head of the UN agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.
Tedros, who took charge of WHO in July, said he had “listened carefully” to those who condemned the decision and spoken to the Harare government.
“We have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization.”
Tedros had announced the appointment earlier this week during a speech in Uruguay, where he praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all.”
But activists, public health experts and key WHO donors like Britain, Canada and the United States swiftly denounced any prospective role for Mugabe, saying Zimbabwe’s health care system has collapsed under his 37 years of authoritarian rule.
Tedros said on Sunday his goal was “to build political leadership and create unity around bringing health to all.”
The WHO boss had faced mounting pressure to reverse the decision, including from some of the leading voices in global public health.
“The Mugabe appointment, coming at the end of (Tedros’s) first 100 days, was a misstep,” the director of the Global Health Institute at Harvard University, Ashish K. Jha, told AFP in an email shortly before the WHO decision was announced.
“Reversing will actually be a strong sign that the leadership listens and is willing to be responsive to views of the global public,” he added.
The US ambassador to the United Nations during Barack Obama’s administration, Samantha Power, tweeted: “Tedros will surely revoke terrible apptmt of Mugabe as goodwill ambassador, but damage is done.
“The only person whose health 93-yo Mugabe has looked out for in his 37 year reign is his own.”
Multiple critics noted that Mugabe, who is 93 and in increasingly fragile health, travels abroad for medical care because Zimbabwe’s health care system has been so severely decimated.
Richard Horton, the editor of the leading medical journal The Lancet said: “WHO DG stands for Director-General, not Dictator-General. Tedros, my friend, retract your decision, consult with colleagues, and rethink.”
Tedros is the former health minister of Ethiopia.
His election as the first African leader of WHO was billed as a key moment for the continent, where much of organization’s work is based.
But his decision to honor one of Africa’s most controversial leaders has raised questions about his leadership just four months into his tenure.


86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

Updated 25 June 2018
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86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

  • Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009
  • The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades

JOS, Nigeria: Eighty-six people have been killed in an attack by suspected nomadic herders against farming communities in restive central Nigeria, police said on Sunday.
The discovery in the Barikin Ladi area of Plateau state came after days of violence apparently sparked by an attack by ethnic Berom farmers on Fulani herders on Thursday.
State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of Berom villages in the area following clashes on Saturday found “86 persons altogether were killed.”
Adie told reporters six people were also injured and 50 houses razed. Bodies of those who died have been released to their families, he added.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that is putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades.
Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
The Plateau state government said it had imposed restrictions on movements in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order.”
“The curfew takes effect immediately... and movement is restricted from 6:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) to 6:00 am, except (for) those on essential duties,” said spokesman Rufus Bature.
On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked “Fulani and Muslim,” according to those who escaped the violence.
Plateau state police spokesman Tyopev Terna and Major Adam Umar, from the military taskforce in the state capital, Jos, confirmed the blockade and vandalism to several cars.
There were no official reports of deaths but Baba Bala, who escaped the violence on the road, said at least six people were killed.
“I was lucky the convoy of the (Plateau) state government was passing through the scene of the attack shortly after I ran into the attackers,” he said.
“I escaped with smashed windscreens and dents on my car. I saw six dead bodies and several damaged cars.”