Appointing Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador is Like Appointing Mao to a Similar Position at the FAO
I was disgusted to read today that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had made Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe, a Goodwill Ambassador. Mugabe has presided over the collapse of his economy resulting in many drugs being unobtainable and doctors and nurses going unpaid. As Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch says, “When you go to Zimbabwean hospitals, they lack the most basic necessities”. Naming Mugabe goodwill ambassador to WHO is like naming Mao, who presided over the deaths of perhaps as many as sixty million of his countrymen through famine in the Great Leap Forward, as Goodwill Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) or Assad of Syria to the UN Human Rights Commission.
It is particularly ironic that the new head of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Zimbabwe was a country that “places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide healthcare to all”* since Mugabe frequently travels to my country, Singapore, for medical treatment. His choice of Singapore may have something to do with the EU and US sanctions which prevent him travelling to most of the West, though perhaps his new position will allow him to make more frequent trips to the UN in New York and Geneva.
I wrote about Mugabe’s trips to Singapore, which he combines with a little light shopping, in my article “Disneyland With The Death Penalty Revisited” which was published in Wired in April 2012**:
A while ago I moved into a hotel round the corner from me whilst a builder played Armageddon with my apartment, or as we like to say here, “re-modeled.” I exited the hotel the next day through a door held open by a man dressed in 19th century Indian servant garb complete with turban.
So far, so Disney.
The Taxi chief, the only man you’ll ever see in Singapore wearing a pith helmet, tips me a salute.
“Taxi, Mr. Ken?”
I nod but as I go down into the waiting vehicle I am pushed off balance by a burly man who along with several other equally muscle bound friends leaps into my taxi. The doorman rushes to pick me up and brushes me down. “So sorry.” he says. “Those were Robert Mugabe’s bodyguards.”
Mugabe, it appears, has taken over the top floor of the hotel whilst he and his entourage stay here for shopping and medical treatment. (I understand they can’t travel to Europe or the US). One of the porters gestures to me in conspiratorial fashion and I follow him around to the side of the hotel. He points at two huge container trucks.
“See those?” he whispers, “The one on the left is already full of shopping when they’ve filled the second one they’ll be on their way.”
If Mugabe’s new position allows him to travel more widely then perhaps he will stop coming to Singapore for treatment. After all we must pall as a shopping destination compared to New York, London or Paris. However whatever happens we can be certain that things will not get any better for Zimbabwe’s long suffering citizens.