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Trudeau condemns appointment of Robert Mugabe as WHO ambassador

Last Updated Oct 21, 2017 at 4:53 pm EST

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joining widespread condemnation of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s appointment as a good will ambassador for the World Health Organization.

Trudeau told reporters in Edmonton on Saturday when he first heard of the appointment he thought it was a “bad April Fool’s joke.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable, absolutely inconceivable that his individual would have a role as a goodwill ambassador.”

In addition to human rights abuses, Mugabe has also come under fire for frequently going overseas for medical treatment, costing the impoverished African nation millions of dollars.

Canada is making sure its unhappiness with the appointment is being heard, Trudeau said.

“Our diplomats and the folks at Global Affairs are busy making that very very clear to the international community,” he said.

Trudeau joins the United States and a host of other countries, health and human rights leaders in condemning the appointment.

The United States called the appointment of Mugabe “disappointing.”

“This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity,” the State Department said.

Health and human rights leaders chimed in. “The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a major British charitable foundation. “Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for.”

Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, called the appointment “offensive, bizarre.” “Mugabe corruption decimates Zimbabwe health care,” tweeted the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth.

In a new tweet, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”

The 93-year-old Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.