Ethiopian civic and political organizations call for the WHO to reject the candidacy of Dr. Tedros Adhanom for the position of Director General

20 Apr

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

April 12, 2016
Ms. Malebona Precious Matsoso
Chairman of the Executive Board
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
Dear Matsoso:

We are a diverse group of Ethiopian Diaspora organizations from all parts of the world, working in the field of human rights. We write in opposition to the candidacy of Tedros Adhanom, Ph.D. for the post of Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and respectfully urge you to reject his candidacy.

Dr. Adhanom’s nomination as the sole candidate representing Africa is not only an insult to Ethiopia but to all Africans. His candidature must be read in the context of the political, social and economic policies of the government of Ethiopia that he represents. He has served as the Minister of Health from 2005 – 2012 and currently serves as the Foreign Minister for the government of Ethiopia. One need only to scan the various reports from international organizations to gain an understanding of the human rights tragedies ever present in Ethiopia as a direct result of the policies of the Ethiopian government. Dr. Adhanom is a member of the inner circle of a ruling party whose leadership style is antithetical to democracy and respect for the rule of law. Lack of free elections in more than two decades, a fact that has been documented by numerous organizations and governments, serves as prima facie evidence of a repressive regime.

As the face of that government, Dr. Adhanom did not lend confidence as a public health figure while he served as the Minster of Health in Ethiopia. As outlined in this letter, his tenure as head of the Federal Ministry of Health was fraught with mismanagement, incompetence and in particular to the monies granted from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria, resulted in an audit by the Office of the Inspector General.

Dr.Tedros Adhanom Therefore, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which an individual with such a compromised resume would be a candidate worthy of serious consideration for the immensely respected and extremely consequential position of the Director General of the WHO.

Minister of Health—Ethiopia (2005-2012)

In 2008, under his watch there was a major cholera outbreak in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. An investigative report published by the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health paints a disturbing picture of a deliberate inaction on the part of Dr. Adhanom in the face of the tragic health crisis that was rapidly claiming so many lives. Chief among the findings were:

1- Despite laboratory identification of V cholerae as the cause of the acute watery diarrhea (AWD), the Government of Ethiopia decided not to declare a “cholera outbreak” for fear of economic repercussions resulting from trade embargos and decreased tourism.

2- The government, in disregard of International Health Regulations, continually refused to declare a cholera epidemic and largely declined international assistance.

3- The failure to acknowledge a cholera outbreak had several important implications. First, it meant that the WHO could not assume responsibility for managing the epidemic because this requires that the state declare a cholera outbreak and request assistance. Under the WHO International Health Regulations, 2005, cholera is considered a disease “with demonstrated ability to cause serious public health impact and to spread rapidly internationally.”

As a signatory to this agreement, the Government of Ethiopia had the obligation to report the outbreak because cholera is not endemic to the country. Second, without official declaration of a cholera outbreak, there was a delay in accessing donor funds. Declaration of a cholera outbreak might have resulted in a much more vigorous international response, and resources might have been mobilized much more rapidly. Also, refusing to acknowledge a cholera epidemic weakens the chances for ongoing surveillance to recognize the potential for cholera endemicity in the region.

4- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported unacceptably high case fatality rates (in 3 of the 5 affected Oromia zones (Guji, East Shewa, and Bale).

In a July 2008 Press Release titled “Health risks add to crisis in Ethiopia,” Dr. Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO’s Health Action in Crises said, “In humanitarian terms, the situation is unacceptable. The health of millions of Ethiopians is worsening by the day, and the international community must act to support the country’s government to ease this terrible suffering.”

It is an incontrovertible fact that the Ministry of Health under the under the stewardship of Dr. Tedros Adhanom deliberately failed to contain the crisis and was directly responsible for the death of thousands of Ethiopian citizens. His action smacks not only of gross incompetence but outright criminality.

It defies common sense that such a compromised individual responsible for the tragic and unnecessary loss of so many lives in one country should even be considered as a viable candidate to run the World Health Organization.

Audit of funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM)

While Dr. Adhanom served as the head of the Federal Ministry of Health, his office was a recipient of funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), a body commissioned to audit and investigate Countries receiving Funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM), conducted an audit of Ethiopia. It is important to note that audits and investigations are performed when a specific risk is identified in countries GFATM programs operate and/or due to a unanimous or open whistle blowing. In Ethiopia, both were found to be the reason which prompted the investigation into the funds (USD 1,306,035,989) allocated to Ethiopia.

Chief among the findings of the audit report were:

    1) Misappropriation of Funds and use of donor funds for unsound and politically motivated programs

    2) Substandard quality of constructed health facilities by diverting funds which were budgeted for other activities including procuring drugs for patients and prevention activities.

    3) Ineligible expenditure

    4) Weaknesses in accounting systems and delaying internal and in-country audits

    5) Inadequacies in internal audit and lack of organizational independence 6) Principal Recipient (PR) Governance.

The OIG concluded that “the Global Fund grants have been successful in increasing coverage for the three diseases. At the time of audit, there was weak implementation of PMTCT reflected in poor performance against grant targets. A total of USD 165,393,027 was spent on Health Centre construction, resulting in over expenditure of USD57,851, 941 or 54% against the approved budget for health facility renovation. There was inadequate control in place to assure quality and effective use of the constructed health facilities. From the audit findings, the OIG could not provide assurance that oversight arrangements ensured that grant funds are used for the purpose intended. It was the recommendation of the OIG that the Ethiopian government should refund USD 7,026,929 to the Global Fund.

Minister of Foreign Affairs—Ethiopia (2012 to present)

As a politburo member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that has been ruling Ethiopia for the last 24 years Dr. Adhanom is closely associated with a regime well known for its systemic patterns of political repression and egregious human rights violations against Ethiopian citizens.

The abysmal human rights record of the Ethiopian government is very well documented by all the major international rights groups (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Freedom House) including in the U.S. State Department annual human rights report.

In considering Dr. Adhanom’s candidacy for Director General, we implore you to take the following factors into account regarding the human rights situation in Ethiopia.

    *   The violent repression of attempts at peaceful protests;

    *   The recent mass killings of over 400 Oromo civilians some as young as 8 years old.

    *   The 100 million denizens of Ethiopia that are suffering from systematic political and economic repression;

    *   The draconian Charities and Societies Proclamation and Anti-Terrorism laws specifically created to stifle dissent.

    *   The imprisoned journalists whose incarceration has made Ethiopia the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ);

    *   The widespread attacks on freedom of expression and information, including censorship, control of news and information, and the closure of newspapers.

    *   The political activists who are victims of imprisonment, torture and rape;

    *   The prominent political leaders who are victims of harsh imprisonment and torture with their members continually harassed and intimidated by government security forces.

The Ethiopian Muslim community and religious leaders who have been unjustly incarcerated under the Anti-Terrorism Law for demanding that the Ethiopian government stops interfering in their religious affairs.

Dr. Adhanom’s election to lead WHO will effectively put a seal of approval on the gross and systematic abuses of the repressive regime in Ethiopia. It will allow the regime to claim a victory that Dr. Adhanom’s selection to lead a prestigious organization such as WHO is evidence of its respect for human rights and compliance with international standards and further embolden it to continue its shameful behavior towards its own people.

The candidate for Director General of a prestigious organization such as the WHO should not only be a person of high personal achievement but should also embody the highest adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards. Regretfully,

Dr. Adhanom’s record as a member of the ruling party in Ethiopia and specifically his record as Minister of Health does not meet the exceedingly high standards required for a Director General of the WHO. While we would be excited and proud to have a candidate representing Africa, we believe it would behoove us to promote a candidate whose track record doesn’t include policies which led to a deadly Cholera outbreak in 2008 and are leading to an impending famine in 2016.

It is inconceivable that failure at improving the health outcomes of one country and mismanagement of funds obtained from an organization such as the GFATM should result in one’s candidature for the leading health organization of the world.

Consequently because of the aforementioned reasons, we respectfully urge you to reject Dr. Adhanom’s candidacy for the post in the 2017 election.

Representatives of the coalition are available to meet with you or your staff should you have any questions regarding the concerns we have expressed regarding the candidacy of Dr. Tedros Adhanom.

We appreciate your consideration regarding this very important issue.

With assurances of our highest respect,

Ethiopian Advocacy Network

Ethiopiawinnet: Council for the Defense of Citizen Rights

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Leaders

Ethiopian Muslim Religion Leaders (First Hijrah)

Ethiopian Protestant Religion Leaders

United Ethiopian Muslims Peaceful Movement Support Group

Patriotic Ginbot 7 United

Oromo Liberation Front

All Amhara People’s Organization

Moresh Wegene Amhara Organization

Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party

Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia

DC Area Ethiopian Community Joint Task Force

Netsanet Le Ethiopia

Ethiopian Constitutional Monarchy

Ethiopian National Transitional Council

International Ethiopian Women Organization

Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners

Former Ethiopian Defense and Police Force Veterans Association

Netsanet Radio

Related article by TEO:

Does Dr. Tedros Adhanom have the requisite qualifications to become next WHO Director-General?

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