As WHO begins screening six candidates to the DG post, there is need to restate why I am opposed to Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy

31 Oct

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The world is welcoming November 2016 shortly.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) lengthy election processes, leading to the appointment by the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the ninth director-general of WHO in May 2017 goes into gear for its first phase live forum with the six candidates on November 1-2, 2016 at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. Surely, one of the six would be picked up in May 2017 as the new director-general and assume his/her responsibilities on 1 July 2017.

The purpose of the November exercise, according to WHO, is to enable the six candidates (from Ethiopia = PhD; France – MD = Medical Doctor; Hungary MD; Italy MD; Pakistan MD and United Kingdom MD) “present their [respective] vision[s] to WHO Member States and will also be able to answer questions on their candidacy.”


Tedros Adhanom, one of the six aspirants to the WHO post top job | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images via Politico

Tedros Adhanom, one of the six aspirants to the WHO post top job | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images via Politico

On the other hand, of late there seem to be a surprise and two developments coming out of Addis Abeba. These cannot necessarily be seen in isolation from Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy. On account of his status as a politburo member in the country’s top leadership body politic, by choice the candidate has been member and leader in a ruling party that has been masquerading as a political party when it wants and a government when its need for it arises, operating by the laws it so chooses.

    The first of these relates to the rumour filtering out of the Addis Abeba grapevines say that Dr. Tedros Adhanom has recently quietly weighed chances of his candidacy with a few close circle of Tigrean friends at home and abroad. The discussion reportedly focussed on whether he should withdraw from the competition early, in the face of the difficult situation in the country and the concerted campaigns against him around the world.

There is no evidence corroborating this however. And yet there were some who reportedly agreed with him that anti-TPLF campaign by Ethiopians and others against him and the country’s political crisis have conspired against him. They felt this has shattered the image of his ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The beating it has taken from erstwhile friends and foes alike are tough and recovery extremely difficult. Those in full awareness of it remember it is the root cause of present-day Ethiopia’s problems, especially the Front’s nepotism, corruption, greed for power, its proclivity to violence and lawlessness, the manifest outcomes of which are its anti-democratic and anti-human rights stance.

Those friends of the candidate with such views reportedly had already feared the candidate has been hurt and that his chances now are hardly as strong as before. Those who heard the candidate utter this reportedly suggested that it would be wiser to withdraw in good time before he is dropped out not to injure his future chances at regional and international leadership.

Interesting as this rumour may be, I have not come across any sensible evidence suggesting such a broad-based international Tigrean consultation has ever taken place or my fellow countryman has acted on his instinct and the advice of some of them and has dropped out.

Nevertheless, three days ago by its authors’ reckoning, AfricaIntelligence has put on the Internet what seemed the fait accompli withdrawal of Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidature, the reasons of which I have not come across since I have not read it.

I visited the page a night ago and the paper has made its story available in 150 words for sale for euro 1.60.

    The second development in Ethiopia is that, in the midst of the political crisis and the instability, Ethiopia has suffered as a nation, owing to TPLF’s cruelty with every passing day citizens being killed and imprisoned. Even in this terrible situation the TPLF has not been exploring how it could address the problems of either the affected population, or those with grievances.

    Of special concern are the the youth, a target of the martial law; most of them hiding underground and deep in forests for fear of the regime’s harshness and its policy of ‘shoot first and ask later’. This has hurt and angered citizens.

    The state of emergency has been part of Ethiopia’s status quo for a quarter century. To add insult to injury, the TPLF now thinks that its new repressive policies – the very root causes of the problems in the first place have proved – according to Defense Minister Siraj Fergessa, effective antidote to Egypt-Eritrea-the diaspora and Human Rights Watch-inspired problems. Because of such actions, it now claims, the worst is over and the country is back to normalcy to focus on national development, as before.

Having ignored the plight of those Ethiopians, the TPLF gave Monday priority to reporting about 18 of the 22 EFFORT and foreign companies’ returning to functioning normally, after suffering destruction by angry protesters.

As part of the TPLF exercise, a public financial institution, the Ethiopian Development Bank (EDB) has also been co-opted to be flexible about loan payments by foreign investors and EFFORT – TPLF-owned businesses, whose investments have suffered attacks. Even here, the self-interests of the regime are not escaping notice.

This is likely to arouse the next wave of anger and destruction.

    Thirdly, for a while now citizens have been wondering whether Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom still is on his official post as head of Ethiopia’s diplomacy.

    The initial public confusion may have to do with the unofficial tweaking on the minister’s portfolio, as has been for sometime now on his Facebook. Not a child could miss it that the minister has been dream-walking while for nearly ten months playing a lead role in a drama written and directed by none other than the man himself.

Consequently, in this fictional role since February 2016 Dr. Tedros Adhanom has been living a life of pretence, acting as the main character in the story of his gripping international aspiration – his target being the post of WHO director-general.

The state of play thus is, in addition to efforts by Mercury Public Affairs, a professional “full-service strategic communications firm“, selling him to the international community, Facebook has since been co-opted as one of his promoters.

Thus on Facebook, he is seen acting in that fictional role as the global minister of health, utilizing necessity of global health for his election campaign.

Tedros for WHO Evidently, since Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s ethnic minority regime has given him a free hand to do whatever he likes to get elected, including financial freedom (perhaps quietly reimbursed by foreign interests), the logo pasted on the right here, as appears on his Facebook, has become one of the indisputable sources of the confusion regarding his real job in ‘government’.

This has constantly troubled me. It is about Tedros Adhanom being a privileged person because of his ethnicity that has made him above the law in a poor nation, where resources are scarce and rights and justice for all unthinkable. This on my mind I have been wondering how much of Dr. Tedros Adhanom is a leader, the professional and the visionary WHO should badly need.

The question is what would happen to WHO, the sole global organization in charge of international health, especially the morning after the wrong person is elected.

Without a doubt, the candidate has been top politburo member of a cruel and repressive ethnic minority party in a multi-ethnic state where the majority of the population has been discriminated and dispossessed.

I would suggest that during the public meeting in the Q&A at WHO, he must be taken to task on his multi-facetted role in the ruling party that Ethiopians love to loathe because of its substantial crimes against humanity.

How much of that desensitizing experience has affected his leadership capabilities in modern international organization, such as WHO?

What are the right criteria WHO states members should look for in the six candidates

Anyone who has known the United Nations under the avuncular Secretary-General Ban´Ki-moon’s tenure, he would understand the changes at the United Nations, especially its loss of initiative and identity.

Intolerable is the thought that anyone should walk into leadership of international organizations. For consultation, I turned to the International Secretariat of the Future – Lesson From Experience of March 1944.

This was written just less than a year before the end of World War II by a Group of Former Officials of the League of Nations – about six of them. They shared lessons from their experiences by identifying the qualities they then thought should be sought in international leadership, especially in an international organization, such as the United Nations, including WHO, without being oblivious of its mandate in a technical area.

I would share a very relevant quote from the vision of the six former officials, I first came across in Brian Urquhart’s Hammarskjold (1972) some 25 years ago. To my mind, as a student of the United Nations, with international experiences in diplomacy and currently in retirement, the qualities they recommended are still relevant today for both any individual candidate aspiring to be secretary-general of the United Nations or any of the top posts in the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations System, as follows:

    “The qualities which the head of the service should possess are not easy to define. He should be young. Political or diplomatic experience, but not necessarily great fame or eminence, is an advantage. Above all, ability for administration in the broadest sense is important, implying a knowledge of when to be dynamic, to take the initiative and to force an issue; when at the other extreme, to be content as a purely administrative official; and when, on a middle course, to be a moderator impartially smoothing over difficulties, a catalytic agent in negotiation … it may well be that the only qualities which must under all conditions be demanded of the director are those of common sense, courage, integrity and tact.”

It is possible that Dr. Tedros Adhanom may have been working on what he may smartly consider a vision for WHO. Unfortunately, his experiences in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) have shown that he was a person of the present, not of the future. He cares to please those in power and influence. In opposing his candidacy, I opposed his candidacy in April 2016, underlining his lack of a good grasp of organization and management.

It’s only when a leader is in that sort of permanent flux that he decides to delink organization and finance. At the time, I gave the example of how monies that came from philanthropic individuals went to financing Fana Broadcast and Walta, the two major propaganda architectures of the ruling TPLF.

At the UN, the very words of comfort officials use to show they recognize the staff’s contributions, words close to their tongues have been “the staff is the UN’s main asset.” If indeed true in practice, that is what is needed. For Tedros Adhanom some particular staff would be important, since ethnicity is the basis of his politics. When one is not of the same ethnic origin, he could be treated well in public, as I heard, and with a smile. When it comes to promotions, benefits and rights, it may be a different story.

When the 12th TPLF Congress chased away Tirfu Kidanemariam from both the Central Committee of the TPLF and its politburo, Tedros Adhanom was the one who welcomed her. She chose ambassadorial post in Australia and New Zealand. She got it, not because she had either the education or the skills; she is the wife of Abay Woldu, the chief of Tigray region and the chairman of the ruling TPLF.

Of course, to fulfil her need for the post, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Hailu Arega Tefera was hustled to return as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, since diplomacy is not her cup of tea, even at a frenzied moment in our nation’s history in the summer, she went on SBS radio on inflaming a tense nation, propagating her party’s position on the Wolqaiyt Question and how much prosperity and democracy it has brought to the country, while in reality it has been responsible for many deaths in different parts of the country the smouldering heat of which still continues to burn.

If he is so considerate to place her in such a diplomatic post, why has become short-handed or short-worded in fighting for Habtamu Ayalew who is dying of illness. Because he was a member of the legal opposition party, he was refused an exit visa for medical treatment, notwithstanding that the medical board has written the patient that he needed treatment abroad.

I was and am disappointed that as a former health minister and still now the ruling party’s politburo member, why in concert with WHO principles, Dr. Tedros Adhanom failed to raise a finger to speak on his behalf.

Last September, I suggested to the candidate in an article to show decency by withdrawing his name from the candidacy for the WHO post.


Let me state that while since November 2012 Dr. Tedros Adhanom has been Ethiopia’s minister of foreign affairs, though now in name only, those who know him say he has been wistful of his days as minister of health, where he served from 2005-2012.

Perhaps one reason for that is the place where he had won a lot of accolades, according to the diplomatic grapevine, where he earned the nickname “donor darling”. Sharing with Ethiopians their sentiments, some foreign representatives love to say ‘if only Dr. Tedros Adhanom were the prime minister…’

Sometimes, I had heard from people who first hand heard it from those saying it; they are not bothered saying this; perhaps they may have thought it would make Ethiopians happy or proud, strange as it is.

I do not have sufficient data for conclusion of this or that sort in raising it here. Nonetheless, it is some sort of indicator reflecting on him negatively. Why foreign businesses/philanthropist in Ethiopia are enthused by him is a question that as yet has to find the proper answer.

In putting this here, I am not charging him of any improper action, since I do not know. In WHO, however, where the pharmaceutical industry has a great deal of interests how much assurance the international community can receive and how the candidate would take the trust and his responsibilities seriously is the pressing question.

My folks at home would say, I know, words are cheap with the TPLF!


    Latest USAID Ethiopia mission exposes WHO candidate Tedros Adhanom’s integrity problems

    Ethiopians in Seattle protest Gates Foundation funding of murderous TPLF regime; oppose support for Tedros Adhanom to WHO DG post

    For Habtamu Ayalew’s sake & the many nameless TPLF-victims, Dr. Tedros Adhanom must finally show decency by withdrawing his name from candidacy for WHO director-general post!

    Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s WHO countdown

    Dr. Tedros Adhanom for WHO DG: Picking a wheeler-dealer as regional candidate AU shortchanges Africa’s able professionals & WHO itself Part I

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

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


%d bloggers like this: