Intimation to WHO governing bodies about Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s inadequacy to head the only global United Nations health organization

10 Jan

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

On The Himalayan Times of January 4, 2017, the picture of Ethiopia’s candidate to the director-general post of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr.Tedros Adhanom has stradrled across two columns. The misrepresentation therein had me wonder if the six competing candidates’ election processes to that same post were already over and my fellow countryman had been selected.

Dr.Tedros Adhanom (Credit: Bikesh Prajapati/THT)

Dr.Tedros Adhanom (Credit: Bikesh Prajapati/THT)

Actually, the selection and election have barely begun. Interestingly, however, as if he already had the DG post, Dr. Tedros Adhanom was in Nepal reassuring the Nepalese, “WHO is here to implement the country’s priorities”. Wonders never end and that was also the title of the article carrying his interview on Nepal’s major paper.

True, the UN has longstanding principle, adopted in the mid-1970s with insistence of developing countries, that their receipt of technical assistance is voluntary, subject to the consent of recipient nations and the ownership thereof. Anyways, to my mind, the candidate making such a promise to the Nepalese public and government was superfluous, sort of pompous, since it is beyond his call and at this moment he is only an aspirant!

I also learned from the candidate’s interview on The Himalayan Times, the Ethiopian former foreign minister has taken liberty in stating that wherever he had spoken around the world campaigning to win this high-paying job, “almost all the regional committee meetings … some priorities and principles are crystallised. The principles are putting people first, meaning health is a rights issue; putting health at the centre of the global health agenda stating that a healthy society can bring prosperity.” I wondered why that iteration for him was new, while WHO meetings are about it as their article of faith, when emergency outbreak of diseases do not capture their attention.

I thought it, and I believe in it, it is essential someone counseled my fellow countryman that these ideas were a part of the conversation during the inception of the WHO Constitution in late 1940s in San Francisco on the sidelines of the drafting work of the United Nations Charter. From there it went to London, then back to New York in the 1950s through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). I had discussed these issues before in various articles, including an aspect of it in this one last September.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom could have easily noticed that of the nine principles in the Preamble to the WHO Constitution, for instance, Principle One defines the essence of health, which has made it a right: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Principles Two and Three address these issues more broadly, while shedding more light on health as a human right, as follows:

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.”

Of course, these issues are problematic for the minister, since Ethiopia under the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) does not believe in anyone’s right, save that of the political bigwigs in the mafia over Ethiopia – the TPLF.

To understand this, one needs to consider the widespread abuses of prisoners in Ethiopia and the ill-treatment of the legal opposition, including raping men prisoners – something that religious Ethiopia condemns as abomination.

There is also the ongoing hunting of Ethiopian youths as if they are wild animals that must be incarcerated and kept in concentration camps under the TPLF’s October 8, 2016 state of emergency law that empowers the security forces to shoot to kill. As of Monday January 9, 2017, mass arrest has become the fate of the young in Ethiopia. They are not simply surrendering and be taken like lamb. They have been fighting through peaceful means of protesting. It did not invoke in the cruel and coward TPLF leaders to stop and reason out with these young people.

Bahir Dar saw bomb explosion, angered by the massacre of several members of the society last summer. The youth pleaded with requests addressed to officials in letters to stop their persecution, or turning their deaths into victory lap for the TPLF. The TPLF was put on notice with warning from the youth to take action. This shows that the TPLF martial law has hurt a huge number of people the harassment day and night ever since. Even bomb exploded at the Grand Hotel, without the SOE being impediment. But immediately the usual soldierly searches, kicking and imprisonment intensified; while confirming the usual TPLF harshness, imprisonments and killings they have not brought servitude of the youth to the Front, as it has hoped in Amahara. In fact, the youth group put the military that is militarizing the society instead of addressing civil society’s problems, they gave a strong warning of action anywhere, as follows:

When this request was not granted, there came solidarity from Gondar in support of the youths in Bahir Dar. Then in Gondar another bomb exploded Tuesday, the fourth in a row altogether in about ten days. There is the folly on the part of the regime to continue in power by killing and depriving the nation of its succeeding generation. This resolve comes now afresh after the decision by the TPLF military and intelligence commanders a few days ago reaching understanding to systematically seize power to run Ethiopia by a league of millitary and intelligence commanders, as per Jigjiga accord.

To the extent I can understand it, this is a failure imposed on civil society by the likes of Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who is now trying to find his escape through the WHO Director-General post, if he is lucky. He has a hand in the making of the latest creeping coup militarizing civil society, with the TPLF military/intelligence wing taking control of the Ethiopian state, about the danger of which I tweeted:

I am stating here the truth as I know and for the record that this particular WHO DG post candidate is one of the architects of the policy of torture in Ethiopia. For a candidate to such a high-level post, as the head of the WHO, conflicts with the United Nations Charter and the WHO Constitution as well. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, as a politburo member of the ruling TPLF, about which so much has been known around the world both by governments and non-governmental organizations, especially its Nazi-esque human rights violations of Ethiopians. Recall that a NATO parliamentary group visiting Tigray in October 25-29, 2010 immediately captured its militaristic makeup and described it on first encounter as a group “ruling Ethiopia like a commando”, “instead of building up strong governance institutions.” And hence here citizens are reaping the disasters that have befallen Ethiopia just because of greed and rigid mind that has long stopped its thinking functions.

Oh! Did Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the foreign minister of Ethiopia for nearly five years and until two months ago, forget what happened to Habtamu Ayalew, spokesperson for Andinet opposition movement? On September 28, 2016, I wrote an article criticizing both his his indifference and candidacy as a powerful person and WHO candidate who has, at least, failed to intervene to save Habtamu – to show in deeds and words whether he is committed to ensure human dignity and to the WHO principles.

Last September that failure on the candidate’s part prompted me to ask him to withdraw his candidacy. From my vantage point, he has been disloyal to the WHO principles, to which people and governments have to return time and again when dictators vilify and attack human dignity.

May be Dr. Tedros Adhanom has not read what many others and I have written about in the past year alone about Habtamu Ayalew’s plight. The candidate chose to ignore our pleas to him to do the right thing.

Nonetheless, foxy as he is, he indirectly responded to those charges, when he recently flew to a far off land and onto the mountains, where he lectured his hosts in Nepal about the essential principles in the health sector that he almost sought on the Nepalese media to make his and that he was the inspiration. He thought we would not consult Nepalese newspapers. He was wrong. The thanks belong to him on this for pasting The Hymanlayan Times on his Facebook. There is an old saying ጌታዋን የተማመነች በቅሎ/አህያ (?)…It speaks to such a situation, especially about the risk has taken with misrepresentation; the saying literally means that a mule/horse trusting its master’s protection leaves part of its body out in the dark of night, i.e., indifferent despite a hungry hyena being out there.

Habtamu was imprisoned for over two years and tortured for being a member of the legal opposition. The beating destroyed part of his organ(s), as has happened to many Ethiopian activists. A healthy person entering prison has returned home to his family half-dying. He needed to go abroad and get medical treatment, but was refused exit visa, the foreign minister too conspiring against him. The board of medical doctors twice signed a paper affirming his condition needed treatment abroad that Ethiopia is lacking. To this day, the opposition activist has been vengefully refused treatment and is now in a sort of crude life support half-measure – the treatment itself aggravating his condition, while it is feared he could die if something of the sort is not improvised. One should imagine, the neglect he, his family, his children and his mind in particular suffer.

That’s why I have held a strong view about the candidacy of Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who in Nepal was trying to reinvent the wheel about WHO principles, without even reading what is on the records; it reveals his superficiality, as well as his extravagant side with his ill-advised self-aggrandizing adventure.

Given this and a number of other considerations that I had discussed extensively through various articles in 2016, I am strongly opposed to Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy. REASON: He would destroy the only United Nations body dealing with health issues, most importantly its very useful surveillance of new and outbreaks of existing diseases – with no worries for the bottomline, although financing WHO must be given priority consideration.

I stand ready to be corrected if I am wrong, especially about his lack of an iota conviction as one of the candidates with a chance to head WHO, if elected. If it so happens, I have no doubt that the candidate having not sufficient professional skills and also lacking belief in the organization’s principles, WHO is likely to fall on harder days. This would damage to the organization and injustice to the world community.

Of the importance of the WHO Principle, about which Dr. Tedros Adhanom has no clue as he fidgets to lay claim to them almost as original inspiration and possibly ownership on The Himalayan Times. For his benefit, I would quote extensively from an interpretation of the WHO Preamble that has long captivated many. It is an article by Frank Grad, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor Emeritus of Legislation, Columbia University School of Law and School of Public Health, from which I would avail extensive quote for the candidate’s benefit. Prof Grad states:

“The Constitution approved by the International Health Conference has shown itself to be robust during the 54 years since it came into effect. Nowhere is its strength more clearly seen than in its Preamble. This part of a legal constitutional document has an important function: it states the principles on which the document is based, and implicitly asserts a claim to jurisdiction which may then be spelt out in the document itself…

The concept of public health is contemporary, but in its phrasing the Preamble echoes the rhetorical cadences of the Age of Reason in the last part of the 18th century. In this view certain rights — such as those to health, or to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — cannot be granted or denied by any government because they are fundamental, inalienable human rights, which all of us, being human, already have. 1948, the year that WHO came into existence after 26 Member States had ratified its Constitution, is also the year that the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4).

The Preamble goes on to analyse the obligation of nations to contribute to the health of their people. This obligation is not imposed from the outside, but follows from
the fundamental right of every human being, and therefore of humanity as a whole.

From the fundamental right to health of every human being, the Preamble moves to the health of all peoples, observing that this is fundamental to their attainment of peace and security, and depends on the fullest cooperation of individuals and states. The connection between health, peace and security is self-evident when diseases coupled with poverty and other social ills destabilize governments and societies. The Preamble notes that the achievement of any state in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.”

Dr.Tedros Adhanom has shown Ethiopians that he could talk the talk; but he would not be there for the real walk. In the Ethiopian health ministry, he has left a legacy of corruption and regarding employment and who enters medical school, in line with the TPLF policy of ethnic discrimination. As foreign minister, he was good in inventing ‘his own facts and plucking them out of his pocket to suit his needs at the time and place he is in’; this I heard had earned him the reputation of inventing stories, some of which I had discussed on my blog at different times through the year just out. He firmly anchored the ‘superiority’ of the ruling clique, assigning them on the basis of ethnicity to all important trading and luxury diplomatic posts around the world.

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


Girding up for historic meetings

The 34-member Executive Board (EB) of the World Health Organization (WHO) would hold its 140th session in Geneva from January 23 – 1 February 2017. The provisional agenda of the session EB140/1 is now before member states of the council. Agenda item #4 is about the selection of the director-general.

In that regard, the current EB session is extremely important in view of the Council’s historic quinquennial responsibility of already having been engaged in the process of shortlisting three of the six candidates to pass the names of the acceptable three for the World Health Assembly (WHA) to agree on one of the best qualified professionals by the votes of 190 member states to take office on 1 July 2017.

I am of keen desire to see corrupt, diplomatic and other forms of horse-trading kept at bay. The current election must be free and its integrity protected the WHO to be able to serve the common interests of the global community. It begins about three weeks from now, i.e., from the course of the 140th EB session to early February and also later in the 70th session of WHA, which would convene in Geneva from May 22 – 31 May 2017.

I made it known already by April 2016 that, as a former diplomat and international civil servant with the United Nations and now in retirement, I have taken a strong view that the EB and WHA shoulder a huge responsibility in who they would screen as best professional to be elected in May 2017 to take the helm of the 70-year old WHO leadership for the next period.

That is the reason, why I encourage the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly to be true to their existing guidelines, which the WHO Legal Counsel had updated and submitted in late November EB140/INF./1, titled Nomination of candidates.

In there, the responsibilities of the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly have been clearly outlined, that is :

    (a) to undertake initial screening of candidates to eliminate those candidates who do not meet the criteria approved by the Health Assembly

    (b) determination of the short list;

    (c) interview of candidates, and:

    (d) voting on the candidates to be nominated

Key here is the meaning of “initial screening”, as the role of the Executive Board. The Legal Counsel goes back to 2012 consensus decision by the 65th session of the WHA on the procedures to be followed to pick up the most qualified candidate as director-general. In that regard, after years of negotiations that had their beginnings in early 1990s, in paragraph 8 the following have been agreed for WHO to follow in finally selecting the right candidate, as follows:

    “[WHA] [S]hould ensure that the nominated candidates fulfil the following criteria, while underscoring the paramount importance of professional qualifications and integrity and the need to pay due regard to equitable geographical representation, as well as gender balance in the process leading to the nomination of the candidate(s) that should be submitted to the Health Assembly; he or she should have:

    (1) a strong technical background in a health field, including experience in public
    (2) exposure to and extensive experience in international health;

    (3) demonstrable leadership skills and experience;

    (4) excellent communication and advocacy skills;

    (5) demonstrable competence in organizational management;

    (6) sensitivity to cultural, social and political differences;

    (7) strong commitment to the mission and objectives of WHO;

    (8) good health condition required of all staff members of the Organization;

    (9) sufficient skill in at least one of the official working languages of the Executive
    Board and the Health Assembly.”


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


In the interests of the global community, especially the common man and woman, who have nobody else to get the international system work for them and their interests in the health field as the WHO governing bodies could, I hope sincerity and common sense would prevail in the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly in 2017 to serve the global community by picking the right candidate.

As for myself, as per WHO guidelines, I have studied the candidates against the WHA consensus criteria. And I have rejected Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the candidate seriously lacking:

(a) a strong technical background in a health field, including experience in public health. (Recall also that all eight of the past and present directors-general are medical doctors, some of them with added professional updates in management);

(b) exposure to and extensive experience in international health

(c) demonstrable leadership skills and experience; and,

(d) demonstrable competence in organizational management.

Firstly, as I indicated in an article of April 18, 2016, Dr. Tedros Adhanom lacks elemental management capacity. What would be the future of a good science-based organization without proper modern management? Because of this I worry that the Ethiopian candidate would only make worse the existing difficulties within WHO. If this state of affairs is allowed to occur, the first indication is that outside competing interests could exert pressure to spillover in areas of strict WHO mandate aim only to maximize their profits at the expense of public health; this may undo the organization and its universal mandate.

Secondly, WHO was founded on principles to improves the lives of peoples across the world. Nine of these principles in the Preamble show interlinkages with the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the basis of our faith in the WHO. It can be improved, but it cannot be replaced.

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