No to Dr. Tedros Adhanom as next WHO director-general! PART I

23 Jan

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

“The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.”

Principle 7, WHO Constitution
The purpose of this article is to impress on the 34-member Executive Board (EB) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and plead with the membership not to entrust the next leadership of this singular and vitally important United Nations specialized agency in the health field into the hands of Dr. Tedros Adhanom. The board begins its ten-day 140th session this Monday January 23, 2017 at its headquarters in Geneva, one of its agenda items being the selection of the director-general and the modalities of the processes thereon.

The EB is expected to recommend three names to the World Health Assembly’s (WHA)70th session in May 2017. WHA’s choice of the scientist to the director-general post would be determined via voting by the 194 member states.

If Dr. Tedros Adhanom is elected as the ninth WHO director-general, his poor management skills, in addition to his indifference to principles, may endanger WHO’s standing. Selecting a management they cannot fully support would pose problems to several member states. That would not be in the interest of peoples of the world nor WHO, which sustains itself with the political, budgetary and financial support of the states members.

Moreover, in particular at this time no Executive Board member should wish this for the agency; in a world where many non-governmental organizations are also keeping watchful eye, the demand out there is greater transparency in WHO operations with a view to freeing the agency from the challenges of conflicts of interests.

As stated in Article 2 of the WHO constitution, one of the main functions of the organization is to act as “directing and coordinating authority on international health work.” Nonetheless, because of the huge monies involved in research and medicines, the pressure to weaken the organization is manifold. Withstanding this requires strong and principled leadership that derives its satisfaction from a job well done and service to humanity, not a TPLF propagandist.
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––Intimation to WHO governing bodies about Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s inadequacy to head the only global United Nations health organization

Already at this moment, WHO is in a difficult budgetary and financial situation. Director-General Margaret Chan made clear that in the context of the organization’s 2018-2019 proposed program budget not receiving sufficient support. On October 31st, 2016 she aptly described this situation in her statement at the financing dialogue mechanism noting:

“…[F]or this biennium, we face a double challenge. You have asked us to do more, especially through the health emergencies programme. At the same time, income from voluntary contributions has not increased. In the case of core voluntary contributions, income has decreased. The health emergencies programme is the most important underfunded programme, with only 56% of the required $485 million being funded.”

I fear the worst is yet to come.

Information available on Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s performances in offices in Ethiopia’s government ministries of health and foreign affairs attest to his terrible track-record of mismanagement as well as misuse of aid resources. He has been accused of funnelling health sector financial resources toward building the TPLF political and propaganda infrastructures.

Let it be known, I rely on my past exposure and experiences around international organizations and the international system to make it my duty now to share with others my conviction: Dr. Tedros Adhanom is likely to erode the WHO’s agreed upon exclusive mandate assumed by all since 1948, with no sense of guilt or inhibition. He is likely to open up WHO to even worse conflicts of interests. The day he does that, it should not come as surprise to anyone. He and his party have done it in Ethiopia in violation of our nation’s laws and sovereignty!

Attesting to Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s management nonskills are the repeated castigation the foreign ministry has received under his leadership, against which Auditor-General Gemechu Dubisso has repeatedly issued the ministry qualified report for one of the three specific reasons:

    (a) in 2015 for financial expenditures that do not comply with acceptable standards of governmental responsibility (Annex IV);

    (b) in 2014 and 2013, singling it out as one of the offices whose receipts and stubs on unauthorized expenditures were rejected because of their inadequate integrity (Annex IV); and,

    (c) further the ministry was also considered one of the government department that over the years had been unwilling to implement corrective actions recommended by the Office of the Auditor-General (OFAG) (Annex III).

Bad tooth can be thrown away. What can one do when confronted by powerful people that neither have respect for the law nor love of country, or the fear of God in their hearts?

Let me hasten also to add here that no member of the WHO Executive Board would allow this lack of accountability and national lawlessness to contaminate WHO’s present and future operations. I urge everyone to note that in Ethiopia there have always been huge discrepancies between achievements and rhetorics, fiction and reality, while a writer with world recognition has yet to emerge. Those the TPLF describes as implementation plans are the official route for funds flowing into TPLF pockets and out of the country.

In addition, rules and regulations change in midstream, denying citizens possibilities for human development. Many manufacturing plants have been built, as the old ones continue. The difference is that the new ones die or close faster, after a small try. In some instances, investors are cheated with false promises; some of them close the factory and go back home. Turkish textile manufacturers stand in the first row on this, as the largest in group number. Yes, they too have been closing one by one.

Because of this, against the claim of double-digit growth, the empty numbers have failed to put their marks on the lives of one of the world’s poorest populations. The people are helpless victims of the repressive grips of the worst dictatorship on the planet, whose power and villa, factories and condo-hungry elites have chewed away a poor nation’s opportunities!

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, candidate to the DG post is one of its architects of this system and its defender.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom hardly is a believer in human solidarity, nor in the nine WHO principles, which are perched at the opening pages of the organization’s constitution. They point to responsibilities of states, government officials and individual citizens. Of late, Dr. Tedros Adhanom has started talking at meetings acknowledging health as a human rights. I welcome the revelation. As a politburo member, why did he fail to ever raise this and discuss as a national failure, recalling that there are many that have been denied of health services, or foreign aid for health being chewed by its political cadres?

In keeping with the WHO Constitution, I wrote commentary in a January 10, 2017 article underligning the uncertainty of Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s loaylty to WHO principles. This is against the backdrop of the ruling party’s denial of justice to Ethiopians, he collaborating in there, a situation in which medical treatments are denied to prisoners, most of them activists supporting freedom and democracy for Ethiopians, etc.

The most notorious was refusal of exit visa to a dying patient from torture and beatings, who for almost two years was refused to get medical help abroad, despite his doctors and the medical board’s recommendation to fly abroad for treatment. His ordeal found closure only a week ago, arriving in the United States. Months ago, because of this, I suggested to the candidate to withdraw his candidacy.

As its characteristic trait, the TPLF has now directed its attention using the martial law it imposed on the country last October to perpetratte onslaughts to break a generartion of the nation’s youth. Human rights groups report about the harshness of prolonged imprisonments in concentration camps, those dismissed from schools and universities because they demanded respect for their rights, or those eliminated in broad daylight or in the dark.

The TPLF is the party from which Tedros Adhanom is coming, and a voting member of its politburo, who has been a participant in all its crimes.

Regarding management and utilization of international aid in the health sector, one interesting instructive lesson illustrates Tedros Adhanom’s and the TPLF anomaly. In April 2016, The Ethiopian Herald presented a feature article on health centers. It is a story of claim by the TPLF regime about building 16,251 health centers across Ethiopia with donor funds; the corruption was massive. However, unlike Uganda and Kenya, donors did not turn red; nor were there any words of bother, including from those that were subcontracted from Europe to do the construction work.

At the time, philanthropic health sector aid had flourished in Ethiopia, albeit for a brief: Most importantly, its ephemeral height also coincided with Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s tenure as the minister of health (2005-2012). In 2010-2011, the health grant portfolio from the Global Fund amounted $1,306 million. And yes, I don’t know whether it is a fluke or divine intervention, The Herald reported about government claim of so many health centers financed by wealthy donors’ funds, only 3,335 health centers, or 20.5 percent, were functional.

So many questions come to mind: Where did the money go? Did the minister say anything about it? Did he ever call the financial chiefs and discuss the problem? Who is the beneficiary that delivered the shoddy stuff with aid money? Could that be the reason why the TPLF loves construction of anything and everything – schools, universities, roads, bridges, homes, power generation, telecommunications, spaceships, etc – any and all forms of construction? Did I hear an expert once saying the mills of ‘Ethiopia’s growth’, (did he mean TPLF enrichment), would suddenly stop if the TPLF could not find for half a year anything to build or construct? Aren’t the TPLF members all owners of the construction companies, who receive most construction contracts?

Note that I do not believe Dr. T. Adhanom who loves travel and good time had pocketed anything from this. His problem was his failure to be a good and responsible manager of such huge resources!

Interestingly, state built schools and universities share same characteristics. To their credit, Global Fund auditors had identified some of them in their April 2012 report on their Ethiopia projects – either they have no water, or supply of power or the choice of building sites are selected haphazardly, to expose occupants to the elements. I recall the minister visiting districts and construction of health centers. How did he or his assistants miss any of this?

In construction, irresponsibility has become a national attribute. For instance, none of the brand new waterless and toiletless universities in the southwest (one must be in Gambella), it may be true also for the health facilities they built there. The grapevines have it that both university students of both sexes have to walk down to a river bank, unload themselves and wash! How suitable is this for education or health services? Did they ever think of the consequent implications such habituations entail – especially over time via diminution of the individual’s behavioral and psychological responses?

sorry [Click to magnify] After I wrote a commentary on my blog, partly covering this anomaly, since it is an ‘existential threat’ to the survival of the corrupt TPLF, the page I accessed vanished from the planet once and for all. In the age of the Internet, with an accompanying apology The Ethiopian Herald alleges it does not keep records older than 30 days, a polite way of informing readers how long and powerful the hand of the minister has been.

On their part, due diligence kicking in the Global Fund, auditors reported, at least, two types of failures regarding the construction with donor monies of health facilities in Ethiopia:

    (a) of 77 sites of newly constructed health centers 71 percent did not have access to water; 32 percent have functioning toilets; 53 percent had major cracks in the floor and 91 percent had leaking roofs

    (b) of the ‘functional’ health centers only 14 percent had equipment such as microscopes and delivery beds; only 12 percent had functional drug stores and none of the laboratories had work surfaces.

In this April 19, 2012 report, containing the overall conclusion about performance of Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria operations in Ethiopia during the tenure of Dr. Tedros Adhanom as Minister of Health, General Manager and Inspector General John Parsons arrived at the following conclusion:

    Overall Conclusion

    46. 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 [Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission] reflected in poor performance against grant targets. A total of USD165,393,027 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.”

Of course, a country that has longer lease of life as a state has been reduced as a lawless jungle for financial management, thanks to the TPLF. It could never differentiate authorized expenditures from expenditures without authorization. That is why the Fund has demanded Ethiopia to reimburse the Global Fund with $7 million spent without authorization. Here is what the picture looks like, even during Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s stewardship as chairperson of the Global Fund:

From Audit Reports and Diagnostic Review issued by the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General on 20 April 2012 (Credit: GF)

From Audit Reports and Diagnostic Review issued by the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General on 20 April 2012 (Credit: GF)


It is inevitable that, in a world where conflicts of interests are real whose stings during the vaccine development against the H1N1 pandemic had hurt WHO – which it has acknowledged and ever since been working to control the situation – it is imperative that its work should be handled by able and principled leadership.

The WHO problem is aptly explained once by a WHO director of research Dr Tikki Pang who acknowledged, “The lack of time and the shortage of information and of money can sometimes compromise the work of the WHO.”

Judging by his experiences in the Ethiopian government, as minister of health (2005-2012) and later foreign minister (2012-2016), I do not believe that the legacy Dr. Tedros Adhanom had left behind could attest he to make a selfless, scientist and good manager as WHO director-general.

In addition to him not being a medical doctor, in an organization such as WHO constantly beset by conflicts of interests problems from varying angles, Dr. Tedros Adhanom would only prove a true partisan in the political sense – unfortunately with no worthy cause or principles. His thin management records have followed him all over, which is a serious setback for any leader in an international organization. His lack of gift of loyalty to principles make matters worse.

In their wisdom, the WHO member states since 1948 – beginning with the first director-general Dr. B. Chisholm to the present Dr. Margaret Chan – have appointed only medical doctors. Some of these leaders have additional qualifications, such as management, or practical administration. This arrangement has worked well for nearly 70 years now and it must be continued. Moreover, of the six candidates to the post of director-general at present five of them also happen to be medical doctors.

On the other hand, Dr. Tedros Adhanom has studied: Biology (BSc) from Asmara University (1986); Immunology of Infectious Diseases (MSc) from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 2000, and Community Health from Nottingham University (PhD) in later years. He has been far away from the profession cocooned in a political bureaucracy, if he were even to be considered a scientist.

While a scientist, a careful and responsible WHO leadership can serve the interests of all peoples, in keeping with the WHO Constitution and the United Nations Charter.
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Does Dr. Tedros Adhanom have the requisite qualifications to become next WHO Director-General?

Throughout 2016, after the African Union (AU) at its 26th summit declared its support for Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy in January 2016 to become WHO’s ninth director-general, I have been tirelessly campaigning for his rejection by the EB in its current session, or the World Health Assembly (WHA) gratefully dropping him in May 2017.

It is strongly resented by many professionals that the AU should simply back Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy, without even turning a leaf to examine his qualifications, content with the geographical rotation practices that rolls in anyone with close ties with the political leadership to be recommended to international organizations.

Geographical rotation is vitally important so long as it opens the door for highly qualified individuals to avail their skills in the service of humanity, in this case, in keeping with the WHO’s constitutional objectives toward “the fullest attainment of health” to the peoples of the world. At no time could geographical rotation could serve as substitute, in this case, for the professionalism of WHO’s director-general as a scientist, his managerial skills and personal integrity the WHO Constitution is unmistakably clear about.

The TPLF literally bought Africa’s decision on Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy. It transported the ministerial meeting from Addis Abeba to Mekelle for the first time away from AU’s headquarters, without the organization as a political forum deciding, as per the headquarters agreement, whether its ministerial delegations should travel to Mekelle as guests of the Tigray regional state – home of the ruling party and for the minister – in his case as and ‘adopted son’ as an Eritrean. Of course, Ethiopia is a headquarters country and that it could manipulate (TPLF special gift) African delegations, so long as there are all sorts of treats.

As discussed in my April 18, 2016 article, of course the AU consented announcing in its press release that the foreign ministers were in a retreat at Mekelle as hosts of the then foreign minister, now aspiring the WHO post. Of course, after lots of wining and dining, it was learned it did not take long before the ministers had given their political support for Dr. T Adhanom’s candidacy.

It goes without saying that invariably the AU has been co-conspirator in the crimes of African governments, most of whom have been known to violate the respective national laws, international law, the Charter of the United Nations and WHO’s Constitution, given the human rights crisis in Africa especially in Ethiopia.

In particular Dr. Tedros Adhanom has engaged in a mammoth campaign of lies and disinformation with a view to covering up the crimes of the TPLF. That also is an additional reason why I was and am still opposed to his candidacy to the highest post at WHO. In the year just out, I have tried to list some strong reasons for that.

Suffice to suggest for readers to watch, for instance, the candidate’s July 28, 2015 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. It is littered with misrepresentations and fabrications. Among others, for instance, his efforts at cover up of his regime’s election stealing, the flagrant human rights violations occurring in the country, the utter disregard of citizens’ freedoms and rights, torture and killings and imprisonment of journalists, etc. One could see that a journalist had tried to counter, citing testimonies, including US officials from the president to his national security advisor.

As foreign minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom has been an agent of repression. He has been defending records of the worst human rights violations in Ethiopian history that for the past year alone, according to Human Rights Watch, clearly showing how profound the danger in Ethiopia has become to the country’s continuity, given the breakdwon in state-civil society relations.

Instead of finding solutions to the country’s political problems, according to AfricaNews, Dr. Tedros Adhanom turned to accusing Ethiopians in the diaspora, Human Rights Watch alleging ‘Human Rights Watch encourages opposition violence in Ethiopia.’

Dr. Tedros Adhanom heartlessly tried to wash away all of these, under the pretext of national inexperience and institutional weakness after quarter century in power, as can be seen in the video here. This has not helped Ethiopia overcome TPLF’s political problems.

In fact, six months after the stolen election and about two months after former President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia ever since has found itself confronted by popular anger, in which hundreds of people have been killed, thousands injured and several thousands in concentration camps and an unknown number just being reduced to be referred as’the disappeared’.

Because of these, there is an outstanding case of possibly war crime the United Nations has sensed in Ethiopia – if only it were free – after the TPLF regime repeatedly shot and killed peaceful protesters. However, relying on the support of the United States and a few others, the TPLF regime has refused investigation by UN experts the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has demanded.

By constantly pumping false propaganda and testimonies about this terrible situation of state violence in the country, the Ethiopian candidate to the WHO top post has mortgaged the rights and freedoms of Ethiopians, as he enjoys luxurious life and boundless power. Dr. Tedros Adhanom has little inhibition about misrepresenting especially matters he thinks are beneficial to his party, notwithstanding those involve violations of national laws and international law, or loss of lives or freedoms of citizens. In other words, in offices he has worked he too has engaged in ethnic discrimination.

This must inform any observer that the man has enormous shortcomings, be it from point of view of professional competence or as pertains to questions of principles and integrity.

I have discussed these problems in my several articles, with a view to enabling WHO governing bodies to take the appropriate course of action in rejecting him.

3 Responses to “No to Dr. Tedros Adhanom as next WHO director-general! PART I”

  1. genene shenkoru January 23, 2017 at 11:37 #

    Educative and well documented piece of work.


  2. Abiyou January 23, 2017 at 20:45 #

    Great article.

    I hope that you will be able to write such a well-researched material on other Ethiopian politicians, including the opposition.

    By the way, if a post is removed from a particular site (for instance, The Ethiopian Herald; retention period of “30 days”), chances are that Google has already indexed that post. Therefore, you should be able to find anything by looking in the “Cache” of that removed link while searching in Google.

    I just did a search using the title indicated and found several posts. Click here to see the posts:

    How much time did you spend on this article? Thank you again for all your effort.


    • THE ETHIOPIA OBSERVATORY January 24, 2017 at 14:51 #

      The Editor:

      Thanks for your words of encouragement and the ‘search’ enlightenment too!


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