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Ethiopia’s Cholera-Denying Candidate to Lead the World's Top Health Body Is Taking a Battering Online

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia, speaks at Chatham House. Photo by Chatham House via Wikipedia. CC BY 2.0

Thousands of Tweets, several open letters and a relentless online campaign have dogged Ethiopia's candidate for the World Health Organization Director-General position, Tedros Adahanom, as member states prepare to vote on May 23, 2017. But why do Ethiopians dislike him so much?

With support from the Ethiopian government, Mr. Adahanom has led a robust and elaborate campaign, making it through to the last round of candidates; though the overall sources of his campaign funds remain shrouded in secrecy.

While the election for the Director-General of the WHO is largely an unexciting, institutional affair, Ethiopians fierce online opposition has added an interesting sub-plot as some of Adahanom’s controversies come to light.

Their relentless campaign might also have prompted media to shed light on Adahanom’s controversies.

The New York Times for instance revealed that Adahanom covered up a cholera outbreak during his tenure as Ethiopia’s health minister.

A few days later, the Washington Post reported that Adahanom “didn’t like mentioning a certain disease”.

Lancet, a respected British medical journal published a short, sharp letter alleging Adahanom’s indifference towards deals struck by the Ethiopian authorities with Japanese and British tobacco companies. In the letter, Frank Ashall of the Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative said:

Given the aforesaid issues, I believe that Tedros is not the right candidate that WHO needs to take it forward.

Adahanom has accused his fellow candidate Dr. David Nabarro of an imperialistic attitude but has not refuted any of the claims that have made his candidacy controversial.

Meanwhile, in the final few days of the campaign, Adahanom's opponents have been reinforced.

An Olympic medalist, Feyisa Lelisa, who was exiled after he defiantly protested against the Ethiopian government at the Rio Olympics asked Adahanom to drop out of the race and apologize to the people of Ethiopia for his role in human rights abuses and covering up cholera outbreaks as Ethiopia’s minister of health. Lelisa made the request in an Op-Ed for Al-Jazeera.

Reeyot Alemu, an award-winning journalist wrote an open letter protesting Adahanom’s candidacy to the World Health Assembly which is set to meet on May 22 in Geneva, Switzerland.

She wrote:

The reason why I am writing to you today is not to express self-pity. It is because I strongly believe that the World Health Organization (WHO), an important global institution, is on the verge of falling into the abyss of scandal. I fear that WHO’s reputation will be tarnished and credibility questioned if it elects Dr. Tedros Adhanom. The fact that Dr. Adhanom, one of the top human rights violators making life miserable to the people of Ethiopia, has managed to be in the last three candidates, bidding to take over the position of Director-General, is very troubling and alarming.

Yet another prominent opposition politician, Habtamu Ayalew, who was banned from leaving Ethiopia for medical treatment said:

I cannot imagine a person who refused treatment to a victim of torture seeks to run the global health institution

Adahanom’s team have fought back, however, arguing it is Africa’s turn to lead WHO:

42 comments

  • Belay Tesfay

    I want to ask the IN, USA, EU & AU, whenever people together shouting and complaining against one who is one of the Mafia Criminals group TPLF to be candidate of WHO why these Organisations & Governments don’t want to listen the basic cries of this people & take action automatically…

  • Belay Tesfay

    I want to ask the US, UN, EU & AU why the people in the Horn of Africa & elsewhere, shouting & complaining against the WHO candidate TEDROS A. one of the smallest mafia group Woyane ( TPLF ) killing and torturing many people in Ethiopia, these Organisations & Governments don’t listen to the basic cries of the people & take immediate action…

  • weslataw

    He is non-medical doctor and he doesn’t know the symptoms of Cholera

  • Samson

    Genocide criminal tedros adhanom must be arrested at the International Criminal Court

  • Mark

    Dr. Tedros is the best candidate for this position.

    The so called opposition individuals reside in Europe and America and they are sponsored by Ethiopian enemies such as the Eritrean government.

    In fact many of the individuals who are posting negative comments are Eritreans who are claiming to be Ethiopians.

  • Mike ET

    Dr. Tedros is not qualified to lead WHO!
    Why? He comes off as being a good person, but he is a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. He is a member of a government that has denied freedom for close to 100M people in Ethiopia. He has aligned himself with people that have blood on their hands. How can the UN name a WHO head that has been complacent in the killing and torturing of many lives? . Dr. Tedros represents people who will do anything they can to stay in power. There is no peace in Ethiopia, only silence. He is part of a racist government that is constantly playing divide and conquer games and inciting ethnic violence. He only temporally left the government so he can distance himself while he is running for this UN position, if he was an honest man he would have kept his job in this critical moment where the government has declared state of emergency, stand on that record. His campaign is being funded by the government, and they will expect favorable treatment. Why the UN would want to be associated with such individual is beyond belief, he will bring shame and embarrassment to this great organization. He will be an embattled leader wherever he goes, and it will be contrary and an obstacle to the mission. His deeds and associations prove he is the least qualified candidate for this position.
    When someone applies for a job he is expected to provide references, in this case one of the major references is the people of Ethiopia who do not want Dr. Tedros to be elevated to this high position in the UN.

  • Yem Habesha

    This current generation is with alot of opportunities to be educated and live a better life, but the issues is we are with lack of patience and rationalism.
    Yes, Tedy was one of the top EPRDF leaders, an organization with alot of faults. But who am I to judge his competence to run the WHO. And wheather he is going to lead the WHO or not, it’s has barely impact on our beloved country situation.
    A small handful people can lead and guide this full of potential generation by being a true patriot, honest and rational, not through hostile and hate, as it never be effective.
    Gud luck to Teddy
    May the Almighty God bless land of Habesha.

  • Thomas

    Please UN officials don’t make another error!!! Your candidate Dr Tedros Adhanom is a war criminal!! Please check with your own UN Office of Human Right chief honorable Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinan, and on his recent visit to Ethiopia, he challenged Dr Tedros Adhanom’s administration to be complaint with UN for Independent evaluation for the act of genocide.

  • Thomas

    He is a member of a government that has denied freedom for close to 100M people in Ethiopia. He has aligned himself with people that have blood on their hands. How can the UN name a WHO head that has been complacent in the killing and torturing of many lives? . Dr. Tedros represents people who will do anything they can to stay in power. There is no peace in Ethiopia, only silence. He is part of a racist government that is constantly playing divide and conquer games and inciting ethnic violence.

  • Dawit

    This guy is a member of a terrorist organization that has been terrorizing Ethiopians for a long time. Giving him this position is an insult to his victims. https://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/tigray-peoples-liberation-front-tplf

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