The global campaign to see Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom…

The global campaign to see Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom (PhD), as the next chief of the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) is in full swing, gossip observed. The Minister himself has been shuttling across the world, hardly spending time in his office over the past month, claims gossip. His bid for the office, if successful, will be the first to be taken not only by an Ethiopian but also someone from Africa.

Tedros’ candidacy was considered to have mileage when the Executive Committee of the African Union (AU) endorsed him back in February 2016; the vote would have been unanimous, were it not for the one he lost from Senegal. Yet, the Senegalese President, assured Ethiopian authorities, privately, that there could be a possibility of voting in his favour during the final tally, gossip disclosed.

Interestingly, despite the overwhelming endorsement by African countries, what will transpire when votes are actually cast is anyone’s guess, claims gossip. To say the least, Tedros’ candidacy is haunted by the past failure of Ethiopia’s candidates for regional and continental high offices. From Qonjit Sinegiorgis’s bid to get to the AU’s political commission to Teklewold Atnau’s attempt to run the PTA Bank and Sufian Ahmed’s ambition to claim the presidency of the African Development Bank, senior officials of this administration have had no luck, gossip recalls.

Many blame the administration’s lukewarm backing of its own people to hild international high offices, claims gossip. The lesson is that this time around should be different, which is why the Foreign Office opened a command centre at Menelik II Avenue, staffed with a full-time and dedicated team as well as budget. Yet, Tedros appears to be depending more on his international supporters than what he can find inside his own administration, claims gossip.

Ironically, he is up against candidates from rich and powerful countries, gossip noted. Suffice a remark last week by an Ambassador of an influential western country quipping to her colleagues in the diplomatic corps that it is very unlikely for Tedros to succeed against the candidate from France, gossip disclosed.

Tedros has an impressive resume of both academic and career background. While serving as Health Minister, he earned the status of being the darling of the west, primarily for putting his country on the success map of improved public health. He has also served as chairs of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. These are some of the new global initiatives competing with the WHO for resources, thus eroding its once celebrated global stature.

As much cannot be said on Tedros’ debut at the Foreign Office, where his stay so far has been marred by infighting within the party and the cabinet, gossip disclosed. He has to fight to keep his Ministry’s historical hold in foreign affairs, following a new portfolio the Prime Minister has created in his office and the appointment of Brehane G. Kirstos, former state minister for Foreign Affairs, as his special envoy for diplomatic matters as open as anything, claims gossip. It is revealing of the tension between Lorenzo Te’azaz Road and Menelik II Avenue, says gossip.

Despite his credentials, though, Tedros is pitting against Philippe Douste-Blazy (PhD), a former Health Minister of France and now Chairman of the Board of UNITAID, an international organisation working to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. Douste-Blazy has the full force of his government behind him, to the extent that his President, Francois Hollande, wrote a letter a few weeks ago to Prime Minister Hailemariam in an effort to make it clear where his country stands in relation to the vote scheduled for May 2017, gossip disclosed. Traditionally, the WHO is a forte for candidates from Asia and Europe; to Tedros’ advantage, there is a growing feeling that now should be the time to let someone from Africa or Latin America get the feel of the office, gossip observed.

Despite French persuasiveness and diplomatic manoeuvres, it will be interesting to see whether the African countries will live up to their earlier pledges. So much is however up in the air until the next year, when the newly selected director takes office on June 1, 2017, gossip foresees

Published on Jun 14,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 841]



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