Who is Dr Tedros?

This is Part 2.

Part 1 in this series is here: Trust WHO?

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In my previous post, Trust WHO?, I documented the corruption and incompetence of the World Health Organization.  If you find anyone still defending those clowns, please link them to that article.  And if that’s not enough, I’ve found more dirt on them since, including ignoring tip-offs from Taiwan to the WHO in December of human-to-human transmissions of a deadly virus in Wuhan.  Instead, the WHO waited until they were officially informed of this by the Chinese government on 21 January.

You see this present catastrophe the world is in?  This is why.  It is not an act of God.  It is an infection that could have been tightly contained if Chinese authorities and the WHO had acted responsibly and professionally.

However, I admitted in the article to being unable to identify the source of China’s power over the WHO.  After all, they’d stumped up only $6 million in funding, which is only enough for a few modest junkets with lovers for high-ranking staffers.  The United States, despite Obama-era cutbacks, was still the largest contributor with total donations of $281 million.

I’ve now figured out how China exercises such immense control over Tedros and the WHO.  To understand, it helps to first learn a little of the history and ethnography of highland East Africa.

Many will already know that Ethiopia was the only major African nation to never be conquered by Europeans, except for a very brief spell under the Italians who attacked from Eritrea.  You might also know that the great Ethiopian king, Haile Selassie, is worshiped by Rastafarians as the Messiah returned to Earth.

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What you might not know is that Haile I was an emperor, not a king.  He was Amharic, and enjoyed a feudal rein over other ethnic groups.  After his re-installation at the end of WWII, he was given Eritrea, which included many Tigrinya people together with eight other ethnic groups.  One of these, straddling the former border, was the Tigray.

These are best understood as language and cultural groups rather than tribes, as they are not organized as tribes are.  The three groups are very similar.  They are predominantly Orthodox Christians, with a minority of Muslims.  Their music has a similar beat.  Their traditional clothes are nearly identical.  They braid their hair in similar styles.

This is Amharic music:

This is Tigrinya music:

This is Tigray music:

So they’re all mates and get along pretty well, huh?

That has not always been the case.

Haile Selassie, so beloved by the Rastas, treated his non-Amharic subjects much like Europeans did colonized Africans.  And that is being generous.  When he gained control of Eritrea, instead of allowing local governance as demanded by the UN-mandated federal system, he instead arrested everyone involved and began treating the territory as just another conquered land.

Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, had been the industrial centre of East Africa, with most of its exports heading to Ethiopia.  Haile decided to instead forcibly export all of Asmara’s productive machinery to Addis Ababa.  Asmara was gutted.  In addition, he conducted horrific crimes against any group that opposed his rule, in Eritrea or elsewhere.  He pioneered the technique of failing to alleviate famines if they occurred among rival ethnic groups, including the Tigray.

Finally the supposed communists, the Derg, deposed the king and took over Ethiopia.  There were early hopes, but the Derg turned out to be even worse than Haile, bringing even greater suffering and slaughter to Eritrea and other places.  They were the mob in control when the 1983-185 famine occurred, again afflicting the Tigray, and the Derg were not too keen to stop it.  They were not so strictly Amharic as the former regime had been, but were still predominantly so.  Ethnic rivals starving?  Wonderful!

It was in Asmara, during Haile’s rule, that our hero was born: Dr. Tedros.  His name follows the highland tradition.  In full, it is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  The first name is his own, the second is his father’s first name and the third is his grandfather’s first name.  For this reason, highlanders mostly go by their title plus first name, hence he is properly Dr. Tedros, not Dr. Ghebreyesus.  This was the same for me: I was called Mr. Nikolai, not Mr. Vladivostok.  If the full name is required, it is usually given as the first two names, with the use of all three being reserved for official documents.

Tedros is Tigray, and this is vital to our whole story.  The Tigray mostly come from outside Asmara, but often worked there as servants or menial labourers for the better-educated Tigrinya.  To some extent they were looked down upon by the Tigrinya, but not hated.  The Amharic people were their common enemy.

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Dr. Tedros got his Bachelor of Science (Biology) from the University of Asmara, and then joined the Derg as a junior public health specialist.  From the same source:

He has a Master’s of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Ph.D. in Community Health from the University of Nottingham.

You’ll notice that he’s not a medical doctor.  All the other candidates for head of the WHO were.

We’ll come back to Tedros, but first, what happened to the Derg?  It’s a bloody interesting story.

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front were holed up in a tiny corner of the north, being bombarded daily by the Soviet-backed Derg.  But they were not the Derg’s only enemy: nearby, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front were also fighting against the regime.  Both claimed to be the true communists, and they were cooperating.  The EPLF had much more experience and education, so as in the Tigrinya-Tigray relationship in Asmara, they acted as an older brother to the Tigray, showing them the ropes.  The Tigray probably detected some condescension.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  Once the Soviet Union collapsed, the Derg was left exposed.  The EPLF grabbed the initiative, and in a series of unlikely victories, managed to rapidly win back control of the whole of Eritrea.

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But we’re not up to the weird bit, yet  With EPLF support, the TPLF was making headway in its own struggle.  Not only did they liberate the Tigray region from the Ethiopian government – they reached Addis, overthrew the Derg, and took control of the entire country.

Their EPLF backers, not expecting to be popular in Ethiopia, quietly moved back to Eritrea immediately afterwards.  The TPLF formed the new Ethiopian government.

And now our friend Tedros reenters the story.  Somehow, over time, he transitioned from Derg bureaucrat to the TPLF Minister for Health, and later Foreign minister.

If you read accounts of his achievements at this time, you’ll hear two very different stories, depending on your source.

Here is the positive story:

During his time as Minister of Health, deaths from malaria decreased by 50%, new AIDS infections by about 90%, and infant mortality by almost 30%.

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That comes from his own campaign to be leader of the WHO.  The figures are from official (TPLF) statistics.

And then there’s the negative story.

The Tigray, long abused, neglected and starved by Amharic rulers, thought it was about time they got a piece of the pie.  A big piece.  All of it.  They acted like Haile I in reverse, using all national and donated resources to, as they saw it, develop their own people and thereby redress historic wrongs.  Other ethnic groups (not just the Amhara) were unhappy about this, but any resistance was brutally crushed.

Following are the main allegations that directly involve Dr. Tedros:

Scandal One

He covered up three cholera outbreaks.  This information was brought forth by an advisor to a rival candidate for director general, but is backed up by Ethiopian sources.

Why would a Health Minister do that?  Declaring an outbreak and notifying the WHO can help to get funds and equipment to battle the disease.

The outbreak occurred in an Amharic area.  Just as the Derg didn’t care if its enemies were starving, perhaps the TPLF didn’t care if its old colonizers were dying of cholera.  Being familiar with the culture, I find this plausible.  Highland grudges run deep and hard.  The TPLF once named the Amhara as their number one enemy.

Outbreaks among another group, the Oromo, may have been ignored due to the anti-TPLF campaign present there.  The fear of trade embargoes and reduced tourism may also have been factors.  Had the trouble emerged among the Tigray, I’m pretty sure help would have soon been on the way.

Scandal Two

On Tedros’ watch, foreign-funded food aid was provided only to those who sided with the ruling TPLF.

Scandal Three

On his watch, there was significant corruption, nepotism and favouritism towards well-connected people in the distribution of medical resources and positions, leading to a significant drop in foreign donations, especially a 79% cut in US assistance.  Read the linked page in full for all the glorious details.

In addition, an audit by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria found substandard construction of health facilities and weak accounting systems.  They asked for a $7 million refund.

Scandal Four

Later as foreign minister, he negotiated the kidnap of Ethiopian dissidents in Yemen for torture back home.

General TPLF Scandals

Given his very high position in the TPLF (he is sometimes described as their previous Number 3, now Number 6), he is deeply implicated in, and helped cover up, gross human rights violations by the TPLF, including repressing peaceful protests, killing civilians, political and economic repression, imprisoning journalists, closing newspapers, the imprisonment, torture and rape of dissidents and opposition leaders.  The source is as for the kidnapping and several other accusations – it’s an open letter by many prominent Ethiopians against his appointment to the WHO.

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So, who’s right and who’s wrong?  The many crimes of the TPLF are a matter of public record, and there’s no way, as a top minister, he could have not known what was going on, when the average man in the street knew.  It seems that he still has supporters among the Tigray, but everyone else in Ethiopia hates his guts.

You can see why the history lesson was essential.

After leading this charmed and privileged life, there was finally a stroke of bad luck for poor Dr. Tedros.  The TPLF wanted him to get the top job at the WHO in order to strengthen its influence within UN circles, and campaigned on his behalf.  However, just before he was appointed, the TPLF lost power in Ethiopia and the new, Oromo Prime Minister was selected.  Previous, non-Tigray prime ministers were TPLF puppets but this one is not.  Hence, the present Ethiopian government is not overly fond of its homegrown hero, Dr. Tedros.  In fact, the biggest campaign for his removal comes from embittered rivals and victims of the TPLF rein of terror in his own country.

But why was China supporting Dr. Tedros, aside from their shared political philosophy of ethnic domination and soulless butchery?  And why has the WHO under his leadership been toadying up to China to such a ridiculous extent?

Let’s save that sorry saga for the next installment.

Next in this series: How China wrested control of the WHO.


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