The end of a bromance?

Love is a fickle thing and so are political alliances.

Dr Tedros, the director-general of the World Health Organization, was backed by China because he rose to prominence in Ethiopia’s brutal TPLF regime – exactly the kindred spirits that the CCP likes.

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The War Between Ethiopia, Tigray and Eritrea (updated)
The Ethiopian military. Image source:

The rebellious government of Ethiopia’s Tigray region fired rockets at Asmara, Eritrea on November 14th, apparently aiming for the airport.

Sources suggest that at least two of the rockets hit their target and one of them injured two people.

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The sad and strange history of Eritrea

Review of I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation by Michela Wrong.

Every place has its story. Every tiny country, every little town has had its bizarre characters, unbelievable coincidences, moments in the spotlight and uncanny sagas that would make for a great novel, or series of novels.

Eritrea is no exception.

If it hadn’t already been taken, a more descriptive title for this book would have been A Series of Unfortunate Events.

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How does Tedros manipulate the WHO?

Part 1: Trust WHO?

Part 2: Who the hell is Tedros?

Part 3: How did China wrest control of the WHO?

Enter Tedros

As you know from Part 2, Tedros was a high-ranking member of the brutal TPLF junta that ruled Ethiopia for many years.  He was largely backed by African nations, while his main British rival was backed by the West.

There are reports that Chinese officials lobbied on Tedros’ behalf, largely using the carrot of aid.  They leveraged their African votes to get him elected. These efforts were probably essential, because his interview for the job was so embarrassing that it was treated as a joke in his home country.  YouTube, would you believe, has taken the clip down – but I found it!  One of the questions is hard to hear but the others are straightforward.  I’ve seen this before: Third World apparatchiks are terrible at answering questions because Read More

How China wrested control of the WHO

Part 1: Trust WHO?

Part 2: Who the hell is Tedros?


There is nothing new about nations or groups of nations gaining control of UN bodies in order to further their own interests.  For example, the US has tried to exercise control over the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure it finds in Syria just what America wants it to find.  They managed to kick out a former OPCW director general when his approach conflicted with US plans to invade Iraq.

The US once dominated the WHO to such an extent that controversies led the Soviet Union to walk out, from 1949 to 1956.  When it rejoined, it cooperated with the US and the WHO to help eradicate smallpox.

With its growing power, China has been seeking to extend its own influence across many domains, and part of this effort has included a push to increase its control over traditionally Western-dominated, international agencies.  One of those it targeted was the World Health Organization.

Why the WHO?  This is asking the wrong question.  China is pushing its soft power Read More

Friend or foe? The strange case of J.M. Coetzee

Book review of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, with reference to other books by him and some by Dostoevsky.

I have always felt that I ought to like Coetzee.  Ever since I was in uni and the tutor pointed out that one bit in Foe where it seems like Character 1 is knocking on Character 2’s door but if you read carefully it’s the other way around, I’ve had an admiration for linguists like savage Papuans have for sorcerers.  This led me to take Noam Chomsky seriously for too long.

But I didn’t actually trouble myself to Read More

Who is Dr Tedros?

This is Part 2.

Part 1 in this series is here: Trust WHO?

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, Read More

Self-destructive bloody-mindedness

[Written in Africa]

The boss suggested we use up some existing resources because we’re getting in some new supplies soon, anyway.  I reminded him that it took eighteen months last time to get all the approvals to import what we needed.  He said, don’t worry, I’ve got all the signatures already, including the most important one from the minister.  I shrugged and said, maybe wait until the boxes arrive, just in case.

Turns out he needed just one more signature, from the bank.

The bank said no.

Our plan was to Read More

The problem with African refugees

[Written in Africa]

A common topic of conversation in Eritrea is leaving.  People discuss how life here is  becoming more and more unendurable, and their ardent desire to get somewhere else.  I was talking with some colleagues about this and they said, it’s no good just sneaking across the border.  You’d only get to [Hated Neighbouring Country], and from there you can only travel to other parts of Africa.  You’d have to live in Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan.  There’s no point leaving unless you can get to Read More

The journey home

[Written in Africa]

What a lovely holiday.  It was far away, expensive to get there, but it was the right decision.  My compromise in doing one more year in Africa was that I would take a few breaks away in order to stay sane.  Last year I tried staying in country for longer periods to save money and after a six-month stretch I got to the state of mental and emotional exhaustion that I very nearly Read More

Mental health snapshot

[Written in Africa, March 2019.]

At the time of writing I have exactly four months to go in this country.

I’m curious about those studies of mental well-being around the world where people give themselves a subjective score out of 10 to rank their happiness.  Colombia always does well.

From about age 23 I’ve consistently assessed myself as having a baseline happiness, or contentedness, level of about Read More

Your taxes at work in Africa

[Written in Africa]

Most of my readers are American.  This one’s for you!

There is an American embassy here.  Why?  I don’t know.  These are not a people you can reason with.  The US no longer issues visas here because Bumfuckistan refuses to accept returning deportees.  The locals got quite irate about that.  Why?  Ah, see three sentences ago.

The US has what they call a Read More

True Believers

[Written in Africa]

Some time ago a wrote a post about my joyless life, and commenter Vincent referenced a blog post by some tourists who came here and painted a brighter picture of our existence.

It was the wrong country due to my deliberate misdirection, but it makes no difference.  You’d no doubt find similar posts about the actual country if you went searching, because some visitors really love the place.

We have a term for those kind of people: True Believers.

There used to be lots of True Believers, back during the separatist struggle and, most especially, in the early years of independence.  There was a lot to be positive about.

Unlike so many other African independence movements, this was a genuine Read More

Mornings polluted

Very early in the morning the city looks how it did ninety years ago.  In the dusky light the cracked concrete and peeled paint are less noticeable.  Recognizably European streets and buildings begin to materialize in the gloaming.  The only sounds are birds and the very occasional car which itself is almost ninety.

What a wonderful place this was!  Such perfect weather.  A town laid out like a work of art.  Every second house is listed by Unesco for its unique and innovative design.  The swaying palms and jacarandas that were planted way back then, now mature.  One can squint and imagine Read More