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Global Voices: As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups. #WHA70 May 16, 2017

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As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups

A Unicef-supported pump in Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In January 2017, when Ethiopia’s candidate for director-general of World Health Organization, Tedros Adahanom, stormed to the top of the final three candidates — beating out six other candidates — it was a high time for Ethiopia’s government.

Although Adahanom had faced ferocious opposition from his fellow citizens, he has largely made it through unscathed, giving a propaganda victory for Ethiopian state media. With his well-funded campaign, Adahanom has traveled to more than 120 countries, and his supporters felt confident that his election is all but a matter of time.

Then on May 13, the New York Times ran a story reporting that a “prominent global health expert” had accused Adahanom of concealing three cholera epidemics from 2008 to 2011 during his tenure as Ethiopia’s health minister. Lawrence O. Gostin made the allegations; he is an informal adviser to one of Adahanom’s opponents in the director-general race, the UK’s David Nabarro, but Nabarro told the New York Times that he had not instructed Gostin to make the accusations on his behalf.

Finally! The @NYTimes calls out @WHO DG candidate @DrTedros for covering up cholera epidemic using the euphemism of Acute Water Diarrhea. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/863525012258656257 

Abebe Gellaw, a prominent Ethiopian journalist in the diaspora, wrote on Facebook that it was only the beginning:

New York Times has a hard-hitting article on Tedros Adhanom. Tedros says it is a “smear campaign”. But the revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot more will come out in the next few days…

A screenshot of the New York Times article on Tedros Adahanom. Click the image to read the story on nytimes.com

The explosive article made Adahanom and his supporters defensive while it created a sense of vindication for his opponents. Adahanom has denied the allegations. A former Reuters journalist who wrote Ethiopia’s cholera outbreak in 2009, however, responded on Twitter that the accusations as detailed in the New York Times story was consistent with what he had seen.

In 2009, when Tedros was health minister, I obtained minutes of an NGO/UN meeting, in which a cholera outbreak was acknowledged.

NGOs, UN and government refused to comment. And UN officials pressured me not to run story. Full story here: http://reut.rs/2pLNcz5 

Photo published for Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases have infected 18,000 people in Ethiopia over the last three weeks in many parts of the country, including the capital Addis Ababa, according to a document seen…

reuters.com

At the time, UN officials regularly complained in private that lack of acknowledgement from govt stopped them getting more aid in.

In responding to the allegations, Adahanom accused Nabarro’s camp of engaging in smear campaign with imperialistic intentions. Pro-government groups took this line of accusation even further, claiming Nabarro is working with Ethiopian opposition groups that are labeled as “terrorists.”

Ethiopia’s semi-official news outlet accuses the current special advisor to the UN Secretary General, Dr. David Navarro with terrorism.

😳 https://twitter.com/abbaacabsa/status/863805131342700545 

Since April 2014, a popular protest movement in Ethiopia has challenged the government, which in turn has responded brutally. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 people have died, and thousands of political opponents and hundreds of dissidents have been accused of terrorism. Since October 2016, authorities have imposed some of the world’s toughest censorship laws after it declared a state of emergency.

Now, the tactic of calling opponents “terrorists” has spilled over Ethiopia’s borders and might create blowback for Adahanom as his record is examined critically by international media.

The health ministers of WHO member states will vote for the new director-general on May 23, 2017.

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WHO Director General Nominee Tedros Adhanom Represents Ethiopia’s Repressive Regime. #WHA70 May 5, 2017

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AP News: UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF: ETHIOPIA BLOCKED ACCESS TO PROTEST AREAS

For Opponents, WHO Director General Nominee Tedros Adhanom Represents Ethiopia’s Repressive Government

Some Ethiopians are fiercely campaigning against Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s candidate to replace Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, as director general of World Health Organization, just a few weeks before member states are set to vote on the final three candidates.

Tedros, a former Ethiopian foreign and health minister, along with Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar and the UK’s David Nabarro are the three director-general nominees who made the cut from a larger pool of candidates in January.

Tedros, who is running a well-funded campaign, is considered as a prime contender in the race. His candidacy was endorsed by the African Union, and just last week he picked up an endorsement of Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s former international development secretary.

However, he is facing unrelenting opposition from his own citizens.

Ethiopians who feel marginalized by their country’s government are campaigning hard against him online, arguing he should not be elected because he represents the interests of Ethiopia’s autocratic ruling elites and not the people.

The irony is beyond tragic. The person who is responsible for the crimes against humanity in is running for !

They have set up online petition pages against Tedros and produced a documentary film detailing what they consider to be his failures and his alleged mismanagement of funds while he was Ethiopia’s health minister.

Tedros Adhanom presided and participated in the biggest financial corruption scandal of misusing Global fund in Ethiopia.

They have organized Twitter campaigns under a hashtag #NoTedros4WHO to organize conversations surrounding the topic. To make his Ethiopian government profile at the top of the public’s consciousness, his opponents have share detailed research that accuses Tedros of inefficiencies, misreporting, and exaggerations of his achievements when he used to serve in Ethiopia.

However, amid fears that the campaign might diminish his chances, government groups are also running a parallel campaign supporting his candidacy. They have downplayed the opposition as unpatriotic, mean-spirited and trivial jealousy.

Since April 2014, a popular protest movement in Ethiopia has challenged the government, which has responded brutally. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 people have died, and thousands of political opponents and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned and tortured. Since October 2016, authorities have imposed some of the world’s toughest censorship laws after it declared a state of emergency.

The role of ethnic politics

Some of Tedros’ detractors say they oppose his candidacy because of his alleged incompetence. But a big part of what drives the fierce opposition to Tedros is the logic of ethnic politics.

Tedros holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham in community health. He studied biology at Asmera University before he completed a master’s degree in immunology of infectious diseases in London.

When people hear his name, as qualified as he may be, his opponents associate him with a repressive Ethiopian government that has killed people, jailed thousands of political opponents, and imprisoned and tortured dissidents.

His meteoric rise to power started soon after he finished his Ph.D. in 1999 when he was tasked to lead the Tigray region’s health department. After two short years in Tigray, he was promoted to Ethiopia’s minister for health by the late prime minister Meles Zenawi, a Tigrayan himself. In 2012 when Meles Zenawi died, Tedros became Ethiopia’s foreign minister.

Tigray is one of the nine regional states that are federated based on ethnolinguistic compositions.

Over the past 26 years, the Tigrayan elites have taken center stage in Ethiopia’s political affairs, largely due to their control of the military, security and the economy of Ethiopia. Though accounting for only 6% of Ethiopia’s population, all senior positions of country’s military and security and the most meaningful positions in state institutions are packed by Tigrayan elites. This has always been a sore point with the elites of the Oromo and Amhara ethnicities, who together comprise 65% of Ethiopia’s population.

Ethiopia’s government has used authoritarian tactics against its people and the country’s politic space is a closed one; however, it enjoys the support of powerful countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

Domestic disputes on a global platform

The vigorous opposition to the Tedros candidacy suggests that Ethiopians political struggle has spilled over into the international arena. In some sense, it also suggests that these global platforms have become a substitute for a repressed domestic political space.

Since Ethiopia’s local political institutions and communications infrastructure are controlled by the government, diaspora groups, however sporadic and uncoordinated their efforts may be, have used the opportunity to shed light on the human rights violations using Twitter campaigns.

A twitter campaign on today April 28th Europe Time 18:00 And 12:00 PM Washington DC USA Time 17:00 Uk time Key tags &

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ELECTION OF THE NEXT WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY NOW March 18, 2017

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ELECTION OF THE NEXT DIRECTOR-GENERAL: PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY NOW

BY , Oneill Institute, 15 March 2017

 

I believe that human rights, and the right to health in particular, should be a top priority of and guiding principle for the next WHO Director-General, whom the world’s health ministers will choose at the World Health Assembly in May. Human rights, after all, encompass the values needed to achieve health for all and health justice, such as equity, non-discrimination, universality, participation, and accountability. They are legally binding precepts. Above all, they embrace human dignity, and the utmost respect for all people in health systems and health-related decisions. They embody the notion of people-centered health services.

This importance demands electing to the post a credible and strong leader on human rights, someone with a history of fighting injustice, of opposing human rights violations, of standing up for the marginalized and oppressed, of resisting political, corporate, or other interests that stand in the way of human rights. This centrality of human rights means electing an individual willing to stand against forces and policies that tolerate or even perpetuate discrimination, or that let political or other concerns override the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, political opponents, or anyone else. It entails appointing a person who views organizations fighting for human rights as partners, even when their own governments may oppose them.

Three candidates remain in the race to be the next WHO Director-General: Tedros Adhanom, David Nabarro, and Sania Nishtar. All candidates should be accountable for their past support of human rights, and outline their plans for furthering human rights around the world if chosen to lead WHO. While it is important for all candidates to do this, one candidate in particular ought to provide a detailed public account of where he stands, and has stood, on human rights. Having spent more than a decade as a cabinet minister in a government that has committed large-scale human rights abuses, Dr. Tedros must make clear his position and intention.

Dr. Tedros served as Minister of Health of Ethiopia from 2005 through 2012, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, remaining in the post until a cabinet reshuffle last November. He was, and remains, a member of the Central Committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), long the country’s dominant political party, of the more select, nine-member TPLF Executive Committee, and of the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling coalition.

Some background on human rights in Ethiopia is in order. It is a country where the ruling coalition won all 547 seats in its most recent (2015) parliamentary election, which surely says much more about the state of democracy than the government’s popularity. Freedom House rates Ethiopia as “not free,” ranking it below than many other of the “not free” countries (p. 18) and with one of the world’s largest declines in freedom over the past decade (p. 10).

In its World Report 2017, Human Rights Watch calls the media in Ethiopia “under government stranglehold,” with at least 75 journalists fleeing into exile since 2010, and others arrested. A 2009 law “continues to severely curtail the ability of independent nongovernmental organizations.” Security forces “frequently” torture political detainees, of whom there are many. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has denied entry to all UN human rights special rapporteurs, other than on Eritrea.

The Ethiopian government’s repressive ways gained international prominence at the Rio Olympics last summer. As he crossed the finish line, winning the silver medal, Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms as a symbol of protest against the government’s violent response to protests in the Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Two months earlier, Human Rights Watch had released a report detailing the government’s violent response to the protests, the most recent round of which began in November 2015. They broke out in response to the government clearing land for an investment project. This fed into wider fears about farmers being displaced without adequate consultation or compensation as part of a master plan to massively expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa, the capital, into the neighboring Oromia region. Adding fuel to the protests were environmental and other local concerns, and longer-standing grievances among members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, of political, economic, and cultural marginalizationAmnesty International reported that least 800 protesters had been killed by the end of 2016.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a blog on its official website in October 2016 (when Dr. Tedros was still Foreign Minister) in response to Human Rights Watch’s reporting on Ethiopia. The piece accuses Human Rights Watch of baseless allegations, intentionally misleading its audience, and propagating “scare stories.” It focuses on the NGO’s response to an October stampede during an anti-government protest at an annual festival in Oromia, though addresses Human Rights Watch’s reporting in Ethiopia more generally. Yet Human Rights Watch is widely recognized to employ a gold standard of research. The above-mentioned report, for example, was based on more than 125 interviews, “court documents, photos, videos and various secondary material, including academic articles and reports from nongovernmental organizations, and information collected by other credible experts and independent human rights investigators.” All material in the report was verified by two or more independent sources.

In light of Ethiopia’s severe human rights abuses and Dr. Tedros’s prominent position within the ruling party and the government, a natural question becomes: What was his role in the country’s systematic abuses of human rights?

I do not know the answer, or the veracity of other charges that Ethiopian diaspora organizations have lodged. In his role in the TPLF and ERPDF power structures, is it possible that he tried to change things from the inside, using his position of power within the government to oppose the government’s repression?

What we do know, though, based on the independent reports of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, and others, is that the human rights situation in Ethiopia is dire. And Dr. Tedros has long been an important member of the government.

Dr. Tedros has committed to an open and transparent approach to running WHO. Now is the time for him to demonstrate this commitment, publicly addressing the concerns about human rights during his time in the Ethiopian government, and his role, including as a member of the power structures of the ruling party and coalition. States should evaluate his answers carefully and in light of other evidence.

States should also consider whether regardless of Dr. Tedros’s actions within the government – perhaps unless he vigorously fought against rights-abusive policies from the inside – the mere fact of having served (particularly for a considerable length of time) in a high-level post of a government that perpetuates such severe human rights abuses should be an automatic disqualifier from any international leadership position. Would electing someone put forward by such a government, particularly someone who has long served in that government, in some way represent the international community endorsing, accepting, the legitimacy of that government and its policies, and diminish the importance we ascribe to human rights?

We live in an era where human rights remain under great threat. Especially at such times as these, it is vital that states vote for a candidate whose record and integrity will enable them to lead WHO into a new era of health and human rights.