By Owei Lakemfa.
TEDROS Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Ethiopian microbiologist who heads the World Health Organisation, WHO, is simultaneously engaged in perhaps the two biggest battles in his 55 years on earth.
He is leading humanity’s fight against the treacherous COVID-19 virus, and a battle to remain in office against the expressed wishes of the United States of America, USA, the world’s unipolar power. Some American legislators have teamed up with the Trump administration to kick him out. Senator Martha McSally (Arizona, Republican) for instance, accused Tedros of collaborating with China to allegedly under-report the virus outbreak. Without providing any proof, she said: “The WHO needs to stop covering for them. I think Dr. Tedros needs to step down. We need to take some action to address this issue. It’s just irresponsible, it’s unconscionable what they have done here while we have people dying across the globe.” Senator Rick Scott who also demanded Tedros steps down, called for a congressional probe into the claimed China-WHO cover up.
Tedros who has a Doctorate of Philosophy, Ph.D, in Community Health from the University of Nottingham and a Masters in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London, thought such qualifications and his having served as Ethiopian Health and Foreign Minister, qualified him to lead the WHO. However, he has come to realise that leading a world body is beyond qualifications and being democratically elected as he was from a number of candidates including British health expert, David Nabarro whom he dusted 133-50 in a secret ballot.
The allegations against Tedros are as bizarre as the claims that the coronavirus is caused by the introduction of the G5 network. First, there are claims that the Ethiopian administration he served, was a dictatorship, so it is natural for him to support another dictatorship, which is how they characterize China.
Secondly, there are claims that the Ethiopian government in which Tedros was a leading figure, covered up a cholera outbreak, so his alleged cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in China is in his character. Thirdly, that China assisted Ethiopia to build critical infrastructure such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti international train, so that this was Ethiopia payback time.
The American and Taiwanese governments stopped just short of calling Tedros a Chinese spy. He said he took the attacks on him in his stride including death threats, but what he would not accept are the racists insults that portray Blacks as inferior beings incapable of running a high office like the WHO.
It is a scientific fact that all humans flowed from Africa and that it is at the core of human civilization. Yet today, it is on the lower rungs of human development and virtually non-existent in the upper rungs of human leadership. This is one of the main reasons why after an average 60 years of independence, the continent has no permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
But once in a while, perhaps by accident of history, an African emerges as leader of a major world body such as WHO. However, that is just a part of the story, the other is that the tenure of such Africans are often characterized by the suffocating attitude of other humans who claim superiority and assume that unless they teleguide, such Africans cannot be fit to remain in office. Sometimes, when such Africans cannot be gotten rid of easily, the powerful would prefer to destroy the institution.
WHO is being told in no uncertain terms; get rid of the bloody African leading you if you want to continue receiving payments from America. The word for this is racism.
This same scenario played out when the Senegalese, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, a former Minister of Education and Culture was appointed in 1974 as the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. The body was established on November 16, 1945 in London, charged with promoting international collaboration in education, the sciences, and culture, and championing the quest for universal justice, rule of law, and human rights.
M’Bow would not allow American dictation. So, the Reagan administration on December 31,1984, withdrew America from UNESCO, accusing it and M’Bow of being pro-Soviet, anti-Israel, and anti-capitalist. America staged a comeback on October 1, 2003, but refused to pay its dues totalling over $500 million before staging another withdrawal on December 31, 2018.
The League of Nations which in 1945, was transformed into the United Nations, UN, was founded on January 10, 1920. In its first 79 years, no African headed it until 1991 when Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, was elected its Secretary-General.
He was a man of peace, but his tenure was characterised by four bloody wars: the old Yugoslavia War which broke that state into seven new countries; the ripples of the 1991 Gulf War; the fractious war in Somalia, and the genocide in which 850,000 Rwandans were massacred. Ghali was quite bitter about the Rwanda genocide because he thought that if the powerful countries like America and France which had control over UN peacekeeping troops and logistics had agreed with his leadership, the massacres would have been prevented. He also opposed the NATO bombing in Bosnia.
For these, and his refusal to be controlled, the US vetoed his re-election even when he had massive support from member countries. Instead, fellow African, Kofi Annan who was his Head of Peacekeeping Operations during the failed mission in Somalia and the Rwandan genocide, was elected to replace him. Annan was considered a more pliant person and was rewarded with a second term.
It is unlikely that in order to survive, Tedros would want to play the Kofi Annan card in order to remain in office. Rather, like M’Bow and Ghali, he would want to stand on principles. Indeed, the WHO is too important to be turned over to an overbearing country led by a narcissist with the mind of a petty trader who will seek to control any cure or vaccine for COVID-19 rather than ensure their equitable distribution across all countries.
In spite of the numerous attacks on him, Tedros, whose surname, Ghebreyesus, means ‘Servant of Jesus’ knows he must not be distracted as his leadership has the potentials of saving many lives across the world.
The racist attacks on him would not make Tedros have a sense of inferiority; he knows he is not inferior to any human, is more intelligent than Donald Trump, and that he has the same ancestry with King Solomon, the wisest man in Bible. He might as well respond to the racists in the words of Solomon who declared in the Songs of Solomon (1:5-6) “I am Black but comely…Look not upon me, because I am Black, because the sun hath looked upon me.”