Tedros in one-man race to remain at WHO helm

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GENEVA (AFP) – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, one of the most recognisable figures of the global battle against Covid-19, will stand unopposed Tuesday (Jan 25) for the nomination to continue heading the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The first African leader of the UN health agency is expected to see his candidacy validated following a secret-ballot vote in a closed-door session of the WHO’s executive board on Tuesday.

All 194 WHO member states will then have a say when they meet in May on whether to allow the former Ethiopian minister of health and foreign affairs to continue in the role he has held since 2017.

As the sole contender, there is little doubt that Dr Tedros will be re-elected.

Since Covid-19 burst onto the global stage more than two years ago, the 56-year-old malaria specialist has received much praise for the way he has steered the WHO through the crisis.

African countries in particular have been pleased at the attention paid to the continent and at his relentless campaign for poorer nations to get their fair share of Covid vaccines.

The main source of opposition meanwhile is coming from Dr Tedros’s own country.

Ethiopia’s government has voiced growing irritation over his comments about the humanitarian situation in his home region of Tigray, in the grip of a 14-month conflict.

After Dr Tedros earlier this month described the conditions there as “hell” and accused the government of preventing medicines and other life-saving aid from reaching desperate locals, Addis Ababa demanded he be investigated for “misconduct and violation of his professional and legal responsibility”.

Ethiopia does not, however, appear to have much support in its criticism.

“He has indeed expressed himself forcefully, but what he is saying corresponds to facts observed by the heads of all the humanitarian agencies,” a western diplomatic source told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

“There was no misconduct. Ethiopia’s government, from the start, has sought to block Dr Tedros from being reappointed WHO director-general,” the source said, pointing to how Addis Ababa had blocked the African Union from unanimously tossing his hat in the ring.

Despite Ethiopia’s opposition, 28 countries supported Dr Tedros’s candidacy, mostly from Europe, but also a handful from Africa, including Kenya and Rwanda.

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