By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is hell-bent on changing WHO into AdWHOnom.
Last week, POLITICO posted a scathing article on Adhanom’s “fast track” job appointments without a competitive search and hiring process. Among his fast track appointments was a “little-known Russian [Tereza Kasaeva] to run the WHO’s tuberculosis program one month after meeting with President Vladimir Putin at a major gathering on the topic in Moscow.”
In November 2017, Putin’s government announced it would “allocate about $15 mln to the WHO in 2018-2020 to fight tuberculosis and ‘implement a joint project between Russia and the WHO to galvanize multisectoral measures to end tuberculosis.’” Kasaeva’s appointment occurred in December 2017, a month after Adhanom met with Putin. The Kasaeva appointment was a slick public relation move for Putin’s engagement in global health.
Kasaeva’s competence, in much the same way as Adhanom’s competence when he was given the top EHO job, has been questioned. The Lancet, “one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals founded in 1823”, in an editorial observed, Kasaeva’s appointment was pretty much a pay to play arrangement in the name of gender diversity. The Lancet noted there was “no consultation with the broader TB community” in Kasaeva’s appointment and lamented “Russia’s poor record on TB and HIV.”
In October 2017, Adhanom nominated Robert Mugabe, the 93 year-old president of Zimbabwe, deposed in a soft coup the following month, as that organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Noncommunciable Diseases. Adhanom, under pressure withdrew the appointment, but initially justified his decision on the grounds that Mugabe had “placed universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.”
The fact was that more than 11 million Zimbabweans, representing 90% of the population have no access to medical aid. The country’s infant mortality rate: at 57/1,000 live births is one of the highest in the world. About 1000 women out of 100 000 die during giving birth. Zimbabwean opposition parties claimed Adhanom’s appointment of Mugabe was “pay-back” for Mugabe’s support in Adhanom’s bid for the top WHO job.
Adhanom claims to be on a crusade for gender equity at WHO. In October 2017, Adhanom tweeted, “The new WHO senior leadership team reflects my deep-held beliefs: we need top talent, gender equity & geographical diversity to deliver.” Consequently, he appointed eight new directors of highly questionable professional competence in a “fast track” process without a competitive, consultative and transparent hiring process.
Dilbert Principle runs amok at WHO
The Dilbert Principle states that “generally the least competent, least smart people and least able people promoted simply because they are the ones you don’t want doing actual work. You want them ordering the doughnuts and yelling at people for not doing their assignments—you know, the easy work. Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers—your smart people—aren’t in management.”
In the Dilbert strip of February 5, 1995, Dogbert says that “leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow”.
In other words, incompetent people are moved to “higher” positions to ensure they will not plug up the work process since the real work is done by worker bees at the lower levels of the organization.
It is ironic that life imitates art (comic strips) at WHO. “Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers—your smart people—aren’t in management” at WHO.
Who is in management at WHO?
Tedros Adhanom is not a medical doctor. He “holds a PhD in Community Health and boasts of having technical and political competences that can help the WHO to move forward – as a health expert and seasoned diplomat.”
Adhanom is clueless about elementary concepts of health care. He recently declared, “All roads lead to universal coverage. This will be my central priority.” Adhanom is clueless that “universal coverage” is a phrase used to describe provision of health care and financial protection related to health care to all citizens of a particular country, not all citizens of the world or the universe.
Adhanom padded his resume with lies, damned lies and statislies to snag the WHO job with the blessing of Bill Gates. Adhanom crowed his own achievements, “Today, Ethiopia stands as a global model for effective health system reform and governance and as an inspirational story of successful African-led development.”
Adhanom’s claim is completely contradicted by WHO: “The health status of Ethiopia is poor, even when related to other low-income countries including those in sub-Saharan Africa. The population suffers from a huge burden of potentially preventable diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, intestinal parasites, acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases.” (Emphasis added.)
Adhanom is using the “fast track” hiring process to clone his incompetent self throughout WHO in the name of gender, regional and geographic diversity.
In December 2017, 40 civil society groups in an open letter urged Adhanom “to lead a transparent, thoughtful process to determine the next WHO Global TB Program Director.” He told them to go to WHO-ville.
It is like the old saying, “birds of a feather flock together” on the rooftop of the WHO building.
Neopatrimonialism at the WHO and the rise of Adhanom’s WHO-ville within WHO
What Adhanom is doing at WHO is building an Africa-style neopatrimonial empire at WHO. One official minion at a time in the name of gender, regional and geographic diversity.
“Neopatrimonialism” is a system in which all power is concentrated in one man, usually a president, who is unaccountable to the rule of law and operates without a system of checks and balances. He has no use, and is in fact contemptuous, of formal systems embodied in constitutions, administrative regulations and laws, civil service procedures, organizational judicial structures and processes. He maintains a system of clientelism and clientelist networks by which he maintains his power and fends off opposition. He uses state resources to pay off his clients who support him in remaining in power. Simply stated, he runs a “pay to play in power” scheme to maintain his power.
What WHO rank and file and those not in the Adhanom in-group may not realize is the fact that Adhanom is creating a neopatrimonial parallel WHO within WHO.
WHO personnel and international health experts and health professionals bitterly complain about the lack of process, transparency, accountability, consultation, secretive decision-making and the like in the Adhanom administration. I believe they are missing the point big time.
Adhanom believes the WHO “establishment” is his enemy. He believes he has to eliminate as many of them as possible and replace them with his own minions. But he cannot wipe out the entire WHO all at once, so he has to do it piecemeal, one position at a time.
He is taking the proverbial “boiling frog” approach. The idea is if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out. But if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
That’s is exactly what I think is happening in WHO. Adhanom is creating his own empire within WHO by slowly “boiling” those he considers his enemies. He is doing it by creating a Shadow WHO, a Kitchen Cabinet at WHO or Adhanom’s WHO-ville crew. Call it what you may. The idea is he wants to create a WHO within WHO.
In his cartoonland WHO-ville, Adhanom aims to create a special bond between himself as the Padrone, tutti di capo tutti (boss of all bosses), and his appointee clients and followers within WHO who have pledged allegiance to him personally. Their allegiance of loyalty is based on the largess and job protection Adhanom lavishes upon them.
As the Padrone, Adhanom has little to no countervailing control in his distribution of rewards to his supporters and imposition of punishment against those he considers his opponents within WHO. That is why he so cavalierly dismisses and ignores the pleas and sound advice of the experts and professionals who have vastly superior knowledge and experience in the field of global health than himself. Just like African dictators, the first victims are the educated and the experts in society.
Adhanom is merely bringing to the WHO what he and his fellow thugtators have been doing in Ethiopia for the past 26 years.
The TPLF functions in the same way Adhanom is setting up his empire at the WHO to function.
In Ethiopia, Adhanom’s TPLF maintains a state within the state. The most important decisions are not made as prescribed by the constitutional process or legally authorized officials. The most important decisions were made by the late Meles Zenawi and his cabal when he was alive, and today by the gang of four or so. When Meles was alive, the state within the state included Meles’ trusted buddies, including Adhanom, from the bush and yes-men who fed at the corruption trough he built since taking power in 1991. For instance, the T-TPLF allows independent decision-making in the kililsitans but in reality all decisions are centralized and predetermined in the T-TPLF state within the state. Recently, one of the regional presidents said he will tear up and throw in the trashany TPLF order that violates his constitutional powers.
That is exactly what Adhanom is creating at WHO. His Shadow WHO will make decisions in secret and slap it on the rank and file and other auxiliaries working with WHO. No consultation, no input, no feedback. My way or the highway! That is how Adhanom plans to roll at WHO.
Tedros Adhanom was not selected for experience, knowledge or abilities. He is not competent to run a neighborhood clinic let alone a global health organization. He was saddled with an agenda by the powers that be. That agenda is to tear down the WHO and reinvent it in the image of those billionaire self-appointed messiahs in their pursuit of saving the world. Adhanom is merely their step and fetch it, their enforcer, their hatchet man and hit man at WHO!
Tedros Adhanom pulled out the race card to stifle criticism of his fitness for the top WHO job. He dismissively described his WHO critics and others as having a “typical colonial mind-set aimed at winning at any cost and discrediting a candidate from a developing country.”
Well, Adhanom is the capo di tutti capi at WHO. Time for pay back against those stuck in a “colonial mindset” at WHO.
Tedros Adhanom is the bull in the WHO china shop. He will continue to destroy WHO piece by piece from within and demolish its international credibility without by doing dumb things.
“I told you so” in October 2017 that Tedros Adhanom is an empty-suit. In January 2018, I am telling you that empty-suit has become a bull in the WHO china shop.
I feel sorry for all of the experts and dedicated health professionals at WHO. But they outfoxed, outwitted, outplayed and outmaneuvered by a professional con man.
Hear! Hear! WHO. With Tedros “The Bull in the WHO China Shop” Adhanom at the helm, your days are numbered.
Wake up WHO! You are now under the Adhanom Thugtatorship.
Fight back! Deal with it!
A selection of my previous comments on Adhanom are available at these links: