Last week, Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization, nominated Robert Mugabe, the 93 year-old president of Zimbabwe as that organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Noncommunciable Diseases, a position currently held by former N.Y. City mayor Michael Bloomberg. WHO ambassadorships are often given to “well-known personalities from the worlds of arts, literature, entertainment, sport or other fields of public life who commit to contribute to WHO’s efforts to raise awareness of important health problems and solutions.”
In announcing Mugabe’s ambassadorship, Adhanom said, “I am honoured to be joined by President Mugabe, of Zimbabwe, a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.” Adhanom expressed hope Mugabe would “influence his peers in his region to prioritize non-communicable diseases including heart attacks, cancer and diabetes.”
When I read about Mugabe’s appointment, only one question to my mind: On what planet does Adhanom spend most of his time?
For crying out loud, select Robert Mugabe out of the 6 billion people on Planet Earth?
Wouldn’t Mugabe have a better ambassador for geriatric medicine in sleep disorders (as in routinely conking out (falling asleep) at international conferences and diplomatic meetings)?
Who on earth would want to follow in Mugabe’s stench as WHO ambassador?
The disgraceful and distressing facts on health care in Zimbabwe leave no room for argument:
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. The major causes of maternal mortality are bacterial infection, uterine rupture. At Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had a low maternal mortality rate of just 90 per 100 000 live births. Zimbabwe has suffered immensely from a brain drain of doctors. There are now 1,6 doctors for every 10 000 people. Due to poor funding of the health sector, 98% of drugs used in public health centres are funded by donors.”
Contrary to Adhanom’s beatification, Mugabe has other far more important priorities than health, such as extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances.
The 2017 Human Rights report concluded, “During 2016, the government of President Robert Mugabe intensified repression against thousands of people who peacefully protested human rights violations and the deteriorating economic situation. It disregarded the rights provisions in the country’s 2013 constitution, and implemented no meaningful human rights reforms.”
The 2017 U.S. State Department Human Rights report concluded, “The most important human rights problems remained the [Mugabe] government’s targeting members of non-ZANU-PF parties and civil society activists for abduction, arrest, torture, abuse, and harassment; partisan application of the rule of law by security forces and the judiciary; and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedoms of expression and assembly.
Robert Mugabe completely destroyed the economy of Zimbabwe.
By 2009, Zimbabwe had an unemployment rate of 94 percent.
Zimbabwe had a hyperinflation rate of 231 million percent.
The Z$10,000,000,000,000 (ten trillion) and Z$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion), could be exchanged for $0.40 dollars until the end of April 2016. Zimbabwe’s economy today is in shambles.
Mugabe would make a first-rate ambassador for “Tanking the National Economy”.
Mugabe has been in power since 1980 by stealing elections and crushing the opposition.
In 2006, Mugabe warned his opposition, “Some of you say they want to go out on the streets and protest. That’s not the way to go. It will never happen. We will not allow it. If they are looking for death, let them go ahead and follow that route. I mean you, Tsvangirai, and your MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change].”
In 2003, Robert Mugabe, proclaimed himself the Hitler of Zimbabwe and declared: “I am still the Hitler of the times. This Hitler has only one objective: Justice for his people. Sovereignty for his people. If that is Hitler, right, then let me be a Hitler ten-fold.”
In Mein Kampf (p. 288), the self-proclaimed Fuhrer der Nation of the “master race” wrote blacks are “monstrosities halfway between man and ape.”
Africans have deep respect for their elders because they believe wisdom comes with age. Sadly, the 93 year-old Mugabe is (a barely) living proof of the old saying, “There is no fool like an old fool.”
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai described Mugabe as “a senile president with a vituperative wife”.
The State Department condemned Mugabe’s appointment as “clearly contradict[ing] the United Nations’ ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau compared the choice to “a bad April Fool’s joke.” Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris chafed at the nomination calling it “offensive and bizarre” and an “appointment [which] distracts from WHO’s very important work programme.”
Richard Horton, the editor of the leading medical journal The Lancet said, “WHO DG stands for Director-General, not Dictator-General. Tedros, my friend, retract your decision, consult with colleagues, and rethink.” Ashish K Jha, the director of the Global Health Institute at Harvard University tried to be encouraging, “The Mugabe appointment, coming at the end of (Tedros’s) first 100 days, was a misstep. Reversing will actually be a strong sign that the leadership listens and is willing to be responsive to views of the global public.”
Empty suit or …
I have sugarcoated how I really feel about Tedros Adhanom. I have called him, among other things, an empty suit—someone in a position of authority with an impressive title but totally devoid of substance, personality, or ability.
Adhanom got the WHO job through nepotism and Big Bill pulling the money string. (BTW: I sent my congratulations to Bill Gates in May when Adhanom snagged the WHO job. In 2010, the Gates Foundation gave WHO $2.5 billion. That Foundation has dumped billions more in handouts to WHO over the past seven years.)
Adhanom is so shallow his public statements on health policy are full of hokum– platitudes, clichés, buzzwords, catchphrases, doublespeak and pretentious nonsense.
Adhanom recently declared, “All roads lead to universal coverage. This will be my central priority.” Does Adhanom have a clue what universal coverage is all about? 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.
In July he said, “Without health, people have nothing. Without health, we have nothing as humanity.” Now, that is deep coming from the head of WHO. Is he trying to implement as global health policy the old saying, “Without your health, you got nothing”.
Adhanom has become the laughing stock of the world. Here is a guy from the bush league trying to play in the big leagues. Adhanom wanted to run with the big dogs of the World Health Organization. Their world is a dog-eat-dog world. Adhanom would have been so much better off with the scavenging African wild dogs. (I did not say the T-TPLF.)
At the time of the make-believe search for WHO director in May 2017, I asked, “Can a minor league bench warmer be a starting pitcher in the World Series? Neither can Adhanom be the Director-General of WHO.”
For years, I have tried to be politically correct and restrained myself from expressing my true feelings about Tedros Adhanom. His appointment of Mugabe as goodwill ambassador pushes me to pull a Rex Tillerson on him. What kind of a f**king moron would appoint Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador?
Mugabe has much chance of being a goodwill ambassador among humans as a Tasmanian Devil has in the non-human animal kingdom.
This is not personal. As I have said previously, “I could not care less if Adhanom is head honcho at WHO in Geneva or the Mayor of Whoville in cartoonland.” Well, with the appointment of Mugabe, Adhanom has transformed the World Health Organization into WHO-ville, Geneva. (Sometimes I surprise myself when I get it right on the button.)
In previous commentaries, I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Adhanom does not have the intellectual candle power, the experience, competence, skill sets, schooling, professionalism or judgment to become the leader of WHO.
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 has been pulling dumb stuff (to use a more polite word) for years.
In 2013, Adhanom pulled the race card and called a “special summit of the African Union to discuss mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court” unless the criminal cases against Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto at the ICC were dropped. Adhanom demanded immunity from crimes against humanity prosecution for African leaders declaring, “sitting heads of state and governments should not be prosecuted while in office.” Adhanom effectively made the race-baiting argument that white judges and prosecutors in The Hague were hunting down black African leaders like safari animals and charging them with crimes against humanity.
Adhanom demonized the ICC and specifically demanded charges against Kenyatta and Ruto be dropped and smeared the International Criminal for “transform[ing] itself into a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans.” Adhanom jubilantly declared at the end of the summit, “[W]e have rejected the double standard that the ICC is applying in dispensing international justice.”
The fact was at that time out of the 19 ICC judges, only 9 come from Western and Eastern Europe. There were 4 judges from Africa and the rest came from Asia and Latin America. The ICC chief prosecutor was a Gambian woman named Fatou B. Bensouda.
When the WHO Board selected Adhanom to be the Director-General, it was manifest that he was not only clueless about WHO’s mission and objectives, but also lacked elementary familiarity with English, the lingua franca of WHO. Just watch this 3-minute video to behold how WHO director–general-to-be got tongue-tied and jabbered unable to answer “questions based on his own presentation”. At the time, I observed and questioned:
Adhanom presented himself as a pathetic, dopey and downright pitiful caricature of someone aspiring to lead an international organization. How the hell can Adhanom be the public face and spokesman-in-chief for WHO when he is clueless about WHO’s history, issues, problems and needs and can barely articulate himself?”
Well, I now ask, “How the hell can Adhanom be the face of WHO when Robert Mugabe is the ambassador of WHO?”
I am not at all surprised by Adhanom’s appointment of Mugabe.
Adhanom has shown abysmal lack of judgement and common sense throughout his career. In 2013, he let a teenager run an incredible con job on him.
It is an absolutely amazing story I discussed in my March 2015 commentary, “A Tale of Tall Tales and Ethiopia’s Diplomat-in-Chief”.
The Ethio-Australian teenager sat with Adhanom at a press conference (see video here) in Addis Ababa and offered to spend an imaginary AUD$20 million prize she had won in Australia to build schools in Ethiopia.
Adhanom bought the teenager’s lie hook, line and sinker.
How the teenager was able to pull Adhanom’s leg in such a spectacular way is something for the movies: “Teen Scams a Con Man.”
This incident opens a window into Adhanom’s abysmal lack of judgment and common sense, intellectual poverty and lack of critical thinking skills.
It is not difficult for me to understand how a man bamboozled by a 14 year-old would make a disastrous appointment with Mugabe.
In 2013 when Saudi Arabia undertook a massive deportation program of Ethiopian migrant workers, Adhanom summoned the Saudi ambassador and told him, “Ethiopia would like to express its respect for the decision of the Saudi Authorities and the policy of deporting illegal migrants. At the same time, it condemns the killing of an Ethiopian and mistreatment of its citizens residing in Saudi Arabia.”
How servile and bootlicking can one become?! No country on earth that cares for its citizens would say it “respects” the policy of another state that victimizes its citizens.
Adhanom was clueless that he did not discern the critical issue was not Saudi sovereignty over its territory or implementation of its immigration policy but rather the Saudi regime’s actions and lack of actions that have made possible commission of crimes against humanity against large numbers of Ethiopian migrant workers.
WHO has been reeling in scandal over the past year.
According to a recent Associated Press report, “The World Health Organization routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel – far more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health including AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.”
In 2016, “WHO spent about $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis. On malaria, it spent $61 million. And to slow tuberculosis, WHO invested $59 million.”
Margaret Chan, Adhanom’s predecessor, spent more than $370,000 in travel in 2016. Yet, WHO complained that “health sector requirements of US$ 103 million are only 23% funded and WHO has received less than 10% of US$ 25 million required for an organizational response.”
Just like the Mugabe regime, the T-TPLF regime is infamous for its massive and flagrant human rights violations and for massacring tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia.
They say birds of a feather flock together. I say, “African vultures (Gyps africanus) flock together.”
In my May 14, 2017 commentary, I asked the WHO Board two questions:
What is the message you are sending out to the world by selecting a terrorist-cum-human-rights violator as your leader?
Does it bother you that public face and top leader of WHO is an unrepentant terrorist and unindicted human rights violator?
In October 2017, WHO has eggs on its face as Robert Mugabe — the enfant terrible, the holy terror of Zimbabwe – became its ambassador for a few days.
But I warned the WHO Board in May what will happen if they choose Adhanom as WHO DG.
Now, all I can say is that “I told you so, but you would not believe me.”
Do you believe me now?!
Post Script and afterthought—What do I really think is going on at WHO?
What Adhanom has done with the appointment of Mugabe attests not only to his lack of intelligence and common sense but also poverty of judgment and prudence. From the Mugabe fiasco, only two conclusions could be drawn about Adhanom as an unfit world leader in the field of health: 1) He is a leader of abysmal gullibility without a trace of critical thinking. 2) He is a leader without depth of understanding, insight and foresight to the point of mindlessness and recklessness. Anyone with an ounce of brain would keep Robert Mugabe away from WHO like The Plague (also known as The Black Death.) (Pun intended.) There is no question in any reasonable mind that any official association of Mugabe with WHO, let alone appointment as ambassador, would spark a firestorm of criticism and bad publicity for WHO.
The one thing WHO absolutely does not need today is bad public relations. WHO is portrayed in the media today as a bloated international bureaucracy that spends more money on travel for its overpaid and underworked bureaucrats than an organization dedicated to bringing health care to the world’s poor. A study reported in the Journal of Integrative Medicine & Therapy seeks to answer the shocking question, “Why the Corruption of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the Biggest Threat to the World’s Public Health of Our Time”.
It’s too bad Adhanom did not heed the wisdom of the old adage, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Everyone at WHO who saw the video of Adhanom’s job interview knows he is an empty suit. He ain’t got what it takes to be the head of WHO. Unfortunately, at this point there is nothing Adhanom can do to change that perception. His people in WHO-ville may pretend to respect him out of politeness, but he knows they laugh at him behind his back.
Tedros Adhanom is the Rodney Dangerfield of WHO. “He don’t get no respect from nobody inside WHO.” Nobody in WHO respects him for his leadership, experience, knowledge or expertise. Everyone knows he is a political correctness appointment by the WHO Board.
Having said this, I have strong suspicions that the long-knives are out to get rid of Adhanom from WHO by hook or crook. But “they” are laying the groundwork for the coup de grace by exhibiting Adhanom to the world as an amateurish, bungling, blundering, bumbling and imbecilic nincompoop who is not fit to run a local clinic let alone lead WHO.
I believe (just a belief based on logical analysis of the bits and pieces of facts available) there is a silent but determined organization-wide conspiracy at WHO to get rid of Adhanom. I also believe the die is cast and Adhanom will be shown the door or stressed out of the job long before his term is over.
Adhanom is all alone at WHO. He is not part of the in-group at WHO. He has few supporters in the organization and he does not have the savvy or astuteness to build his own management team or power base. He has limited understanding of bureaucratic warfare in Western institution. Unlike his experience with the T-TPLF, he cannot kill, jail or torture his people in WHO-ville to get them to obey him. Working at WHO is not the same as working in the T-TPLF echo chamber everybody high-fiving and fist-bumping everybody. He does not have the native intelligence, learned judgement or philosophical discernment to be able to tell the difference between good and bad advice and decisions.
If the disastrous Mugabe appointment is a product of advice by his advisors, Adhanom is doomed.
I cannot imagine that Adhanom on his own, without consulting anyone at WHO, nominated Mugabe. If he did, that testifies to his isolation and reclusion in the organization. I am absolutely sure he consulted his top management team, aides and others.
I am also sure some of his advisors cautioned him that Mugabe’s nomination is very likely to ignite a storm of protest that will undermine his leadership and credibility and sink WHO’s public image. Any of his advisors who did not strenuously object to the appointment of Mugabe are part of the secret silent conspiracy to get rid of him or they are playing a practical joke on him.
The Mugabe fiasco will not be the end of the conspiracy in the WHO bureaucracy. There is more to come. I believe Adhanom is so embarrassed by the dumb Mugabe appointment, he is going to try and outdo himself to recover some credibility. In his eagerness to salvage his shredded credibility and prove that he is not as dumb as he looks, he will do more outrageous dumb stuff, sealing his fate.
The Adhanom drama will be played out in the months to come. Adhanom will become increasingly frustrated and the pressure of the job and global criticism will weigh him down. In the end, he will crash and burn.
I have been around long enough to know that the “Big Boys” play their political correctness game. The WHO Board appointed Adhanom out of political consideration. They wanted to give lip service to Africa and show them they have finally made it to the table, and don’t have to stand outside with their panhandling bowls. The WHO Board learned from Adhanom’s race baiting of the International Criminal Court with his slogan of “race hunting African leaders.” The WHO Board did not want to be tagged as racist, so they let Adhanom in. Then they put the fix in.
I predicted Adhanom will be WHO Director-General a year before his coronation by the WHO Board in my commentary, “Guess Who is Coming to WHO in 2017?”
I hate to break it down for Adhanom. He is a victim of set-up-to-fail syndrome. Here is how that game is played.
The powers that be (the “Big Boys”) will appoint a leader who is unqualified for political purposes or out of political correctness. They will pretend to give that leader free rein to do his thing. They will watch him/her silently (and often actively encouraging him) as s/he makes one blunder after another. They build a record. They begin to complain inside the organization and by proxy in the media the leader messing up and not performing to standard. The leader gradually accommodates him/herself to low expectations and high criticism. The leader is marginalized and his/her autonomy and scope of action increasingly circumscribed. The leader finds him/herself trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and self-pity. The powers that be will tighten the screw and the leader is cornered and boxed in. In the end, the conspiracy will succeed in breaking the leader in body, mind and spirit. The leader flees the organization and the “Big Boys” will shed crocodile tears and commiserate, “S/he just didn’t have what it takes!”
I cannot say I do not pity Adhanom. I feel sorry for him. Some may find it strange when I say despite my opposition to Adhanom’s appointment to become WHO Director-General and my low personal opinion of him, I still want him to succeed in leading that organization as the foremost global health monitor and server.
Serving the heath care needs of the world’s poor is of paramount importance to me, and if Adhanom succeeds in his mission and becomes a transformational leader at WHO, I will gladly to take back every word I have said about him.
I am sorry to say the fix is in. Adhanom is a goner. His fate at WHO is sealed!
It is countdown time. T minus… Fired!
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino. His teaching areas include American constitutional law, civil rights law, judicial process, American and California state governments, and African politics. He has published two volumes on American constitutional law, including American Constitutional Law: Structures and Process (1994) and American Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (1998). He is the Senior Editor of the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, a leading scholarly journal on Ethiopia. For the last several years, Prof. Mariam has written weekly web commentaries on Ethiopian human rights and African issues that are widely read online. He blogged on the Huffington post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and later on open.salon until that blogsite shut down in March 2015.