By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) – Germany and France have said they and other countries in the European Union have appointed Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia for a second term as Director General of the World Organization of health. This is the first time that a candidate for the top post at the United Nations health agency has not been nominated by the home country.
Tedros, who bears his first name, has been in the global spotlight on the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic for the past 19 months – a historic crisis that has eclipsed everything else throughout his tenure that began in 2017. The election for the next WHO Director-General, who has a five-year term, takes place at the agency’s next annual meeting in May.
Tedros clashed with the Ethiopian government of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for being outspoken about the killings and other human rights violations in his home region of Tigray. Tedros was previously a senior official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, once a dominant member of a coalition ruling Ethiopia, but now designated by the national government as a terrorist group.
Tedros was also Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs in the previous Ethiopian government.
The diplomatic missions of France and Germany to the UN agencies in Geneva announced their support for Tedros on their Twitter threads after a deadline for applications for the post of director general expired on Thursday. On its website, the WHO said it did not plan to announce the full list of candidates until November, but some diplomatic officials suggested it might not have a competition.
A diplomatic official in Geneva, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said 15 other members of the European Union joined Tedros’ appointment.
Macharia Kamau, principal secretary of the foreign ministry of Ethiopia’s neighboring country Kenya, tweeted that her country supported Tedros, the first African to lead the WHO.
“Kenya supports the continuity of exemplary African leadership at the helm of a crucial global health organization, and will work towards this achievement,” he tweeted.
The WHO, under Tedros, came under fierce criticism from the US Trump administration last year for allegations of serious missteps in the response to COVID-19 and too much will to congratulate China in the early stages of the epidemic which first appeared in Wuhan.
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