African Union delegation to the United Nations came in outspoken numbers to a press briefing today to express unshakable support for the Ethiopian candidate to be the next head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Asked about recent allegations in the press about Tedros’ part in a coverup of cholera epidemics in his country, the African ambassadors said those were defamatory allegations, done in desperation by a nervous competing candidate. Without citing which of the other two candidate that might be, an African ambassador said such attempt at destabilising the candidate reflects a “colonial mentality.” Tedros, as he is known, was not at the press briefing.
Described by a group of African ambassadors as being in best position to implement needed reforms at the WHO, and having a unique mix of scientific and diplomatic skills, Tedros was also said to be the best choice for the WHO. The ambassadors explained they are on a campaign to support Tedros, and are approaching other ambassadors. The AU delegation to the UN today issued a declaration

[pdf] (in French) in support of Tedros.
The ambassadors underlined the fact that the WHO never had a WHO director general from the African continent, and Tedros would also the only one to be a former health minister. Asked why Tedros would be the best candidate, the Rwandan ambassador said the continent aligned itself behind a candidate after a thorough examination. No country would stand behind a candidate in whom it does not believe, he said.
This is not a “complacency candidacy,” the ambassador from Chad added.
An embarrassing article published this week by the New York Times, alleging that Tedros had covered up cholera epidemics in his country, was characterised by the ambassadors present at the press briefing as an unfounded and unverified defamation campaign, conveniently coming out only days before the election. “People do not like campaigns that are misrepresenting other people,” he added. The ambassador did not say which candidate that might be, but there are only two other candidates, Peter Nabarro of the United Kingdom and Sania Rishtar of Pakistan.’
The Ethiopian ambassador said the New York Times article is a “smear campaign” against the African candidate “aimed at winning at any cost.” Those allegations are “hitting below the belt,” he said bluntly and are trying “to discredit an accomplished African candidate with a kind of a colonial mentality,” adding “I think you know what I am saying.”
The Central African Republic ambassador said, “Dr Tedros is the product of Africa and the product of a consensus.” The WHO is not the patrimony of one continent, or one country, he said. The Mozambique ambassador mentioned a few reforms that Tedros is set on starting if he is elected next week. He said the candidate would build the WHO into a more effective, transparent and accountable agency, which would be science and innovation-based, and focused on results. Another priority area would be to follow the objective of health for all, and strengthen the capacity of WHO and of national authorities.