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Ethiopia’s FM formally announces his candidature to WHO top post

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, 26 May (ANA) – He’s the genial foreign minister who has his eyes set on the top spot at the World Health Organisation (WHO), a position never held by an African in it’s 70 year history, and this week he has announced formally his intention to run for the office and make history.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, a former health minister of Ethiopia, became a strong candidate for the post after winning the endorsement of Africa’s leaders last January at the African Union Summit (AU) in Addis Ababa.

Only Senegal, which had initially planned to back its own candidate, objected to Adhanom’s candidature. Since then it has backed off.

WHO is a specialized United Nations Organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, concerned with intentional health issues such Ebola, HIV/AIDs and malaria pandemics.

The current director general of the WHO, Margaret Chan from China, is due to step down in May 2017, after finishing her second five year term. The WHO has194 member nations of which 54 are from the African continent.

Adhanom was praised during his stint as foreign minister from 2005-2012, for helping popularise the use of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs and his successful term from 2009-2011 as chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis.

He also earned praises for his efforts in combating Malaria. Adhanom helped dramatically increase the distribution of treated mosquito nets to fight malaria.

Adhanom has also been praised for revamping Ethiopia’s health extension program and increasing the number of health centres.

As one of this stated goals, Adhanom says: “If elected I plan to work with regions to create blueprints to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a global mandate to achieve universal health coverage and provide access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all”.

The SDGs, which are to be the global development targets from 2015-2030, succeeded the Millennium Development Goals that ran from 2000 to 2015.

Ethiopia is also trying to consolidate its political position in the continent by bidding for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2017 and 2018.

The UNSC has 15 member states of which five, the US, UK, Russia, China and France are permanent and wield veto powers. The other 10 seats rotate among nations every two years.

Ethiopia’s bid for a UN Security Council seats was endorsed by AU leaders at the January summit this year, after it had foregone its bid for a seat on the African Union Peace and Security Council, Ethiopian officials said.

There’s speculation here that if Ethiopia is elected onto the UN Security Council, it will push to maintain targeted sanctions on its neighbour and arch-rival Eritrea.

Two sets of targeted sanctions have been imposed against Eritrea, in 2009 and 2011, by the UN Security Council over its alleged support for the Somali extremist Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which the UN, US and EU have branded a terrorist organisation.

If Ethiopia gets onto the UNSC this could also cause friction with Egypt, another non-permanent member of the council for 2016 and 2017.

Ethiopia and Egypt have had a tense relationship for many years, mainly over the use of the waters of Nile river. About 86% of its waters come from Ethiopia, where its main tributary, the Blue Nile, rises.

Otherwise dry Egypt is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its water, but Ethiopia contends that it needs the Nile to grow its economy and provide development for its 100 million people.

It is currently building the Grand Renaissance dam with a 6000 megawatt hydro-electric power plant on the Blue Nile.

In 2013 Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi broadcast live on public TV a meeting he had with prominent Egyptian political parties and personalities, during which proposals were discussed to bomb the dam site or to support Ethiopian rebel groups.

The current President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, who came to power after a military coup in June 2013 which deposed Morsi, has struck a more conciliatory tone on the dam.

However, deep mutual suspicions remain.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Disclaimer: This story is pulled directly from the African News Agency wire, and has not been edited by Mail & Guardian staff. The M&G does not accept responsibility for errors in any statement, quote or extract that may be contained therein.

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