Exclusive Opinion @ Abbay Media
Gadissa Kuma

Ethiopians in the diaspora are known for rallying to support and celebrate the success of other Ethiopians on the international stage. But we are witnessing one exception. There are two Ethiopians who share the same name though spelled differently –Tewodros and Tedros – one famous and the other infamous. This has prompted the question ‘Tedros WHO’?

Tewodros is the most popular singer in Ethiopia who is admired not only for his musical prowess but also for his selfless kindness and patriotism. On the other hand, Tedros is a long time cabinet member of the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) controlled Ethiopian government that has been in power for over a quarter of a century.

This week Ethiopians, both at home and abroad, are singing praises of Tewodros Kassahun (Teddy Afro) for his latest album which, true to his name, preach unity. At the same time Ethiopians are campaigning against the candidacy of Tedros Adhanom for the leadership of World Health Organization (WHO). Tedros’ detractors list several reasons why he does not measure up to the global responsibilities that come with the position. Given the increased risk of more communicable diseases crossing boarders faster than ever, WHO needs a competent leader who can easily garner trust and cooperation from other world leaders. Critics of Tedros claim he has too many deficiencies to achieve this.

The fact that Tedros struggled to answer simple and straightforward early screening interview questions seem to add credence to the criticism. They also doubt his ability to convince governments to fund WHO at a time when resources have become increasingly scarce.  First, they argue, while he was Minister of Health in Ethiopia, a World Health Organization audit revealed diversion of millions of dollars which will certainly raise question about his trustworthiness. Second, they point at cases of gross human rights violations including denial of medical care and intentionally injecting women sterilizing drugs without their knowledge rendering tens of thousands of women infertile. A senior member of a government accused of these crimes will have difficulty to prove that the candidate can offer the world’s over seven billion people the compassion he denied his own people

So the question “Tedros WHO?” continues. Can Tedros of the World Health Organization be different from Tedros of the Tigrean People Liberation Front? For Ethiopians, the distinction between Tedros and Tewodros remains to be as clear as an African noonday.