In a press release issued this past Tuesday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids congratulated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on his election as the new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr. Ghebreyesus’ CV notes that he “facilitated critical health investments and reforms that helped expand health care access to tens of millions of Ethiopians,” which sounds like a strong qualification for his election to this position as leader of WHO. However, the CV is only telling part of the story.
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that Dr. Ghebreyesus, as one of the nine executive members of the politburo of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has been accused of leading a campaign of repression and murder that some have even called a genocide.
According to multiple sources, the TPLF has allegedly engaged in severe repression of civilian protests in Oromia and Amhara, including a military response in which more than 1,000 innocent civilians were killed, hundreds of thousands imprisoned, and millions displaced.
The repression of dissent in Oromia is documented by a 2014 Amnesty International report, which confirms the TPLF’s role in arbitrary arrest of civilians based purely on dissent or suspected dissent, the arrest of peaceful protestors and students, violations of free speech and assembly rights, violation of the right to education, and even “arbitrary detention,” “enforced disappearance,” “extra-judicial executions,” and “torture,” including rape, psychological torture, torture in and out of detention, and forced labor.
A 2016 report at Genocide Watch outlines numerous human rights violations by the TPLF and concludes that TPLF orchestrated a “genocidal plan systematically designed by the TPLF regime using the unfair land use policy as a tool in Oromia and Southern Ethiopia to achieve the political goal of complete ownership of the land through silent eradication of the indigenous communities in the long-term. “Genocide Watch considers Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7, genocidal massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes.” The people of Oromia in particular, and all oppressed peoples of Ethiopia in general, are struggling to reverse this policy of systematic genocide waged on them by successive regimes of Ethiopia.”
While some of this alleged genocidal campaign occurred prior to Dr. Ghebreyesus’ tenure, it has been estimated that “more than 1000 civilians have been killed by the regime in last 10 months (November 2015 to September 2016).”
The Oramian Economist describes the TPLF’s rule as a system of social and economic “apartheid.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus’ campaign for the WHO directorship is widely characterized as a political campaign funded by the TPLF for political gain. His election was opposed by massive numbers of Ethiopians, apparently on the basis of his alleged “involvement in the killings hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestants. Last year alone, more than well over 1000 civilians were killed by the regime that Tedros Adhanom is fiercely and passionately supporting – the ethnic TPLF government.”
Under these circumstances, I find it shameful that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids offered its congratulations to Dr. Ghebreyesus and is supporting his election to the Director-General position of the World Health Organization. It appears that Dr. Ghebreyesus is someone who should be investigated by the World Health Organization for public health atrocities, not someone who should be leading the organization.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ support for Dr. Ghebreyesus casts a dark cloud on the entire tobacco control movement.
I call on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to retract its statement and apologize for its support of a political leader who is accused of being involved in the murder of thousands, participation in human rights violations, and supporting a policy of systematic genocide.
I expect an immediate response, given the grave nature of the alleged human rights violations.