The World Health Organisation (WHO) chief looks set to run unopposed for a second term at the helm as he tries to guide the world through its biggest health crisis in a century, sources said.
However, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lacks the support of his native Ethiopia due to friction over the Tigray conflict, the sources told Reuters.
Exactly how he will be nominated ahead of the deadline for nominations next week is unclear amid opposition from the Addis Ababa government, they said.
An Ethiopian former health minister from the Tigray region, Tedros became WHO’s first African director-general in 2017.
He has steered the agency through several ebola outbreaks as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, surviving savage criticism from the Donald Trump administration for allegedly being “China-centric”.
While he has not publicly acknowledged his plans to run again for a second five-year term, saying he was focusing on fighting the pandemic, four sources said he is the only known candidate.
They declined to be named due to confidentiality of the process.
“Tedros is for sure a candidate,” said one source with direct knowledge of the election process, adding that at this stage there was no alternative candidate.
However, Tedros —whom an Ethiopian general has publicly called a “criminal” and accused of trying to procure weapons for Tigrayan forces—is not expected to be nominated by his government as is the diplomatic custom, two senior Ethiopian officials told Reuters.
Tedros has described the situation in Tigray as “horrific” and regularly tweets about developments there but denies taking sides in the conflict.
Consultations are underway including among African countries about who will propose his candidacy before the September 23 deadline, two of the sources said.
The process of formal submissions is confidential and it was not possible to determine whether a formal submission for Tedros had already been made.
The formal appointment is scheduled for May 2022 at the World Health Assembly.
Ethiopia’s opposition to Tedros places some African nations in a quandary. Africa’s second-most populous nation is a diplomatic heavyweight and hosts the African Union headquarters.
Its sway over the African Union means Tedros is unlikely to have the institution’s united backing, as he did last time, but diplomats say he still enjoys support from some African nations.—Reuters