Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had one job

At this moment a huge proportion of the world is under house arrest, because of the advent of a virus for which there are insufficient data to justify apparently any recourse other than overweening precaution. A world pandemic, officially declared as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has triggered the first half of a global reboot.

China – or more particularly the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – has suffered huge damage to its reputation, not so much because the virus came from China but because CCP went to great lengths to cover up the news, persecuted its own doctors when they tried to warn the world, and then lied about it all. At least as much damage has been done to the brand of WHO, which has collaborated with CCP throughout this process.

The Director General of WHO is Dr Tedros. Here he is delivering the closing speech of the 71st World Health Assembly in May 2018. WHO comes under the umbrella of the United Nations.

Tedros occupies his first four minutes, presenting gold-packaged gifts to people who have chaired meetings of this assembly. Each comes to the lectern, receives his package, proceeds carefully to unwrap his gift before the audience to reveal that it is a gavel – not much surprise, as Tedros said at the outset that this is what they were getting. So this is why, although there are just three of them, it takes four minutes for this little ceremony to be dragged out. At 04:10 Tedros seeks permission to begin his speech, but there’s still more than twenty seconds before he has completed the Hierarchical Hello. Finally at 4:32 we get the speech.

It is not a speech, it is a reading. Tedros is a talking head, delivering ten minutes of platitudes that are so bland and bromidic as to require serious self-discipline to follow. I am therefore quite proud to have caught this at 8:09 –

The independent oversight and advisory committee has given its stamp of approval to our work on emergencies, and has recognised that we are better positioned to act with greater speed and predictability…

… greater than what? The world did not witness conspicuous speed in January 2020.

If you find yourself unable to sit through all of the speech, I don’t blame you, and yet –

I actually feel a bit sorry for this man. He is a walking embodiment of the Peter Principle, and is also a terminal sufferer from bureaucritis, an ailment I have explored before on this blog, most recently last week. He feels to me to be a puppet, no more responsible for his actions than – say – Greta Thunberg.

A certain amount as been made in the media about his not being a physician, his doctorate is an academic one. All his predecessors, apparently, were medics; but so what? Speciality is often the enemy of intelligence – we can all think of examples. He has been lifted beyond his ability by the vagaries of UN psephology that help activists to punch above their weight. In this case it appears the activist was CCP, and though miserably out of his depth Tedros owes to China this position that no doubt is swelling his Swiss account. This could explain his current championing of China over USA, despite the latter contributing ten times as much to WHO coffers.

In May 2017, just before his appointment was made, it emerged that in preceding years there had been, on his watch in his own country of Ethiopia, alleged coverups of three outbreaks of cholera which were wrongly categorised as “acute watery diarrhoea”. One of his early actions after taking office was to choose Robert Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, but the instant outcry caused the offer to be quickly withdrawn.

He’s out of his depth, but it’s a widespread phenomenon in bureaucracies that conspicuous failure is often a shortcut to meteoric promotion. It certainly happens in the British public sector. It’s almost as if devotion to a greater cause acts as a sola fide that obliterates all errors.

What keeps me awake is pondering what that “greater cause’ might be.