African leaders on Wednesday rallied behind the World Health Organization, WHO, and its Director-General, Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; following an attack on the world health body by American president Donald Trump.
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation,” Trump posted in a April 7 tweet.
As the debate continued over the truth in Trump’s claim, the African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, posted support for the WHO and Tedros in a tweet of April 8. That tweet set off a reaction from a number of Africa leaders.
Among them Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Hage Geingob of Nambia and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. The Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andergachew also posted support for Tedros and the WHO.
Tedros was a former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia having previously held the Health portfolio. South African president Cyril Ramaphosa who doubles as President of the African Union also weighed in reiterating the call for global solidarity. “The most potent weapon against #COVID19 and its devastating health, social & economic impact is international cooperation & solidarity,” he said in a tweet.
Ramaphosa later issued a full statement in his capacity as AU president reaffirming the continent’s support for the WHO. “Overall the AU recognises and appreciates the good work that has been undertaken by the WHO and notes with a sense of satisfaction the various initiatives and measures that are continuously undertaken by the organization to mitigate the spread of the pandemic such as mobilising resources, sharing real-time information and providing technical and material support,” the statement concluded.
Kagame’s response read in part: “Is it Dr. Tedros, WHO, China …under attack or all of them together? Let’s focus on the fight against this pandemic, whoever should be held accountable will come later and done properly. Save us too much politics, Africa does not need it. Who does?”
During his daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Tedros had declined to respond to questions about Trump’s specific criticisms and said, “Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?”
“I know that I am just an individual. Tedros is just a dot in the whole universe. I prefer to really focus on saving lives,” he said at the media briefing.
The agency’s Europe chief insisted a worldwide public health crisis was no time to reduce the budget of the entity working to coordinate an often-disjointed international response.
“We’re now still in an acute phase of the pandemic. This is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr. Hans Kluge said, ignoring a question about whether European nations could help mop up any funding gaps.