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Ethiopia's Tedros was elected the first African Director-General of WHO in Geneva on Tuesday / Photo: EMF

Ethiopia’s Tedros elected first African head of WHO

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister of Ethiopia, was elected on Tuesday in Geneva to head the World Health Organisation (WHO). He becomes the first African to ascend to the post in the nearly 70-year existence of the global agency. He is also the first non-physician to be elected WHO’s Director-General.

A jubilant Ethiopian official emerged from the closed-door meeting in Geneva, to shout after the secret ballot where Britain’s candidate David Nabarro came second: “We did it, we did it!”.

“It’s a victory day for Ethiopia and for Africa,” Ethiopia’s ambassador Negash Kebret Botora told Reuters.

Known universally as Tedros, he garnered 133 votes from the 185 WHO member states who officials said were eligible to cast ballots in the vote to succeed Margaret Chan, who has been at the helm of the Geneva-based UN agency since Nov. 2006.

Born 1965, the Ethiopian politician, academic, and public health expert served in the government of Ethiopia as Minister of Health from 2005 to 2012 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016.

In January 2016, the twenty-sixth ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union endorsed his candidature for the next election of the Director-General of the WHO as the sole African candidate. Tedros will take office on 1 July 2017.

Kwame Appiah

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