Tedros Adhanom played a key role in kidnapping of prominent dissident | By Abebe Gellaw

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By Abebe Gellaw

In his bid to win the position of Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is playing a nice technocrat. At every venue and opportunity, he presents himself as a humble, smiley and caring and humanitarian who loses sleep over the state of world health. But his 12-page campaign CV never mentions his most important experience that made it possible for him to climb the ladder of power within the tyrannical regime oppressing and misruling Ethiopia.

In a move that can be interpreted as fraud by omission, he failed to mention the fact that he is a top Executive and Central Committee member of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), a brutal and corrupt ethno-fascist political group mainly responsible for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

The perfect pretender
Before it came to power in 1991 through a violently destructive armed struggle, the TPLF was blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Homeland Security’s Global Terrorism Database. There are a select few key decision makers within the TPLF, the nine-member gang–the executive committee. The gang is ultimately responsible for all the corruption, killings, torture, mass detention, land grab or displacement. Adhanom is among the top three within the gang. He was very close to the late dictator Meles Zenawi, who trusted him to be a confidant as well as a cabinet minister. But the numbers Adhanom is throwing to foreign journalists and diplomats are not about those who were murdered and tortured by the TPLF, which claims to represent minority Tigrians, at the detriment of the rest of the population.

With the help of Mercury Public Affairs, a high-end U.S.-based lobbying firm that calls itself a “high-stakes public strategy firm”, he is hyping up his dubious succcesses: conquered malaria, destroyed HIV, reduced infant mortality, built thousands and thousands of clinics. But they never talk about the reality behind the exaggerated figures.

Once a trusted right-hand man of the late tyrant, Meles Zenawi, whom Adhanom refers to as the “great leader”, he wasn’t an ordinary health minister (2005-2012) and foreign minister (2012-2016). He rose from a rank-and-file member of the TPLF to its central and executive committees. TPLF, where membership is mainly based on ethnic origin, is responsible for countless killings, torture, mass detentions and violent repressions. Its divide and rule system has instituted a highly discriminatory political and economic structure that has enabled it to dominate and subjugate the majority. Given his narrow-minded and ethnocentric experience, his aspiration to lead WHO is an oxymoron.

Adhanom is involved in terrible decisions and actions that violate the rights and dignity of others. It turns out that a prominent dissident is one of Adhanom’s victims.

Kidnapping in Sana’a
In the evening of May 13, 2014, a delegation of Ethiopia’s tyrannical regime headed by the then Foreign Minister Adhanom flew to Sana’a. They were scheduled to have a high level meeting the next day with Yemeni leaders, security and diplomatic officials.

The two rogue regimes, besset with a varying set of crises mainly related to violent repressions and misgovernance, had held at least three high level meetings before. But what made the 2014 meeting “very important”, especially for a small circle within the delegation, was a crude agenda that the former foreign minister was persistently pushing. They had sharpened their daggers with a plan for a politically motivated vendetta in Yemen.

When Ethiopian migrants and domestic workers in Yemen were routinely beaten, raped, abused and deported back to Ethiopia, neither the Foreign Minister nor the Ethiopian embassy in Sana’a raised concerns. But this time, they were keen to get involved for a special operation–kidnapping and rendition. They wanted Yemen to have dissidents that enter Yemen to seek asylum or use Sana’a International Airport as a transit route, kidnapped and handed over to them, according to two credible former security operatives.

Andargachew Tsege, a British citizen of Ethiopian origin was top on the list of dissidents that the delegation wanted to have their heads on a platter. Tsege, who was one of the key figures during the 2005 popular movement for change and democracy in Ethiopia, had already received two death sentences in absentia in 2009 and 2012. As head of the delegation, Tedros Adhanom led the negotiations with the former Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubeker Al Qirbi and security officials including Brig. Gen. Abdou Hussein al-Tarb. Before he flew back, he went to the Presidential Palace to press the issue with President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. On May 15, Adhanom tweeted, “We just concluded #Yemen #Ethiopia joint ministerial meeting in #Senea’a [sic]. Signed 9 agreements.”

One of the sources, former security official Ayalew Meshesha, says that Adhanom was not only involved in facilitating Tsege’s kidnapping but also played an active role in the rendition of over 760 dissidents who fled to Yemen. Meshesha alleges that most of those handed over by the Yemenis to TPLF’s security agents were rounded up several months before the kidnapping of Tsege.

“Most of those renditioned were Oromo and Ethiopian Somalis suspected of being OLF and ONLF sympathizers,” said Meshesha, who fled to the U.S. a couple of years ago.

Lurking danger
It was an opportune moment for such a special operation. Yemen had already been in turmoil since the Arab Spring triggered a political whirlwind in the country in 2011. The clash between revolutionaries pushing for change and the rogue regime resorting to violence to stem the storm turned it into bloodbath.

As a matter of fact, the former strongman of Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh reportedly fled to Ethiopia after he was forced to cede power to his deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Even if he lost power, Saleh remained highly influential and deeply involved in the civil war breaking up his country. He was also closely involved, as a go-between,in the secret operation, the sources say.

At the conclusion of the meeting, officials from both sides signed a dozen of agreements and protocols including one on security that reaffirmed and expanded an existing accord. Following the Ethio-Eritrean conflict, the late tyrant Zenawi switched side and had been cozying up with Yemen. In October 1999, Yemeni and Ethiopian officials signed a security accord. IRIN News reported at the time quoting officials that the pact was aimed at “jointly controlling elements seeking to destabilise peace and stability in the two countries”.

“Tedros Adhanom actually played the most important role in the kidnapping of Andargachew. He was the one who convinced the Yemenis to be part of the illegal kidnapping and rendition. He paved the way and laid the groundwork for the whole operation,” one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Despite the pacts, what happened to Tsege, a father of three from North London, was an extraordinarily illegal kidnapping and rendition that violates every domestic and international legal norms.

Unsuspecting victim
Mr. Tsege was not supposed to travel to Sana’a from Dubai in June 2014 as information had already leaked to his group that TPLF security agents were lurking in Yemen for an ambush.

Abebe Begole, an executive of Patriotic Ginbot 7, is the last person Tsege talked to while in Dubai. Bogale says he had a direct flight to Asmara on Eritrean Airlines (ERT). But he decided to cancel his flight on June 20, 2014 as the retail suppliers, who had him waiting for the equipment he wanted to buy, called him to inform him that his delayed consignment had arrived.

Nonetheless, there was a problem. He had an urgent matter and meetings to attend. But ERT had only two flights a week. He booked another flight. When he informed Bogale that he booked a flight on Yemenia, he told him never to do it owing to the security threat in Yemen.

“Do not worry. I did it before a couple of times,” Tsege said. Bogale discouraged him again. At that point, he seemed to relent. He assured him that he would cancel his Yemenia flight.

It was exactly five weeks after Dr. Adhanom’s delegation flew back to Addis. On a fateful evening of Sunday, June 22, 2014, Tsege took a Yemenia flight that had a two hour layover in Sana’a. It was during that stop that the kidnapping operation took place. Along with the security czar, Adhanom was playing an active role in coordinating and orchestrating the brazen kidnapping and rendition.

There was already a six-man team sent by TPLF security chief Getachew Assefa. They arrived earlier on a chartered flight with a large amount of dollars to Yemeni security officials according one reliable source. PG7 sources estimate that around nine million of dollars was paid as to make the extradition a swift rendition with no due process.

One the same day Tsege was kidnapped, intelligence sources passed information to PG7 leadership that Tsege was held in Yemen. Apparently, he was seen bundled and manhandled by Yemeni agents at Sana’a International Airport. He was arguing and asserting his right to see British consular officers. His request was denied and taken to an unknown place–still handcuffed and shackled.

The next day, Prof. Berhanu Nega, leader of PG7 called Bogale, who lives in an EU member state. “Which Airlines did Andargachew take?” the unusual question was a bit alarming.

Bogale informed the Professor that he had booked a Yemnia flight but he managed to persuade him not to. The professor fumed. After a long silence, he told him that might be kidnapped in Sana’a. Bogale was devastated.

A rescue operation kicked off immediately–British, and PG7 efforts hit the wall. The initial response by Yemeni officials was repeated denial. Then they started making assurances that he was safely in their hands. “He will not be given over. He will be freed,” they assured.

In reality, what was supposed to be an immediate effort turned out to be too late for a rescue. Without any legal proceedings, without giving him consular access and any fair hearing, the Yemenis had handed him over to the notorious TPLF’s security and intelligence officers despite the fact that he was facing the death penalty. The chartered plane had already returned to Ethiopia the next day.

What happened at the airport remains sketchy. But it was crystal clear that Tsege’s kidnapping and rendition was a done deal. It was negotiated and agreed five weeks earlier by Adhanom and Yemeni officials. There was no time to spare and no deal to make to reverse the situation. Within 48 hours, the kidnapping mission was completed.

A costly passion

Tsege’s kidnapping caused widespread outrage among Ethiopian activists and those struggling to free their country from the tyrannical regime. Tsege began to play active role during the md-1970s student moment. He was Meles Zenawi’s classmate. When Zenawi and a few others launched the TPLF with a view to seceding Tigray from the rest of Ethiopia, Tsege had joined the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), whose members were slaughtered en mass for opposing the military junta. He was a vehement opponent of Mengistu’s military rule, the Derg.

After wandering in political wilderness for a few years during the revolution, he sought asylum in the UK in 1979. In 1991, the fall of the Derg had restored his hope. He returned to Ethiopia and joined the new transitional government and became a key official at the Addis Ababa municipality. As the TPLF broke its promises for a democratic change and imposed a brutal minority regime that resorted to violent repressions, he left the regime and began struggling for a genuine democratic transition. It was during the 2005 elections that Tsege had renewed his faith and hope once more for a drastic change that can usher in equality, justice and freedom for all.

Unfortunately, that hope was shattered again when TPLF rigged the elections to reverse its spectacular defeats and employed brute force to crush the long held dream of Ethiopians to be masters of their own destiny. In his book “A liberators unaware of freedom”, which he published 1997, he rejected TPLF’s divide and rule policy and tried to show the dangers of its fascistic and Stalinist ideology. He had warned that the TPLF, armed with its ethnofascist ideology, poses a danger to Ethiopia as a nation and individuals as citizens.

For his unwavering courage and struggle, the TPLF accuses the 62-year old dissident of being a terrorist. Twice, on December 22, 2009 and November 7, 2013, TPLF’s Kangaroo courts, which are notorious for being a sledgehammer of injustice, sentenced him to death.

A few days after his kidnapping, he was paraded on national TV. Despite being on death row, he said calmly: “I have no regrets….I am at peace with myself. I need to rest.”

In a twist of irony, it was Adhanom who appeared on VOA Amharic in July 2015 and told the nation that Tsege’s kidnapping was justified. Contrary to reports, Adhanom claimed that the prisoner of conscience was treated well and was given a laptop to write a book, claims that turned out to be big lies.

Adhanom is well-known for tendency of telling tall tales. It is rather a tale of the the crocodiles and their preys. Adhanom is just shedding his crocodile’s tears when he talks about his “concern” for world health. Spending millions of dollars snatched from the throats of hunger-stricken Ethiopians, it appears to be easy to hoodwink the world with sweet talks and march to Geneva to head WHO, which finds itself in a compromising position for failing to properly vet a fascist aspiring to become its director-general.

Obang Metho, Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, says that Ethiopians should have celebrated the candidacy of Adhanom. But he is not our candidate, he says.

“His ethnicity or politics never matters to most Ethiopians. What matters to us is his criminal record. He is one of those corrupt TPLF criminals whose hands are drenched with the blood of countless Ethiopia. If WHO ignores this reality, it will only expose its own hypocrisy and how out of touch it is on issues that matter to ordinary people suffering at the hands of criminals like Adhanom,” he said.

While Adhanom, a well-known human rights violator, has the luxury of travelling around the world pleading governments to vote him in as director-general of WHO, the men and women that he and his TPLF gang held captives in torture chambers, are not feeling well. Tormented and tortured, they are in deep pains and despair. That must be the reason why Ethiopians around the world are protesting against Tedros Adhanom, WHO never cares for their plight.

In a surging twitter campaign, Ethiopian activists are voicing their protest and venting out their anger. “Killers can’t be healers,” they say. So far, WHO officials are dodging hard questions. They are clearly in awkward position. It is a very compromising position.

The writer can be reached at


  1. Is Abebe Gelaw against armed struggle?

    In paragraph three of his write-up, he talks about TPLF’s “violent destructive armed struggle.” By saying this, is he suggesting that there is non-violent and non-destructive armed struggle? Or, is he simply mentioning the nature of TPLF’s armed struggle to back up his story of its inclusion in a data base as a terrorist organization? It’s not clear what he wantes to say.

    As one of the leaders of Ginbot 7 (G7) which officially claims to conduct armed struggle in Ethiopia, I doubt if Abebe has the legitimacy and moral higher ground to question TPLF’S “violent destructive armed struggle?” History, pas and presnet shows that armed struggle is violent and destructive. I don’t think the armed struggle G7 conducts is a differnt vaiety from TPLF’s. The diffence between hit-and-run (G7’s) and conventional (TPLF’s) is only a diffence of size in violence and destruction.

    As far as I am concerned, TPLF has succeeded to confine G7’s hit-and-run “armed struggle” to Amara region. Amara nationalists in the diaspora and bak home are pissed off with G7 because it has made them its base of recruitment and operation. Kids are being arrested and thrown to jail in mass. Parents are mad. On top of that, TPLF is tightening the noose to reduce the “rebel” region to what Tigray was in the 1980s and 90s. That is cut federal subsidy and financing development projects to force Amara surrender. TPLF will remain at the top as long as other nations or peoples do not back Amara struggle. The Soth is not saying anything and the Oromo are content the way TPLF talks to them. Once they get Finfine – Addis in a silve platter, they will be bed fellows with the TPLF. Amara will be screwed up unless G7 leaves the region.

    One reason why TPLF is not democratic is because it is a product of armed struggle. Abebe did not go far to state this fact since it contradicts G7’s war project. Personally, I am opposed to armed struggle both TPLF’s and G7’s type becuse I have seen – time and again – that it will not lead to democracy.

    If Abebe believes armed struggle is violence and destructive, he should ask his comrades to drop the damn thing and support the peaceful struggle. Only peaceful struggle will take us to democracy with the least cost in human lives and property. More than any thing else, we’ll save time.

    Tedros Adhanom should have known better. As a foreign minister, he was in a position to get information more than anbody else about the activism of the Ethiopian diaspora. Even if he gets the job, he can’t move the WHO headquarters from Geneve to Addis. He can’t make his office in Geneve inaccesible to elements of the Ethiopian diaspora since UN agencies do not work that way. It is impractical to provide him with body guards wherever he goes. In effect, h ends up in being a rallying cry of the diaspora and an embarrassent to the government. He might be wrong if he thinks the diaspora will get tired and give up condemning him.

    Inconvinience aside, he definetly exposes himself to serious criminal charges . In the past, diaspora attempts were fruitmless, but now there is a fair possibility of succeeding.

    To be continued.

  2. The last time I heard about Abebe’s education was when he was appointed executive director of ESAT. It was reported then that he fills the position left by Neamin Zeleke.

    I know Abebe is a journalist by trade, but I am not sure if he is a journalist by training. Reportedly, he has a bachelor’s degree from Addis Ababa University. He got notoriety in exposing some who claim “big” titles without undergoing the requisite education for the title, but the kind of bachelor’s degree he has is secret. He certainly is not a lawyer.

    If he is not a lwayer, why does he write like a lawyer?

    Here is a quote from article he published above.

    “Despite the pacts, what happened to Tsege, a father of three from North London, was an extraordinarily illegal kidnapping and rendition that violates every domestic and international legal norms.”

    A consumate lawyer I talked to about this issue laughed loud on what Abebe wrote. Why? Because he said Abebe acted like an imposter. An imposter is “one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception”. The lawyer also added that he should have qualified the paragraph by using an expression such as : “Lawyers say …”

    Around the time Andy was extradited, lawyers have discussed his case from all angles. They didn’t see any illegality in the actions. Even English lawyers who have more resources than Ethiopian lawyers agreed. If there was any illegality, they would have been the first to raise it. Since they found none, thay are simply asking for visitation rights. Reports show that it is granted.

    The way Abebe tried to relate Tedros’ bid for WHO directorship to Andy’s case might not help the efforts of Andy’s family in all respects.

  3. Wow guys instead of attacking Abebe’s personality and educational credentials, why don’t you comment on the white elephant his article exposed?
    Most of us engaged in titlle tatle not on the substance or for that matter we have not cultivated a civilised debate. As a result we tend to use vulgar language to attack and discredit anyone who dares to write or express opnion that we don’t endorse.
    Grow up and write a comment that befits both the forum and its target audiences….for anything else write them on your facebook to the audience of your caliber.
    With utmost respect.

  4. My thank you goes to Hulunegn Nano who picked an important point from Abebe’s write-up. I did not expect such a blunder from him.

    If Abebe is not a lawyer, why does he present himself as one?

    I think it’s all politics wrapped in a typical G7 style legal mumbo-jumbo and shoved down people’s throats. It can be shoved down people’s throats but I doubt if they would swallow it.

    I support Hulunegn’s remark to leave the “law to lawyers”. It is a professional minefield for non-lawyers. Politics allows everybody to jump on the bandwagon but not law and the legal profession.

    From what Hulunegn said, I gather that Tedros cannot be pursued for crimes on Andy’s case simply because there is no illegality to what happened that can stand thorough examiniation before a judge.

    If that is Hulunegn’s point, any lousy lawyer that bases his case on Andy (following Abebe’s learned legal analysis) without doing his homework will lose.

    I feel that to use Andy’s case to go after Tedros and lose will be a political and legal disaster for G7 and Andy’s family. But is is for them to call the shots. I guess them make decisions together.

    I have a suggestion to Hulunegn to look into “diplomatic immunity” available to the staff of U.N. specialized agancies (such as the WHO) that might make charges against Tedros not to stand in any national or international court. Please enlighten us on the issue.

    By the way, not long ago, didn’t Abebeb say ” We’re all Andy” in a similar thunderous voice that killed M. Zenawi? Isn’t he supposed to be in the war front for the armed struggle? It is funny that G7 guyscall for armed struggle but never join it to pull the trigger. Even his predecessor who resigned from ESAT for G7 work never left the U.S.

    Who knows? As I suggested in my previous comment Abebe might have found armed struggle “violent and destructive” which made him to condemn it. If that is his impression, what’s he doing at ESAT?

    I’m just asking because I don’t have the answer.

  5. Corrigendum …

    A paragraph from the above comment should have read as follows :

    “I feel that to use Andy’s case to go after Tedros and lose will be a political and legal disaster for G7 and Andy’s family. But it is for them to call the shots. I guess they make decisions together.”


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