Maverick Citizen


African anti-rights groups and anti-vaxxers unite in global conspiracy against WHO

African anti-rights groups and anti-vaxxers unite in global conspiracy against WHO
South African Shabnam Mohamed, who describes herself as a lawyer and journalist. (Photo: Twitter) I Kenyan doctor and religious leader Dr Wahome Ngare. (Photo: Facebook)

Right-wing African members of parliament, including some of the continent’s most vociferous anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQI lawmakers, united with anti-vax conspiracy theorists for the first time at a conference in early May.

Aside from the expected rhetoric against abortion and LGBTQI people, the African Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Family Values and Sovereignty gave a platform to a speaker who claimed that a range of vaccines were unnecessary or designed to reduce African fertility — including the Covid-19, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), malaria and even tetanus vaccines.

Others agitated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic agreement currently being negotiated, describing it as a “power grab” aimed at imposing abortion, same-sex marriage and lockdowns on the world.

The anti-vax charge was led by Kenyan doctor Wahome Ngare and South African Shabnam Mohamed, who describes herself as a lawyer and journalist.

Ngare is chairperson of the African Sovereignty Coalition and a director of the rightwing Kenya Christian Professionals Forum.

Mohamed is a leader of an “Africa chapter” of US presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr’s Children’s Health Defense, one of the key global sources of vaccine misinformation. She is also part of the so-called World Council on Health, a hodgepodge alliance of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and alternative health providers.

Shabnam Mohamed and Dr Wahome Ngare, anti-vaxxers

Shabnam Mohamed and Dr Wahome Ngare. (Screengrab: Youtube)

Link to US anti-vaxxers

Ngare told the conference that SARS-CoV2 was produced in a laboratory and the “endgame of the whole Covid fiasco was to vaccinate everybody” for profit and that the tetanus vaccine causes infertility.

He also claimed that vaccines against HPV and malaria (one of the biggest killers of African children) were unnecessary.

“Could the Covid pandemic have been created and designed to facilitate the administration of an injection aimed at reducing one population through sterility and death?” asked Ngare, who also claimed that the WHO had been involved for 20 years in developing a tetanus vaccine that prevents pregnancy.

Shabnam Mohamed’s presentation. (Screengrab: Youtube)

Ngare also called on the African MPs to ensure that their governments reject the proposed amendments to the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR), which he claimed would turn the WHO “from an advisory organisation into a governing body”, a false claim that is also made repeatedly by Kennedy.

The actual aim of the IHR amendments is to ensure there is a clear process for responding to “public health emergencies of international concern to ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic”.

Disinformation shopping list

The pandemic agreement aims to ensure that the WHO’s 194 member countries are better equipped to prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemics, including more equitable access to vaccines and medicines.

Yet Mohamed provided a shopping list of disinformation about the pandemic agreement, which is currently in draft form.

She took particular exception to the proposed pathogen access and benefit-sharing (Pabs) system. This aims to set up a global system where countries can share biological and genomic information about pathogens with the potential to cause pandemics and derive benefits for doing so, such as getting access to medicines and vaccines.

Under the current draft, the WHO will get 20% of any health-related pandemic products — including vaccines and medicine — to distribute to countries and groups most in need to avoid vaccine hoarding.

According to Mohamed, this Pabs system will encourage “biological weapon research” and “dangerous experimentation”.

She also claimed that “South Africa” has drawn up a bill to withdraw from the WHO. However, she and a couple of MPs from the right-wing African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) are behind a bill which has not been tabled in Parliament.

The ACDP is expressly opposed to Covid vaccines and supports the animal parasite medicine, Ivermectin, as a Covid treatment in its election manifesto prepared for the country’s national elections on 29 May.

‘Kill the gays’ 

Ngare and Mohamed received a warm welcome at the conference, which was addressed by some of the most right-wing politicians on the continent, including Ugandan cabinet minister David Bahati, responsible for his country’s 2009 “Kill the Gays” bill that advocated for the death penalty for same-sex relations in certain situations.

Although Uganda’s Constitutional Court nullified that bill in 2014, the country passed a similar bill in 2023, which recently survived a court challenge.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Uganda’s top court upholds anti-LGBTQ law but says some rights infringed

Dr Seyoum Teklemariam Antonios, Africa director of the US anti-rights group Family Watch International, told the conference that the pandemic agreement and “transgender healthcare guidelines” pose serious threats to Africa’s growth and development and requested Uganda’s leaders to prevent its representatives at the upcoming World Health Organization Assembly (WHA) from signing these treaties. (No transgender healthcare guidelines are on the agenda at the WHA.)

Antonios is known for his extreme views and close ties with Western conservatives, declaring homosexuality the “pinnacle of immorality”, and claiming that his country, Ethiopia, “shall be the graveyard for homosexuality”.

Meanwhile, Family Watch International, a US-based organisation designated a “hate group”  by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is one of the most active anti-LGBTQI groups on the continent and at the UN. It runs annual training sessions for African politicians at its Arizona base.

Uganda’s Minister of Mineral Development Sarah Opendi, chaired the conference. Attendees included Egyptian MP Amira Saber; Eswatini MP and son of King Mswati III, Prince Lindaninkosi Dlamini; and Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Speaker of Gambia’s National Assembly.

Later, a small group of delegates, including Ngare and Mohamed, joined Opendi at State House to meet with Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also Minister of Education and Sport.

anti-vaxxers, Janet Museveni

Anti-rights and anti-vaxxers meet Ugandan First Lady and Minister of Education and Sport, Janet Museveni (centre). (Photo: Hon Sarah Opendi / X)

Countering the hate

“The WHO’s leadership in public health, technical expertise and support in disease prevention have significantly advanced health equity and accessibility, fostering global solidarity during times of crisis,” said Tian Johnson, strategist for the African Alliance, a Pan-African health justice organisation.

“The coordinated campaign to undermine the WHO’s global and African work demands a robust response. We must actively resist, advocate for, and confront the far-right groups seeking to propagate hatred, division and violence on our continent.

“These overseas groups, who benefit from local support and leadership, thrive on exacerbating discord by vilifying our differences and deflecting attention from their own failures to serve their communities.

“They understand that a unified Africa, one that embraces our commonalities over divisions, poses a direct challenge to their agenda of white supremacy and colonialism,” added Johnson.

“To counter this threat, we must redirect our focus inward, strengthening our local institutions, rallying behind the WHO’s global and regional efforts, and championing science.”

Global realignment of conservatives

Anti-science dis- and misinformation has become a global movement.

During the pandemic, a disparate range of organisations and individuals, particularly in the US, spread various conspiracy theories, including that the pandemic was intentionally created as part of a plan by secretive elites to control the world population through lockdowns and quarantines, and that China was also involved in the spread of a “lab-created” virus.

These groups included the far-right conspiracy theory movement QAnon, America’s Frontline Doctors, and Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that 12 people were responsible for two-thirds of anti-vax information on Facebook and Twitter at the height of the pandemic in 2021. Nine of the “disinformation dozen” derived their livelihoods from the “alternative health” sector.

Top spreader Joseph Mercola “peddles dietary supplements and false cures as alternatives to vaccines”, while Ty and Charlene Bollinger, the third-biggest spreaders of misinformation, are “anti-vax entrepreneurs who run a network of accounts that market books and DVDs about vaccines, cancer and Covid-19”, according to the CCDH.

Kennedy was the second biggest misinformation spreader.

Post-pandemic, these groups and some of their views have found resonance with US right-wing political groups opposed to abortion and LGBTQI rights, as well as the nationalists and anti-China groups.

These seemingly unrelated views have coalesced around opposition to the WHO, particularly the pandemic agreement that is being negotiated at present.

In January, some of the foremost right-wing groups in the US sent a letter to the WHO’s executive board urging it to reject awarding official relations status to the Center for Reproductive Health — and basing their argument on misinformation.

“Giving special status to the Center for Reproductive Rights will further fuel the culture wars undermining the WHO’s mission to tackle health issues. It confirms fears that the WHO’s new accord on pandemic preparedness will be used to undermine national laws related to abortion,” claims the letter.

Signatories included the Heritage Foundation, Family Watch International, C-Fam, Family Research Council, Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, International Organization for the Family, ACLJ Action and Human Life International.

The pandemic agreement explicitly recognises countries’ sovereignty, noting that the WHO has no power to “direct, order, alter or otherwise prescribe the national and/or domestic laws”.

‘Project 2025’

In April 2023, the Heritage Foundation, a far-right US think tank, launched Project 2025: The Presidential Transition Project, consisting of policy proposals and a recruitment strategy to ensure the takeover of all government offices and entities should Donald Trump be re-elected.

The proposals are contained in a 920-page book, and include the demand that vaccines “tested on aborted foetal cells” should be removed from US supplies and the promotion of  “the unsurpassed effectiveness of modern fertility awareness-based methods of family planning” — a “natural” method to control pregnancy without contraceptives.

The conservative blueprint mentions the WHO a handful of times — all negatively.

It refers to the “manifest failure and corruption” of the WHO during the pandemic, describing it as “willing to support the suppression of basic human rights, partially because of its close relationship with human rights abusers like the [People’s Republic of China]”.

The next US administration must “return to treating international organisations as vehicles for promoting American interests — or take steps to extract itself from those organisations”, it adds.

This is part of the nationalist rhetoric of right-wing Make America Great Again (Maga) Republicans, who have little interest in anything outside US borders.

What are they ‘selling’?

Globally, the frenzied dis- and misinformation about the WHO’s pandemic agreement reached a crescendo this month — apparently to coincide with the supposed deadline of the pandemic agreement negotiations.

While much of the tone and messaging of the anti-WHO groups is similar to the pandemic-era anti-vaxxers, the chorus is bigger, louder and much more systematic, and the organisations are more diverse.

Perhaps the WHO has been identified as the most vulnerable of the multilateral organisations and it is simply the first target in the “culture war” against global solidarity and human rights.

WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood said his organisation is “concerned about the impact of dis- and misinformation of people’s wellbeing and health choices but are limited in what we can do as a technical agency”.

“We will continue to share clear, evidence-based helpful information to our member states and the broader public at large,” added Garwood. DM

Look out for Part 2 on Wednesday: The Global Misinformation Movement Comes to Geneva.

Kerry Cullinan is Deputy Editor of the Geneva-based Health Policy Watch.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    A great American export, bigotry and extremist misinformation. Let’s see who funds them and to the media, ignore them, they love the attention. Or call them what they are, extremists!

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I think you’ll find there are plenty of places other than America with government policy that are at least as extreme. Most of the middle east springs to mind.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    The sweeping powers being contemplated for the WHO make me very uncomfortable. Having an entirely unelected body being able to dictate a response to a pandemic event like we had with COVID is not 100% positive.


    This is not solely coming from the right wing. A cursory glance at Ms Mohamed social media will show that she harbours some very left wing ideas around capitalism (Varofakis and other Marxists are frequently retweeted), is rabidly anti-US and a fervent supporter of Hamas.

    As always the extremes converge…

  • Lucius Casca says:

    “ensure there is a clear process for responding to “public health emergencies of international concern to ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic”.”. Translation: Give us, the unelected superbody, all the power we seek to control every aspect of people’s lives…no thanks, seen this movie. But a typical DM article nonetheless i.e. if you oppose you are a

  • District Six says:

    Clearly these anti-everbody nutcases want to control people’s bodies, lives and choices. How can people who aim to remove our choices for good health, private decision-making over our own bodies, and personal choices as to whom we love and have sex with claim they are championing our freedom?
    True freedom means I can choose whom to love.
    True freedom means I have agency over my own body and pregnancy.
    True freedom means the choice for global health.

    These anti-UN charlatans are fascists in sheep’s clothing.
    BTW, the UN are not “unelected” – they represent elected governments and these elected governments determine the mandates they give.

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