Ethiopia hits out at WHO’s Ghebreyesus over Tigray war remarks

Ethiopia has asked the UN health agency to investigate its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for “harmful misinformation” and “misconduct”.

FILE: World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a ceremony to launch a multi-year partnership with Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva on October 18, 2021. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / PISCINE/AFP

NAIROBI – Ethiopia has asked the United Nations health agency to investigate its leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for “harmful misinformation” and “misconduct”, accusing him of supporting rebels in his home region of Tigray torn by the war.

Tedros, the most high-profile Tigrayan abroad, this week described conditions in the Ethiopian region as “hell” and said the government was blocking medicine and other life-saving aid from reaching residents.

Addis Ababa said his comments threatened the integrity of the World Health Organization (WHO) and called for Tedros to be investigated for “misconduct and breach of professional and legal responsibility”.

“He interfered in the internal affairs of Ethiopia, including Ethiopia’s relations with the state of Eritrea,” the foreign ministry said Thursday evening, citing a letter sent to the WHO.

The government has accused Tedros of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), its adversary in the 14-month war in the north of the country, and a listed terror group in Ethiopia.

Thousands of people have died in the fighting, with the United Nations saying on Friday that at least 108 civilians had been killed in airstrikes in Tigray so far this year.

Many more face starvation, with the World Food Program (WFP) warning on Friday that its operations were ‘at a standstill’ in northern Ethiopia because heavy fighting was preventing aid from reaching the millions of people in need.

Tedros on Wednesday described restrictions on aid entering rebel-held Tigray, which the UN described as a de facto blockade, as creating “hell” in the war-torn region.

It’s “so appalling and unimaginable in this time, the 21st century, where a government deprives its own people for over a year of food and medicine and everything else to survive,” Tedros told reporters.

HUMANITARIAN DISASTER

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said Tedros had “spread harmful false information and undermined the reputation, independence and credibility of the WHO, which is evident from his social media posts which openly endorse the terror perpetrated by the TPLF against the Ethiopian people”.

The Ethiopian mission to the United Nations also protested the WHO chief’s remarks and called on Tedros to recuse himself “from all matters relating to Ethiopia”.

“Partisan, politically and personally motivated staff blinded to their global roles limit the most needed work of UN agencies,” he said on Twitter on Wednesday.

WFP said Friday that none of its convoys had reached Tigray’s capital, Mekele, since mid-December, and stocks of fortified food for malnourished children had already run out.

“We must now choose who is hungry to prevent another from starving… We are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for East Africa, in a statement. communicated.

On Friday, Addis Ababa blamed the TPLF for the blockade, accusing the rebels of obstructing critical humanitarian corridors to their Tigray stronghold.

The international community should “hold the TPLF accountable for the crime of starving people in Tigray, in whose name it wreaked havoc,” the foreign ministry said.

Ethiopian forces and their allies have been fighting the TPLF since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray after accusing the rebels of attacking military camps.

It is not the first time that Tedros, who in 2017 became the first African to head the WHO, has drawn the ire of Ethiopia over his remarks on the war.

At the start of the fighting, Ethiopian army chief Berhanu Jula accused the 56-year-old of helping the TPLF acquire weapons.

The WHO boss dismissed the claims, insisting he was “on the side of peace”.

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