Ethiopia slams WHO chief at international meeting over Tigray comments

·2 min read

An Ethiopian ambassador slammed the World Health Organization's chief over his comments on the Tigray conflict, during the WHO's executive board meeting in Geneva.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus "has not lived up to the integrity and the professional expectations required from his office and position," said Zenebe Kebede Korcho, Ethiopia's ambassador to the United Nations.

"He has been using his office to advance his personal political interest at the expense of the interest of Ethiopia," the ambassador told the meeting of countries serving on the UN health agency's executive board.

Tedros - a former Ethiopian health and foreign affairs minister and the highest-profile Tigrayan abroad - has become increasingly vocal in his criticism of the government's actions in the war-ravaged region.

Earlier this month, the WHO chief described the conditions there as "hell" and said the government was preventing medicines and other life-saving aid from reaching desperate locals.

Tedros investigation?

Ethiopia's government, which originally nominated Tedros for the post of WHO chief, which he has held since 2017, has warned his comments threatened the organisation's integrity.

It sent a diplomatic request, a so-called note verbale, demanding that the WHO investigate Tedros for "misconduct and violation of his professional and legal responsibility".

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

The fighting has displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.

When the UN health agency's executive board opened its week-long meeting, which will include a vote on whether to nominate Tedros to take on another five-year term, it decided not to include Ethiopia's note verbale on the agenda.

Kebede Korcho was cut off before he could continue voicing his country's criticism of the WHO chief.

The executive board president, Patrick Amoth of Kenya, warned him he would need to "refrain from further remarks that are irrelevant to the subject under discussion", and when the ambassador continued along the same line, his video feed was cut off.

(With wires)

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