Ethiopia calls WHO chief’s comments on Tigray ‘unethical’

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Ethiopian government criticizes as “lack of ethics” the statement by the director general of the World Health Organization that the crisis in the Tigray region of the country is “the worst disaster in the world” and his assertion that the lack of attention from world leaders may be due to Tigrayans’ skin color.

The Ethiopian prime minister’s spokeswoman told reporters on Thursday that comments by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus were “unbecoming of such a high-profile position.” Billene Seyoum suggested that Tedros, himself an ethnic Tigrayan, should recuse himself if he wants to talk that way.

He spoke a day after the WHO chief in an emotional statement at a press conference claimed that the 6 million people in Tigray have been “besieged” for the past 21 months due to the conflict that broke out there in late 2020 between Ethiopian and Tigray forces. .

“I have not heard in recent months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?” asked Tedros. “Maybe the reason is the color of people’s skin in Tigray.” Earlier this year, he asked if the world’s overwhelming attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine was due to racism. , although he acknowledged that the conflict there had global consequences.

The Ethiopian conflict has serious regional implications, with the potential to destabilize the strategic and sometimes turbulent Horn of Africa region.

Very little humanitarian aid was allowed into Tigray after Tigray forces recaptured much of the region in June 2021, with local aid workers and health workers describing people starving and running out of supplies. basic medical supplies.

Aid has begun to flow more substantially in recent months amid international mediation efforts, but deliveries are widely described as inadequate to meet the needs of the millions of people essentially trapped there. Aid groups say there remains a serious shortage of fuel to deliver supplies.

The resumption of basic services and banking remains a key demand of Tigray’s leaders. On Thursday, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said “an operating environment needs to be in place” for the return of those services, including security guarantees for service workers in the region.

He also pointed to a government proposal for “peace talks in the coming weeks” and stressed that they must be without preconditions. He accused Tigray leaders of “looking for excuses to avoid these peace talks.”

He dismissed the Tigrayan forces’ accusations of further attacks by Ethiopian forces as “a mechanism to divert” discussions on the peace process.

The Ethiopian government has said it is willing to hold talks “anytime, anywhere” but led by its preferred mediator, the African Union’s special envoy.

In a sign of its rejection of further mediation attempts by the US-backed President of neighboring Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, the Ethiopian government congratulated Kenyan President-elect William Ruto within minutes of the Monday of his electoral victory.


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