Ethiopia calls WHO chief’s comments on Tigray “unethical”

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s government is blasting as “unethical” the World Health Organization director-general’s declaration that the crisis in the country’s Tigray region is “the worst disaster on Earth ” and his claim that the lack of attention from world leaders may be due to the skin color of the Tigraians.

A spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister told reporters on Thursday that the comments by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus were “inconvenient for such a prominent position.” Billene Seyoum suggested that Tedros, himself an ethnic Tigrayan, should step down from his post if he wants to talk like this.

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

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

Ethiopia’s 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 retook much of the region in June 2021, and local aid workers and medics described starving and basic medical supplies running low .

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 is still a significant shortage of fuel to supply supplies.

The resumption of basic services and banking remains a key demand of Tigray leaders. On Thursday, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said “an operational environment must be created” for the return of these services, including safety 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 allegations by Tigray forces of further attacks by Ethiopian forces as “a mechanism to derail” discussions on the peace process.

Ethiopia’s 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 other mediation efforts by neighboring Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, with the support of the United States, the Ethiopian government offered its congratulations to Kenyan President-elect William Ruto minutes after Monday’s declaration of his electoral victory.

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