NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) – Ethiopia’s government is criticising as “unethical” the statement by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general that the crisis in the country’s Tigray region is “the worst disaster on Earth” and his assertion that the lack of attention from global leaders may be due to Tigrayans’ skin colour.
The spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister yesterday told journalists that the 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 from his post if he wants to talk that way. She spoke a day after the WHO chief in an emotional statement at a press briefing asserted that the six million people in Tigray have been “under siege” for the last 21 months because of the conflict that erupted there in late 2020 between Ethiopian and Tigray forces.
“I haven’t heard in the last few months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?” Tedros asked. “Maybe the reason is the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray.”
Earlier this year, he asked whether the world’s overwhelming focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine was due to racism, although he acknowledged the conflict there had global consequences. Ethiopia’s conflict has serious regional implications, with the potential to destabilise the strategic and sometimes turbulent Horn of Africa region.
Yesterday, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said “an operable environment needs to happen” for the return of those services, including safety guarantees for service workers in the region.
She also noted a government proposal for “peace talks in the coming weeks” and stressed they must be without preconditions.
She dismissed Tigray forces’ allegations of new attacks by Ethiopian forces as “a mechanism to deflect” discussions on the peace process.
Ethiopia’s government has said it is willing to hold talks “any time, any place” but led by its preferred mediator, the African Union special envoy.