Ethiopian army accuses WHO chief Tedros of backing dissident region

Dr Tedros has served as a member of the politburo of the Tigray People's Liberation Front.
Dr Tedros has served as a member of the politburo of the Tigray People's Liberation Front.PHOTO: AFP

ADDIS ABABA (BLOOMBERG) - Ethiopia's army accused the head of the World Health Organisation of aiding the dissident Tigray region, including helping secure weapons for its fighters.

Chief of Staff General Birhanu Jula also said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus used his position to lobby foreign governments to support the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

Gen Birhanu didn't provide evidence to back up his claims. Dr Tedros has served as a member of the politburo of the TPLF, which governs the Tigray region.

"He has been campaigning in our neighbouring countries asking them to oppose, condemn the war," Gen Birhanu told reporters on Wednesday (Nov 18) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"He has worked to get them weapons, he has used his UN appointment as an opportunity to lobby and convince people to support the TPLF junta. He will not be successful."

The government is "not happy" with lobbying by Dr Tedros and is discussing how to approach the issue, Mr Redwan Hussein, Ethiopia's state minister of foreign affairs and spokesman for the government's Emergency Task Force, told reporters in Addis Ababa.

WHO Director of Communications Gabriella Stern referred a request for comment to the WHO's media team, which didn't immediately respond to e-mailed questions.

Asked to respond to the army's comments, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti defended Dr Tedros's record in his role as the UN body's director-general.


"I know him as somebody who is passionately promoting global health, promoting the good health of people, and promoting peace," she said in the Congo Republic capital, Brazzaville.

"I think it's only in the context of peace that we can have the type of development that delivers good health for people."

Hundreds of people have died and thousands have been displaced since Ethiopian soldiers began attacking Tigray on Nov 4 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blamed the region's government for a raid on a federal army base.

Relations between Tigray and Mr Abiy's administration have been strained since he took office in 2018 and began consolidating power and sidelining the Tigray People's Liberation Front, which controlled the nation's ruling coalition for two decades.

Dr Tedros, 55, was elected to serve as WHO director-general in 2017.

His candidacy was rejected by some Ethiopians, who criticised the human rights record of the TPLF, which controlled Ethiopia's ruling coalition party from 1991 until 2018.