Ethiopia claims WHO chief is backing Tigray without evidence

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopia’s army chief has accused the head of the World Health Organization, a fellow Ethiopian, of lobbying neighboring countries to provide arms and other support to the country’s Tigray defiant region, which the government has been fighting for two weeks. He did not cite any evidence.

Gen. Birhanu Jula told reporters on Wednesday that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had urged unnamed neighbors to “oppose the war and for (the Tigray People’s Liberation Front) to get arms.”

There was no immediate response from WHO headquarters.

The TPLF has been clashing with Ethiopian federal forces since the country’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister accused the heavily armed regional government of attacking a military base. Each government regards the other as illegitimate after a monthslong falling-out amid political reforms.

The conflict threatens to tear apart Africa’s second most populous country and destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa region.

The army chief accused Tedros, a former Ethiopian foreign and health minister when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, of being a member of the front and asked, “What do you expect of a person like him?”

WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti defended Tedros during a COVID-19 briefing Thursday but didn’t address the allegation directly.

“What I can say in response is that I know Tedros, I know him as somebody who is passionately promoting global health, promoting the good health of people and promoting peace,” Moeti told reporters. “I think this is extent of my knowledge of Tedros as a person.”

For more, she referred reporters to his office.

The Tigray region remains largely cut off from the world with communications and transport links severed, making it difficult to verify either side’s claims about what is happening there. No one knows how many people have been killed, and some 30,000 refugees have streamed into Sudan.

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