World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been accused of supporting Tigray rebels TPLF in Ethiopia. Army chief of staff of Ethiopia, General Birhanu Jula, made the accusations in a televised statement on Thursday. He called Tedros a ‘criminal’ and called for him to be removed.
“He himself is a member of that group and he is a criminal,” the General said, accusing Tedros of trying to procure arms for the Tigray state’s dominant political party in addition to providing diplomatic support. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is currently engaged in a military conflict with federal forces.
“He has been doing everything to support them, he has campaigned to get the neighbouring countries to condemn the war. He has worked to facilitate weapons for them (the TPLF),” the General said. It is pertinent to mention that Tedros served as the Health Minister and the Foreign Minister between 2005-16 under a coalition headed by the TPLF.
Tedros, meanwhile, has denied the accusations. He said, “There have been reports suggesting I am taking sides in this situation. This is not true and I want to say that I am on only one side and that is the side of peace.”
The conflict in Ethiopia
Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, ordered a military offensive against the TPLF after an attack on one of its military bases early in November. Ahmed accused the rebels of being responsible for the attack which resulted in the capture of the military base by the rebels. A state of emergency has been declared in the country for six months.
Ahmed said that the attackers “tried to loot” military assets, asserting that “the last red line had been crossed”. “The national defence force that has been in the bunkers for the past 20 plus years defending its people and the country by paying heavy sacrifices with its blood and flesh, has been attacked, this evening in Mekelle and many other places, by traitors and the force they organised,” he said in a televised address.
During its initial years, the TPLF had a Marxist ideological bent but later, it moderated itself and claimed to be pro-democracy. In May 1990, a top US diplomat commented, “My own view is that the military success of the TPLF has gotten far ahead of its political agenda. These guys woke up one day and said, ‘My gosh, we may win!’ They have said they are strict Marxists, but I think they realize that they need to present themselves and their cause in a better way — not only within Ethiopia, but to the West. They are trying to broaden their base.”
Since 1991, after overthrowing what it labelled as a dictatorship, the TPLF and others formed a coalition government that ruled Ethiopia until 2018. In 2018, however, another coalition, the Prosperity Party, assumed power after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front Chairman unified the constituent parties into a new coalition.
The TPLF did not accept the merger and called it illegal. As things currently stand, the Ethiopian government has claimed that it has taken control of two key towns from in Northern Tigray from the rebels.
Tedros, himself, has quite a shady past. He was accused of covering up epidemics in his home country Ethiopia even while he was the health minister in the government days before he became the director of the WHO. Tedros was Ethiopia’s health minister between 2005-12 and outbreaks had occurred in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
He had said these were only “acute watery diarrhoea” in areas where testing is “difficult”. However, in 2007, the UN and other aid agencies insisted that laboratory tests showed that the deaths were due to cholera. Ethiopia was also accused of covering up a cholera epidemic in 2017. New York Times reported that the Ethiopian government was saying the same thing in 2017 what Tedros had said on previous occasions.
Conduct of Tedros during the Coronavirus pandemic
The WHO found itself at a tough spot in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. It has been accused of ‘siding with’ the Chinese government by none other than the president of the United States himself. WHO and its director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have come under severe criticism for their conduct since the pandemic broke out in China. The organization took long enough in declaring it a pandemic, leading to countries not being vigilant enough on time.
In January, WHO had endorsed the conclusion of Chinese authorities that the Novel Coronavirus does not spread from person to person, and stated that it does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers to and from Wuhan. WHO also ignored Taiwan which had informed them that it has evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Taiwan wrote to WHO on the 31st of December, but WHO kept denying human-to-human transmission till mid-January. Experts are of the view that this laxity and callousness is responsible for the catastrophe that has struck the world and that the organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, like China’s Xi Jinping, should be held accountable for recklessly managing this deadly pandemic.