Fri 20 November 2020:
The head of the World Health Organization has denied taking sides in the conflict that has erupted in Ethiopia’s northernmost region of Tigray.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world’s highest-profile Tigrayan, tweeted this evening to say that his heart was breaking for his home, Ethiopia and called for all parties to work for peace and to ensure the safety of civilians.
He denied accusations by Ethiopia’s army chief that he was lobbying for and seeking to arm leaders in the conflict-torn dissident region of Tigray.
Thousands forced to flee as violence erupts in the Tigray region, Ethiopia.
Fearing for their lives and the lives of their families, thousands of children, women and men have been forced to flee into Sudan.
— UNHCR Canada 🇨🇦 (@UNHCRCanada) November 18, 2020
“There have been reports suggesting I am taking sides in this situation [the armed conflict between Ethiopian Defense Forces and the forces of the TPLF]. This is not true, and I want to say that I am on only one side, and that is the side of peace,” Tedros said on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the State of Emergency Task Force for the Tigray Crisis, said the government was “well aware of the activities of Tedros, who has been calling on world leaders to pressurize Ethiopia.”
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Tedros, who has been serving in his position at the WHO since 2017, was a member of the TPLF’s powerful Executive Committee. He was also Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012 and foreign affairs minister from 2012 to 2016.
Abiy Ahmed is Africa’s youngest leader and last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, but the conflict, which has raged for two weeks now, has led to doubts as to whether he can hold the ethnically-divided nation together.
The war has pitted the central government against one of the most heavily militarised of 10 ethnic states that make up Ethiopia.
Tigrayans from the TPLF effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the strongest force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Mr Abiy took power two years ago.
His government said its troops have won a string of victories and will soon reach the capital of Tigray, Mekelle. There is strong support for the TPLF in the highland town of about 500,000 people.
“I am deeply saddened about reports of casualties and large numbers of people being displaced and seeking refuge in neighboring countries,” the WHO chief wrote, calling for “immediate measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute.”
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