For several months, the UN has denied Ethiopia’s accusation of institutional bias in its handling of the Tigray conflict. The dispute was exacerbated by Ethiopia’s expulsion two weeks ago of seven UN officials for alleged “meddling” in its internal affairs.
Ethiopia’s government says it provided the UN with evidence supporting its complaint. Yet the recent release of a tape recorded interview between Maureen Achieng, chief representative in Ethiopia of the UN’s International Organization for Migration, Dennia Gayle, the U.N. Population Fund’s country representative there, and freelance Canadian journalist Jeff Pearce shows even more conclusively that high level UN officials are violating its standards of independence and neutrality.
The tape was stolen from Mr. Pearce at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, and the portion of the interview circulated by unknown persons—likely an intelligence agency interested in seeing the story publicized–has been edited. However, none of the interview’s participants has repudiated the main point of the conversation: World Health Organization Director-General and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leader Tedros Adhanom and other TPLF officials exert an improper, behind-the-scenes influence on the UN’s treatment of Ethiopia.
That deleterious influence, the two whistleblowers allege, led the UN to circumvent its own Ethiopian office and deal directly with the TPLF insurgency on matters critical to the conflict, such as humanitarian relief, that shape international opinion and could affect the war’s outcome.
The TPLF’s former leader, the late Meles Zenawi, and Tedros were adept at building personal relationships throughout the diplomatic world. Those cozy friendships have paid off for decades in western tolerance for egregious TPLF aggression, crimes against humanity, and corruption.
The practice goes back for years. In a 2010 report, “Development without Freedom…How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia,” Human Rights Watch described how the TPLF uses humanitarian aid “to control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents—both real and perceived…. Ethiopia’s foreign donors are aware of this discrimination, but have done little to address the problem or tackle their own role in underwriting government repression.”
Dr. Tedros’ presence at the WHO is itself proof of this institutional bias. I have published unmistakable evidence that he tried to cover up serious threats to public safety when he was foreign minister during the TPLF dictatorship. Only a compromised process can explain why such a treacherous track record was ignored by the World Health Assembly which, incredibly, is ready to re-appoint him to a second term.
The UN’s pro-TPLF bias often manifests itself in efforts by UN and western officials to help the TPLF conceal its crimes and malfeasance.
In 2017, for example, when the TPLF still ruled Ethiopia as a brutal dictatorship before its 2018 ouster, Secretary-General Guterres described the TPLF’s Ethiopia as a “pillar of stability,” praised the regime for an effective response to the previous year’s drought, and asked the world to show “total solidarity” with the regime.
At the time he made these remarks, Secretary General Guterres had to know that TPLF leaders were deliberately fomenting instability to maintain their theft of billions while Ethiopians, including their Tigrayan base, starved.
The US State Department was not immune to the TPLF’s blandishments either. One sign of this was the emotional eulogy by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, now an adviser to President Biden, for Meles Zenawi at his 2012 funeral that effusively praised that corrupt mass murderer.
A particularly embarrassing instance was when President Obama in 2015 twice asserted the government of Ethiopia was “democratically elected” two months after the TPLF stole the vote at gunpoint and declared a 100% election victory for its puppet coalition. That was the same year in which Tedros tried to cover up a famine and declared on camera that imprisoned journalists were criminals, apparently correct in his confidence that a pliant international community wouldn’t hold it against hm.
Even the media succumbed to the TPLF charm offensive. In an April 2021 Op-Ed, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, for example, sympathetically portrayed an anguished Tedros he has “admired” for fifteen years weeping over alleged war crimes perpetrated against Tigray by Ethiopian forces. Tedros’ own crimes against humanity when he was a TPLF leader somehow were not worth mentioning.
Secretary General Guterres has punished Mss. Achieng and Gayle for their candor by recalling and placing them on administrative leave. His actions reflect the very bias that he denies. The two UN whistleblowers should be awarded instead.
Pro-TPLF influence in diplomatic circles has already caused incalculable damage. It foisted on an unsuspecting public a WHO leader who downplayed the Covid outbreak, enabled a genocidal, regionally destabilizing TPLF dictatorship, and has fueled Ethiopia’s new civil war.
It is a serious and dangerous problem that should be investigated and stopped before more harm is done.