A World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday that the global body would postpone a decision on Ethiopia’s request to investigate its leader for allegedly supporting rebellious forces fighting the Ethiopian government.
WHO Executive Board chair Patrick Amoth made the statement at a meeting of the board in Geneva where current director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ bid for a second term as head of the U.N. agency is due to be discussed.
Tedros, an Ethiopian national, said earlier this month that aid was being blocked from getting through to his home region of Tigray, where rebellious forces are fighting the central government.
“This is an extremely complicated matter with political implications and outside the agreed procedural framework of this committee,” said Amoth.
“Accordingly, I’m inclined to the view that this request should be set aside and if appropriate addressed by those concerned as they may deem appropriate.”
None of the WHO’s 34 board members objected.
On Jan. 14, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused Tedros, who previously served as the Ethiopian health minister and foreign minister, of spreading misinformation about the war in the country’s north.
The ministry said that Tedros’ remarks compromised the WHO’s credibility and independence.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said the decision announced by Amoth on Monday showed that the WHO was being partial in the matter.
The government reiterated its call for the WHO to investigate Tedros, Legesse told Reuters in a text message.
The WHO said at the time that Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry had sent a diplomatic communication, called a note verbale.
Thousands have been killed in the conflict in Tigray, which spread to two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia before Tigrayan forces were forced to withdraw back to Tigray in December.
Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Nick Macfie and Hugh Lawson