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WHO chief says uncle was ‘murdered’ in war-torn region

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his relative was among dozens of people killed by Eritrean forces in Tigray

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said his uncle was killed along with more than 50 other people in the war-torn Tigray region, in his home country of Ethiopia. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus blamed the attack on troops from neighboring Eritrea.

The revelation came in the final moments of Dr. Tedros’s press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, dedicated to Covid-19, the mpox virus, and other global health matters. The WHO chief, who was born in Tigray, said he wanted to cancel the event due to being “not in good shape” after learning over the weekend about his uncle’s “murder.”

The attack by Eritrean forces, in which his relative died, was “just arbitrary,” he added.


“I spoke to my mother and she was really devastated because he was the youngest from their family,” Tedros told journalists. He did not reveal the name of the slain relative, only saying that he was 57 years old.

Neither Ethiopian nor Eritrean authorities have yet officially commented on the claims by the UN health chief.

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Soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) ride on a truck amid a conflict in Tigray. © AFP / Amanuel Sileshi
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Thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced in a devastating conflict which broke out in Tigray in northern Ethiopia in 2020 after the government launched a military operation against the separatist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The sides signed a ceasefire in early November that saw federal authority restored in Tigray, and the TPLF agreeing to disarm.


However, Eritrea, which provided military assistance to the authorities in Addis Ababa during the hostilities, was not party to the agreement. Witnesses and aid workers told Reuters that, despite the truce, there has been looting, arrests and killing of civilians by the Eritrean troops in the towns they still control in Tigray.

“I hope the peace agreement will hold and this madness would stop. But it’s just a very, very difficult moment for me,” Tedros said.

The WHO chief has long been sounding the alarm over the fighting in Tigray, which he earlier called “the worst disaster on Earth.” Tedros also expressed frustration that, unlike the conflict in Ukraine, it had been mostly ignored by the West. “I don’t know if the world really gives equal attention to black and white lives,” he said in April.

During the conflict, The Ethiopian government blamed Tedros for working to procure weapons and diplomatic support for the separatist forces in Tigray. The health official denied those accusations.


December 15, 2022 at 03:09PM

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