UN official recalled from Ethiopia over audio tapes – letter


NAIROBI, October 12 (Reuters) – The United Nations Migration Agency recalled a staff member identified by two UN sources in Addis Ababa as the head of his mission in Ethiopia over audio recordings containing criticism of senior UN officials.

In the tapes, two women who say they work for the UN in Ethiopia but do not give their names tell a freelance journalist that some senior UN officials generally sympathize with forces in the northern Tigray region who are fighting the government Ethiopian.

Reuters heard the women’s comments after the tapes were posted online, but could not independently verify the authenticity of the tapes.

In a letter dated October 11, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said a staff member had been recalled to headquarters and put on administrative leave pending an investigation into the tapes .

“The opinions attributed in the audio recordings to the staff member do not correspond to the principles and values ​​of IOM,” wrote IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino in the letter, seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

In his letter, Vitorino did not name the person who had been recalled.

Two UN staff in Addis Ababa identified one of the women in the recording as Maureen Achieng, the IOM Chief Representative in Ethiopia.

When asked if the person recalled to headquarters was Achieng, an IOM spokesperson said he could not confirm the names of any staff.

Achieng and the reporter could not be reached immediately for comment.

The UN says the Ethiopian government is preventing aid from reaching hundreds of thousands of starving people in Tigray, where war has left nearly 7 million people dependent on food aid. The government denies blocking aid.

Ethiopia decided last month to expel seven top UN officials, accusing them of interfering in internal affairs. Read more

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum criticized IOM on Twitter on Tuesday. She said Achieng – whom she referred to when linking to Achieng’s verified Twitter account – had told “the unvarnished truth about institutional biases with the United Nations system.”

War broke out in November 2020 between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray.

In the tapes, the two women say – without citing evidence – that the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is among the UN officials who sympathize with the Tigrayan forces. Tedros, who is Tigrayan, has repeatedly denied taking sides in the conflict.

Reporting by Maggie Fick, Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa, editing by Katharine Houreld and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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