The United Nations Population Fund has dismissed its Ethiopian boss, the second such resignation this month following an explosive interview in which both employees complained of being ignored by UN higher-ups who they said were sympathetic to Tigrayan rebels.
Dennia Gayle, UNFPA’s country representative, is leaving, further complicating an assistance response already hampered by Ethiopia’s decision last month to remove seven other top UN employees for allegedly “interfering” in its affairs.
According to AFP, Maureen Achieng, the Ethiopian head of the UN migration agency, was recalled and placed on administrative leave over the same conversation, the tape of which leaked online last week.
In the tapes, the two ladies criticize colleagues who arrived in Ethiopia after the battle between government troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front erupted last November (TPLF).
Achieng calls the TPLF “dirty” and “vicious,” promising to leave Tigray forever. Gayle agreed with the interviewer’s assertion that freshly arriving emergency coordinators circumvented senior UN officials in Addis Ababa to contact directly with UN headquarters, and that this indicated “a power struggle inside the UN.”
The UNFPA’s Ethiopia ambassador “has been called back to New York,” according to a UNFPA spokesman.
“The staff member whose voice can be heard in the audio recordings expressed personal thoughts and ideas, not those of UNFPA,” according to the spokesman, who noted that UNFPA is governed by principles of independence and neutrality.
“Senior management is extremely concerned, and this situation is now being handled in accordance with our internal policies and procedures.”
– ‘Disturbingly unsettling’ –
The 11-month-old conflict has spread to the neighboring Afar and Amhara areas, displacing hundreds of thousands of people into famine-like circumstances, according to UN assessments.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accused the international community of tolerating TPLF atrocities and dismissed UN and US claims that Tigray is subject to a de facto humanitarian embargo.
Ethiopia expelled seven top UN personnel, including the local directors of its children’s agency and humanitarian coordination office, in late September, accusing them of “meddling.”
The UN’s decision to put Achieng on administrative leave “for speaking the unvarnished truth about institutional bias inside the @UN system and in regard to the #TerroristTPLF’s crime,” according to Abiy spokesperson Billene Seyoum, was “very unsettling.”
The squabble comes as worries grow that combat would resume, with the TPLF claiming on Monday that government soldiers have begun ground offensives “on all fronts,” including in Amhara’s northern area.
Officials in Ethiopia have not acknowledged the fresh offensive, but Billene stated that the government has “a responsibility to defend its citizens in all regions of the nation from any acts of terrorism.”