The United Nation’s migration agency has recalled its Ethiopia head Maureen Achieng’ over recent comments on the Tigray crisis.
The agency cited the International Organization for Migration (IOM) chief’s “unauthorised interviews” in which she complained of being sidelined by UN bosses she accused of being sympathetic to Tigrayan rebels.
In multiple recordings that surfaced online last week, the Kenyan national, while giving an interview to author Jeff Pearce, tore into her colleagues who “descended on” Addis Ababa after the war erupted last November and sidelined officials on the ground.
Pearce has published multiple articles defending the government’s conduct of the war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). In the interview, he also had talks with a senior UN official.
Achieng’ went on to call TPLF “dirty” and “vicious”, vowing never to return to Tigray.
She claimed that the rebels were plotting to have Tigrayan migrant workers facing deportation from Saudi Arabia sent to Rwanda.
“And then you don’t know what guerrilla movement starts from Rwanda. I mean, it’s dirty,” she says.
But in an internal memo to colleagues, as revealed by AFP, Achieng’ claimed the interview was “surreptitiously recorded and selectively edited.”
The official said that she was “deeply disturbed and disappointed” by the audio.
UN said she had been recalled pending further probe.
“The opinions attributed in the audio recordings to the staff member do not correspond to IOM’s principles and values and should not in any way be considered as expressing IOM’s positions,” Antonio Vitorino, director general of IOM, said in a letter on Monday.
Vitorino said the official had been immidiately recalled and put on leave.
Mohammed Abdiker, the agency’s regional director for the East and Horn of Africa, told AFP that the interview violated the IOM’s values and code of conduct.
“In all our operations we try to be impartial and neutral in our work. We do not take sides in a conflict,” Abdiker said, adding that Achieng’s comments raised security concerns for staff members on the ground, including in Tigray.
Analysts say Achieng’s departure risks further undermining an aid response still shaken by Ethiopia’s decision last month to expel seven other senior UN officials for allegedly “meddling” in its affairs.
Kenyans and a section of other social media user took to Twitter to condemn the suspension saying it was unfair. Here are some of the reactions:
In a show of raw bias, a United Nations agency has suspended a Kenyan @MaureenAAchieng for standing for truth & condemning #TPLF junta for atrocities committed in #Ethiopia.
Kenyans will always stand for Ethiopia despite intimidation.#JusticeForAchieng #UnityForEthiopia pic.twitter.com/tpHImiTBpg
— ABDUBA GUYO DIDA (@ABDUBA_G) October 11, 2021
I am deeply saddened to learn that the departure of Maureen Achieng, Ethiopia chief of UN's migration agency. Her only crime was telling the truth about #TPLFTerroristGroup. For that she is paying a heavy price. Shame on you @un. Shame on you. @UNmigrationhttps://t.co/KufiJiRD0R
— ለምለሚቱ Ethiopia (@LemlemituE) October 11, 2021
Why is @IOMEthiopia retaliating against @MaureenAAchieng for exposing unethical practice? Whistleblowing should be as ethical as the practices it exposes are unethical. Maureen Achieng Africa is with you!!!! @antonioguterres pic.twitter.com/DLM8HYPJYf
— ዮሐንስ አድማሱ (@charla120) October 11, 2021
📣 Millions of us are with #MaureenAchieng
📣#MaureenAchieng is voice of reasons who decided to stand for truth.
— 𝘽𝙚𝙠𝙚𝙡𝙚 𝙒𝙤𝙮𝙚𝙘𝙝𝙖 (@BekeleWoyecha) October 11, 2021
The UN needs a major reform.
From ignoring the use of its trucks by terrorist fighters, to escalating the issue of its corrupted individual employees, to intimidating those who exposed the truth.
— Eskedar እስከዳር እምሻው (@EmishawEskedar) October 12, 2021
This is a scandal!
Does a UN under @antonioguterres has any ethics or is it just a trojan?
Whistleblowers like #MaureenAchieng who exposes misdeeds should be protected and encouraged not persecuted!@AUC_MoussaFaki and @PMEthiopia should step in and speak for #MaureenAchieng! https://t.co/6Otm9hK1qR
— ጃ|Jazz (@jazzrk) October 11, 2021