UN official whose photo went viral “moves to another country”

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Tommy Thompson, the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) emergency coordinator, has left Ethiopia and “moved to another country” after being accused of having violated the UN’s humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality, it emerged. A spokesman for the WFP admitted the official has indeed left the country but said it was a temporary relocation based on the UN’s regular transfer and reassignment procedure.

Following the withdrawal of the Ethiopian Defense Forces from Mekelle by end of June, a picture of the UN official standing alongside Getachew Reda, a senior member of the TPLF,  who was talking on a satellite phone, surfaced on social media, causing a wave of criticism on the UN staff who allegedly abused the impartiality of his positions, by supporting the rebels. The photo went viral and many took it as proof of the UN body that they said was political and biased.

Regarding the departure of the official and precise reason as to why he had left the country, WFP said in a statement, “the staff had left the country in accordance with the agency’s normal staffing process and would return in the future. “We have learned that there was lots of misinformation on social media about the reason for his departure from Ethiopia. These reports are simply baseless,” the WFP said in an email to the BBC Amharic.

The BBC said it did not get clarification from the WFP about the context in which the photo was taken. The Ethiopian government has not yet commented on the matter.

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