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UN accused of Zimbabwe cholera cover-up

Tribunal finds that UN bosses did not act on warnings by senior member of its staff in order not to upset Robert Mugabe.
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2013 18:58

A United Nations investigation has reached a damning verdict on its own humanitarian operation, accusing it of "managerial ineptitude, high handed conduct and bad faith."

The findings refer to its operations during a Cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe that started in 2008 and claimed more than 4,000 lives.

The UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya, in effect found that UN bosses did not want to upset the government of Robert Mugabe, and did not act on warnings by a senior member of its staff. One hundred thousand people caught the disease.

Months before the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in 2008, which coincided with a time of heightened political tensions in Zimbabwe, Georges Tadonki, the then head of the UN humanitarian office in Zimbabwe, warned his superiors of the severe risks, but no action was taken.

Tadonki claims that he was fired in January 2009, partly because he sounded the alarm about the cholera crisis.

“Mr Tadonke pressed the issue, and this tribunal has heard that he was hounded out of his job, and his lawyers said he suffered a nervous breakdown as a result.” Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays said.

“What the UN also said is that there should be disciplinary action against four very senior UN officials, including the former humanitarian chief of the UN, John Holmes.” Al Jazeera’s Bays added.

“Now, all those four officials are no longer in their posts, so it is not clear what kind of action can be taken against them.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Al Jazeera that the world organisation intends to appeal the judgment.

“The Organisation intends to file an appeal of this judgment. Consistent with the established policy regarding ongoing cases, which includes cases under appeal, the Organisation is not in a position to provide any further comments at this time.”

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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