Mali gives top job to UN executive accused of ‘tolerating harassment’


A senior UN official accused of “tolerating harassment and abuse of authority” has been appointed health minister in Mali.

Michel Sidibé faced pressure to stand down from his position as head of UNAids following criticism over his handling of a sexual assault allegation made against one of his deputies.

An independent expert report, published last year, suggested Sidibé had set a tone of “opaqueness, license for wrongdoing, and retaliation against those who speak up against such practices.” Its findings prompted one of the agency’s biggest donors, the Swedish government, to withhold funding until Sidibé resigned.

Sidibé, who was appointed executive director of the agency in 2009, previously announced he would step down from his post in June, though he is expected to leave at an earlier date.

The report was commissioned following allegations including those made by Martina Brostrom, who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by Luiz Loures, deputy executive director of UNAids. The allegations were denied by Loures, who was cleared of wrongdoing by an investigation.

Brostrom said Sidibé tried to bribe her to drop the allegation by offering her a promotion. In leaked minutes of a staff meeting Sidibé appeared to attack whistleblowers, accusing them of lacking ethics.

Sidibé has vehemently denied claims that he mishandled the allegation made against Loures, and apologised for any mistakes made in his address to staff.

The UN and international charities have faced intense scrutiny over their handling of sexual misconduct claims, with campaigners arguing that agencies should do more to prevent those who tolerate abuse from moving on to positions of power elsewhere.

The independent report into UNAids suggested that “a trustworthy, energetic leader” should be appointed as head of the agency, which spearheads the global fight against Aids and HIV.

Last year, a report by UNAids, Miles to Go, warned the global Aids response was at a precarious point. While progress has been made, including a 34% fall in deaths since 2010, the report said that global efforts were not on track to meet targets to end the epidemic.

It warned that new HIV infections are rising in around 50 countries, that progress in reducing the number of Aids-related deaths has not been fast enough and that a lack of resources is threatening success.

Sidibe was appointed Mali’s new health minister by president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who announced a new government on Sunday.



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