WHO chief pressed to quit by Africans

African nations yesterday called on the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, to step down, saying he had not repudiated allegedly racist remarks and warning that under his leadership the WHO was losing its global role.

Diplomats said the move was the second damaging blow to Dr Nakajima within a week. On Monday donor nations voiced concern after Britain's Auditor General refused to go on working with the WHO because "trust and co-operation" with its management had broken down.

The African bid to oust Dr Nakajima came in a draft resolution sponsored by Namibia and Zambia yesterday at the annual meeting of WHO's governing body, the World Health Assembly. It poses a challenge to Western donors, who privately want him to go, but have failed to take effective action. The draft called on Dr Nakajima to step down in July 1996, two years before his term expires, and to set in motion the nomination of a replacement by January.

The resolution, which would allow him to stay in an honorary role with full pay and privileges until July 1998, was spurred by allegedly racist remarks made in a private meeting. Mr Nakajima, whose English is barely adequate, said some African staff "very good speaker, but on drafting or editing or writing a document, sometimes is difficult". He implied they experienced cultural difficulties adapting to Geneva.

But the resolution shows skilful drafting, coupling concern at the alleged racism with a warning that "other organisations and agencies are already usurping the legitimate role of the WHO to be the co-ordinating and directing authority in international health". The resolution is expected to be debated at a committee tomorrow.

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