The head of the US Agency for International Development says she has raised concerns with the Ethiopian authorities about the danger of using language that could incite ethnic violence.
Samantha Power said “dehumanising” language “only hardens tensions and… often accompanies ethnically motivated atrocities”.
She spoke on her visit to Ethiopia where aid agencies are struggling to reach the millions of victims of the war in the northern Tigray region.
Ethiopian officials have been accused of using disparaging language against Tigrayans.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was criticised recently for referring to the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as a “cancer” and “weeds” that needed to be uprooted.
Officials have defended the comments saying he was not referring to the Tigrayan people.
The conflict in Tigray has been marked by reports of massacres and sexual violence. Human rights groups have also warned against the arbitrary detention of Tigrayans elsewhere in the country.
But Mr Abiy’s government insists it is championing a united Ethiopia that is not based on ethnicity.