Woyanne spent famine aid money on weapons – By Martin Plaut, Africa analyst (BBC)

March 3rd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Millions of dollars earmarked for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 was siphoned off by rebels to buy weapons, a BBC investigation finds. (more…)

Millions of dollars earmarked for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 was siphoned off by rebels to buy weapons, a BBC investigation finds.

Former rebel leaders told the BBC that they posed as merchants in meetings with charity workers to get aid money.

They used the cash to fund attempts to overthrow the government of the time.

One rebel leader estimated $95m (£63m) – from Western governments and charities including Band Aid – was channelled into the rebel fight.

The CIA, in a 1985 assessment entitled Ethiopia: Political and Security Impact of the Drought, also alleged aid money was being misused.

Its report concluded: “Some funds that insurgent organisations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes.”

Multiple rebellions

The crisis in 1984 prompted a huge Western relief effort, spearheaded by pop star Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign and Live Aid concerts.

Although millions of people were saved by the aid that poured into the country, evidence suggests not all of the aid went to the most needy.

At the time, the Ethiopian government was fighting rebellions in the northern provinces of Eritrea and Tigray.

Much of the countryside was outside of government control, so relief agencies brought aid in from neighbouring Sudan.

Some was in the form of food, some as cash, to buy grain from Ethiopian farmers in areas that were still in surplus.

Max Peberdy, an aid worker from Christian Aid, carried nearly $500,000 in Ethiopian currency across the border in 1984.

He used it to buy grain from merchants and believes that none of the aid was diverted.

“It’s 25 years since this happened, and in the 25 years it’s the first time anybody has claimed such a thing,” he says.

He insists that to the best of his knowledge, the food went to feed the starving.

But the merchant Mr Peberdy dealt with in that transaction claims he was, in fact, a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“I was given clothes to make me look like a Muslim merchant. This was a trick for the NGOs,” says Gebremedhin Araya.

Underneath the sacks of grain he sold, he says, were sacks filled with sand.

He says he handed over the money he received to TPLF leaders, including Meles Zenawi – the man who went on to become Ethiopia’s prime minister in 1991.

Mr Meles, who is still in office, has declined to comment on the allegations.

But Mr Gebremedhin’s version of events is supported by the TPLF’s former commander, Aregawi Berhe.

Now living in exile in the Netherlands, he says the rebels put on what he describes as a “drama” to get the money.

“The aid workers were fooled,” he says.

He says that some $100m went through the hands of the TPLF and affiliated groups.

Some 95% of it was allocated to buying weapons and building up a hard-line Marxist political party within the rebel movement.

Both Mr Aregawi and Mr Gebremedhin fell out with the TPLF leadership and fled the country.

Much of the money that ended up in the TPLF’s hands was channelled through affiliated groups such as the Relief Society of Tigray.

Band Aid’s accounts show that it gave almost $11m to the society and other groups close to the rebels, but the charity has declined to comment.

Soviet confrontation

It should not be forgotten that this all took place at the height of the Cold War.

The Soviet Union had poured $4bn into Ethiopia, and provided Soviet officers to direct Ethiopia battles against the rebels.

In January 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued National Security Directive 75, which aimed to confront the Soviet Union across the developing world.

“US policy will seek to limit and destabilise activities of Soviet Third World allies and clients,” it said.

In a November 2009 speech, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates – who was deputy head of the CIA during Mr Reagan’s time in office – said that the president’s approach was to “impose ever stiffer costs on the Soviet Union for its Third World adventurism”.

He included Ethiopia among the states in which “Soviet surrogates soon faced their own lethal insurgencies”.

Mr Gates was unwilling to expand on whether the US backed the Ethiopian insurgents.

But since there were only a limited number of rebel movements, the suggestion cannot be ruled out that the CIA not only knew about, but supported, the diversion of aid funds to the TPLF.

  1. Anti-woyane
    | #1

    shame for CIA and westerns who supported terrorists(TPLF)!

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    gude wata ya wayane

  3. yosy
    | #3

    TPLF schem

  4. Tulu Oda
    | #4

    So much of the hypocrisy of western democracy which has put morality on the backburner.

  5. Anonymous
    | #5

    Shame! Shame! Shame! How cold can these subhuman woyanes be!…to buy weapons while their own Tigrea people were dying like flies because of famine. Nothing surprise me anymore about Woyanes, but I am thrilled to know that slowly the world is coming to know these looters cruel murderer woyanes, because of great journalists like BBC, Martin Plaut. Thank you and God bless you, Mr. Martin Plaut–you are an angel.

    thank you abugida, you are doing good job informing Ethiopians.

  6. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    | #6

    same kind of old story

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    ምእራባውያን ጥቅማቸውን ለማስጠበቅ እና ታዳጊ ሀገሮችን ሰላም ለማሳጣት ሲሉ እንደ ወያኔ አይነቱን ሽብርተኛ ሀገር አፍራሽ ቡድን ሲረዱ አዲስ ነገር ወይም የመጀመሪያ ግዜ አይደለም::

  8. አበራ
    | #8

    ምዕራባዊያን ፦ ጥቅማቸውን ለማስጠበቅ እና ታዳጊ ሀገሮችን ሰላም ለማሳጣት ሲሉ እንደ ዉያነ እንደ ( TPLF) አይነት ሽብርተኛ ሀገር አፍራሽ ቡድን እንደሚረዱ አዲስ ነገር አይደለም ።

  9. Mote Leleboche
    | #9

    Criminal investigation must be initiated by the diaspora lawyers. Ato Gebere Medhin Araya, Aregawi Berhe are wittnses including Bob Gildoff who came with the sack of money in Sudan for Meles Zenawi.

    Tony Blair who elevated Meles Zenawi to his now defunct African Comission should condemn this blood money for what it is. Gordon Brown should distance himself from Meles Zenawi who is a number one corrupt lier.

    Aid money is now turned itself in to EFFORT and international audits will expose all the criminals, TPLF and foreigners. The white man on this photo should be contacted through Gebre Medhin Araya.

    This is a regime who is now busy selling our land. A thief selling the whole country from its experience of looting food aid more than twenty five years ago. What an experience !!!!

    I thank Dr. Aregawi for coming out for the first time and expose this inhuman act by TPLF where he served as their military commander. Ato Gebre Medhin Araya’s effort in exposing this crime in radios and literature is commendable.You are Ethiopian hero !!!

  10. Thison
    | #10

    There are over 1m innocent people died because of starvation where as melese and sebhat had taken over 100m dollars and kept ion their private banks some where in the westren countries like Britian , even melese and sebhat had taken all the food aid from the throats of starved ppl and sold it in arabes; countries. This is really a very serious isses, it should be investigated by an independant body .Ethiopians in diaspora must take this case in their shoulder and take both melese and sebhat to an international court for the death of 1,000,000 people infront of melese’s and sebhat’s face. shame of the westren’s hypocrates.

  11. Ferenj lebaw
    | #11

    What is the white man thinking this time? They are publishing this on BBC for a purpose, like BBC would print something the Brit or American secret agent don’t won’t them to print. What are they trying to say? We will wait. This news is old and the reason it is out there is serve a puropose. It is a bait. Ferenj is a leba, just like the new says.

  12. mateos
    | #12

    I believe the horror and true color of the aiga jungle bandits have not been told yet; including how they benefitted from younger girls working as prostitutes in Gedarif, Kassala, Khartoum, Port Sudan, and many parts of the world. I hope now the western world would change their perspectives and work for the benefit of Ethiopian people and the whole region; I hope the attitude of, “OUR INTEREST FIRST”, CHANGES TO, “HOW CAN WE HELP YOU TO HELP YOURSELF”. Meles and his boss Bereket days are numbered and there will be peace after all!!!

    | #13

    The question is not why nature cause the suffering of people but why authorities (government)

    | #14

    do nothing against TPLF/ELF knowing that the aid was stolen by such rebels groups of the time??.

  15. አንበሴ
    | #15

    ይህ ነገር መጋለጥ የነበረበት ጊዜ ቢያልፍም በወቅቱ የነበረውን የደርግ መንግስት ለመጣል ምዕራባውያን ባላቸው ጉጉት ብቻ ሳይነገር ቀርቶ በግልጽ እንደሚታየው ከነፎቶግራፉ ለረሃብተኞቹ የተለገሰው ገንዘብ በፋሽስቶቹ ወያኔዎች ጭካኔ መድፍና ጠመንጃ ተገዝቶበታል::
    የትግራይ ሕዝብ ምን እየተሰማው ነው? አሁንም ሕወሃት በሚለው ቀቢጸ ተስፋ ስታሊናዊ ድርጅትን የትግራይ ሕዝብ መደገፍ አለበትን? ወይስ ከሌላው የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ ጋር አጋርነቱን በተግባር ያሳያልን?
    አሁንም የወያኔ ባለስልጣኖች ስራ ከላይ በፎቶግራፉ እንደሚመለከተው መሆኑን የማያውቅ አለ? በየራሳቸው የውጭ ሃገራት ባንክ አካውንት እያስቀመጡ ስለመሆኑ ምስጢራቸውን ከምዕራቡ አለም የተገኘውን ማስረጃ ቀደም ብሎ በነጻው ፕሬስ አንብበናል:: አቡጊዳና ሌሎችም የዜና አውታሮች ለአንባቢያን በድጋሚ በርእሰ ዜናችሁ ላይ ለአንባቢያኑ በቀጣይ ብታቀርቡልን አስተያየቴ ነው::

    ኢትዮጵያ ለዘለአለም ትኑር!!!
    ጠላቶቿ ይውደሙ!!!

  16. Dilwenberu
    | #16

    The BBC report on the EPRDF diverting and using food aid money to buy arms is baseless and is to be dimsissed an rubbish Amhara propaganda. It is a typical piece of Amhara and Shabia propaganda and will not have any acceptance in Ethiopia and the world. The jelaous amd mean Amharars and Shabians do not like the success of the people of Tigray.
    The Amhara regimes were denying the peoples of Eritrea and Tigray whom they collectively call Tigres any food aid coming from abroad. The Amhara rulers applied collective punishment of the Tigrigne speakers because the gallant forces of EPLF and TPLF were scoring colourful and hsitorical victories in the battlefield.The Amhara domianted and led army was just crumbling but using blockades when the famine broke out but the creative and hardworking Tigrigne speakers were able to save millions of lives. That was when the Tigrigne speakers identified the Amharas as their principla enemies and determined to deal with the latter. But the Shabians have forgotten all this are allying themsleves with the Amharas to attack the people of Tigray.

  17. George
    | #17

    The truth is:
    When the TPLF/EPLF were at the jungle: the US government gave cash, bought a lot of trucks, and food operated from the port of sudan. The EU gave the TPLF/EPLF cash to buy food for the draught Tirgay region. There comes the game. Selected TPLF officials, their relatives and party members holding CASH in brief case, just one person (this is a first hand evidence- believe it or not) who use the cash, no one ask him to provide evidence on how he spent it, certifying the alleged food purchase, delivery to no one knows where and circulating the aid CASH money to who knows where. The funny thing is the same corruption continued for years after the TPLF came to power. Do you want more evidence: here it is.

    After TPLF took power in Addis Ababa: The US government poured more food aid and CASH for transport and storage and implementation of the program. The EU continue to pour CASH to the TPLF rulling party (its NGO wing called REST).

    I saw bags (practically a big brief case the size of a bag) full of CASH carried by the REST guy in Addis Ababa claiming he would use the money to buy food from the southwest part of Ethiopia. Not only that this REST/TPLF guy drive truck too, holds a bundle of receipt, stamps. What else do you want to hear from me. Not only, the TPLF guy uses the money or take it whereever he wants, he cuts of truck bills which have been used to bill donors for the alleged food transport. I saw that and I am a witness. If I do the figures it is im millions of Dollars. Part of this money strategically used to finance the current TPLF businesses (Wogagen Bank, Mesfin Engineering, and million others) perported to be financed by shareholders. Gash! How smart these people are! Do you wanna here more? I guess you would said enough is said.
    Truth will speak some day.

  18. George
    | #18

    As citizens, we should help the People of Tiray. They are Ethiopians and brothers, sisters, father and mothers. I do not know about the bandeths from Adewa but for sure Adigrat, Axsum, Mekele and the others are ours. We are with the people but not with TPLF. We are with Asrat, Seye, Gebremedhin, Aregawi and other borthers.

  19. atuba dolla
    | #19

    Now it is upto Ethiopians to bring the criminals to a domestic and international court;anything less this,if we Ethiopians do,then we are failures and we will always be failers.

    First thing first,the enemy must be removed as soon as possible;to do this,Ethiopians must take the greatest and unique step to fully eradicate the viruses by any possible means because the enemy is what it is.

  20. አረን
    | #20

    It is so inhuman. I wish if I hadn’t heard that.

  21. Biri
    | #21


    http://celebrifi. com/gossip/ Bob-Geldof- Sir-Bob-Geldof- Opens-Ethiopian- School-PHOTO- 1165583.html

    From: Biri Yaya
    To: Ethiopians-forum@ yahoogroups. com
    Cc: biriy2002@yahoo. com
    Sent: Sat, 6 March, 2010 12:14:58

    From: Biri Yaya
    To: ethiopians-forum@ yahoogroups. com
    Sent: Sat, 6 March, 2010 12:09:55

    ”Geldof hits out at claim Live Aid millions diverted to Ethiopian rebels
    Bob Geldof has lashed out at British media claims that millions of dollars raised by Band Aid were diverted to Ethiopian rebels who used the cash to buy weapons.A former Ethiopian rebel commander told a BBC radio program that 95 per cent of aid money donated to help victims of the 1985 Ethiopian famine was siphoned off, The Times online reports.
    … Geldof told The Times that “it would be a f***ing tragedy” if the people stopped giving to charity because of allegations made by the same broadcaster that inspired him to fight poverty and hunger in Africa.
    “If that percentage of money had been diverted, far more than a million people would have died,” he told The Times…Geldof blamed the story on the grievances nursed by the two former rebel commanders, who now live in exile in the Netherlands. ”-ends



    It looks like the affected NGOs are petitioning the BBC to dilute the impact of their self-damaging complicity with the ruling junta by launching a counter attack against the BBC factual documentary report: http://addisvoice. com/millions_ of_dollars_ in_western_ a.htm

    This is a paradox in that these bodies of so called ‘Aid Agencies’ are not willing to learn the lessons, instead rather preferring to go on the offensives on behalf of their self-interests and indirectly in support of the mercenary TPLF regime.
    Despite the 5 million(+) people on the list of hunger and continued death in Ethiopia at present, the agencies have no on the ground reports to show how they are reaching the poor and the dying( Avoiding ‘displeasing’ the mercenary regime that is seen as a ‘development partner’ as someone has referred to in relation to why the west keeps silence over the inhumanity against Birtukan’s continued tortures by Zenawi!).

    I think it is time the producers of the factual report at the BBC(Martin Plautt and his colleagues):

    1. Counter challenge these NGOS and the likes of Bob Geldof to cease the hide-seek games and to own up to their responsibilities

    2. Tell the world why the ongoing hunger has been so successfully suppressed and hidden from the media with the tacit understanding and cooperation between Zenawi and the NGOS.
    It is time to call for a national debate in the west on how the tax payers money and donations meant for the hungry and the dying financed the killers and continue to be so with the third rate NGO commanders presenting unethical and false information while directly or indirectly helping repressive regime in Ethiopia and possibly else-where in the world.



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  22. Biri
    | #22

    Even Band Aid is not above criticism

  23. Ganchu
    | #23

    Sir Bob Geldof,

    Our love and apreciation for you remains the same . We love you ,We respect you. You have showen your un limited kindness for human beings. Keeping all these in mind, please try to find out what our mafia grup have done on donated money.As we Ethiopians have seen this mafia grup for about 20 years,it is very clear and believeable what is said by BBC.It is not only asumption but also proved by evidences. So, please listen to the people, search for the truth,then stand with the people of Ethiopia.

    With respect and tru love.

  24. Ganchu
    | #24

    For fairness look at this list.
    From where did it come?


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