Aid for Arms in Ethiopia

8 was a charity appeal on a global scale. In 1985, an unprecedented array of performers took part in two marathon, televised concerts in Britain and the United States – all to raise money for a terrible famine in Ethiopia. And it worked. It’s thought the concerts eventually generated about two hundred and fifty million dollars in donations from the public. But now, evidence has emerged that the aid agencies charged with distributing that money, were hoodwinked: that millions of dollars were diverted to buy weapons for rebels in Ethiopia – and that the United States knew this was going on. The BBC’s Africa editor, Martin Plaut, investigates for Assignment.


  1. I was surprised and bewildered by the fierce and impassioned defence of Zenawi’s record as an economic reformer by Sir Bob Geldof in his interview of 7 March 2010. While pooh-poohing testimonies of former TPLF officials, Aregawi and Gebremedhin, as “rubbish” and “rumour” he was quoting the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report as a genuine record. I felt that by dismissing statements of those two officials, he was obliquely demostrating his racist feelings — he seems to believe only the white man can tell the truth. Apparently, he has forgotten what he said in the wake of the 2005 massacre of peaceful protesters by Zenawi’s crack military force. The following is what he had been quoted as saying:

    Sir Bob Geldof told Channel 4 News the Ethiopian leader should ‘grow up’. On Channel 4 News at noon, he criticised the Ethiopian leader Meles Zanawi for violence which left dead 22 people who were protesting against the election result [in reality more than 8 times that number; no action has been taken to date despite an Inquiry Commission report that slammed the Meles regime. Two Commission members subsequently went into exile rather than make compromises as demanded by the government (ed.)]. Sir Bob had worked closely with the Ethiopian leader on producing the African report. He said: “Spare me, what are they doing? It is pathetic. I despair, I really despair. “No doubt, I’ll get a briefing from the Ethiopian embassy: ‘it wasn’t like this, it was like that’. Grow up, they make me puke. “I know those people, Meles Zanawi is a seriously clever man, what is he doing? What is he doing closing down radio stations, and journalists and that, it’s a disgrace. Behave.”

    Is this the same person who had the temerity to stand in defence of Zenawi yesterday?

  2. Its amazing how this “Abay media”Claimed as a pro democracy site and at the sam e time Sansured well informative Ethiopians Comments ???? I will Expose this site based on facts COMING SOON …………

  3. dont tell me they still dont sell aid-grain for local merchants for really cheap?????? i can help you with that: easy to go with a lorry and get tens of quintals of aid-wheat for $100. they just dont care about the people. they work for convicing reports for the world powers like U.S. even if the world loved to help ethiopian poor, it’s impposible to get them out of Meles’ lion’s-grip. you just pray for his pass-way; also pray for a healthy generation of polititians.

  4. If there is one thing that people should be surprised about, it must be why it took a quarter of a century for the truth to be told publicly. Otherwise, particularly the deception of the TPLF is something that the Ethiopian public know them for. How REST (Relief Society of Tigray), which is a multibillion conglomerate today, was formed is not such a big secret to the Ethiopian public. Then there is also what the CIA knew from the beginning and the American government supported it.

    The two former rebel commanders, who exposed this truth, mentioned this before in different interviews they gave in Amharic. Nothing is new about this. How did TPLF win the largest and well equipped army in sub-Saharan Africa then? Meles Zenawi, as many in the west, including Bob Geldof and Bono described him, is a very smart guy, actually much smarter than his admirers in the west can understand. It is all obvious how he fool them in the name of democracy and makes them do exactly what he wants them to do when it comes to aid even at the present day. The then rebel leader who diverted the money to buy weapons is today’s prime minister of Ethiopia who is a close friend of Tony Blair and close ally of Gordon Brown. He represents Africa in climate negotiations and very often invited to G8 summits because he is an important ally in the war on terror in the horn of Africa, though all he is doing is causing havoc in that part of Africa and terrorise his own people. That is how he is getting millions from the western donors and it is perfectly working for him.

    It is important and yet astonishing to listen to Bob Geldof every time he speaks about saving the hungry in Africa. Ethiopians are grateful to the donors and Geldof’s intention to help the poor. But, those of us who admire his passion and enthusiasm to help the poor, just wonder sometimes whether he is just a naive man who just listens to himself and throw tantrums when he hears things that do not fit his line of thinking. BBC’s investigation about what happened 25 years ago in Ethiopia is just the tip of the iceberg. The Western governments’ stance, when it comes to former rebels (or leaders as they are now in Ethiopia and in many African countries), no matter how ruthless they are, they are either condemned (like Robert Mugabe) or supported as friendly dictators (Meles Zenawi) depending on the national interest of countries particularly that of US and the UK.

    It is incomprehensible why many in the west think, given the size of aid money they pour in Ethiopia; Economic miracle is achieved by such dictators. Emergency food aid is important when the lives of millions in danger. Other economic and military aid should be tied to good governance. It has worked even in Africa. Look at the democracy that is flourishing in Ghana. The key to development is democracy.

  5. this is what I said when BBC collect readers response about the service: give attention to Africa.Then you did a good job many tanx.The story you mentioned is very well known all over Ethiopia but it gives a factual evidence for the West that a dictator that do not have a moral character for his own people can give peace prosperity and freedom to the nation.We all insist the West that don’t armed dictators….give support for the poor…the poor needs freedom than anything…..