Tuesday 16 January 2018

Geldof furious at claims Live Aid cash helped fund Ethiopian rebels

Catherine Philp in London

BOB Geldof reacted angrily yesterday to claims broadcast on the BBC that millions of dollars raised by Live Aid were diverted to Ethiopian rebels.

The allegations that 95pc of aid money donated to help victims of the 1985 Ethiopian famine was siphoned off were made in a BBC radio programme broadcast yesterday.

Mr Geldof told reporters "it would be a f***ing tragedy" if people stopped giving to charity because of allegations made by the same broadcaster that inspired him to fight poverty and hunger in Africa.

His conversion from rock musician to internationally renowned fundraiser began in December 1984 when he and his partner, Paula Yates, watched Michael Buerk's report on the unfolding famine in Ethiopia.

Ms Yates was moved to tears and the next day Mr Geldof found a note that she had left on the fridge instructing anyone who entered the house to leave £5 in a box. Mr Geldof thought they could do more and formed Band Aid, which produced a pop single at Christmas. This was followed by the Live Aid concert. His actions raised the equivalent of e180m for famine victims in five African countries.

In interviews, however, two former senior commanders in the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) told the BBC that the vast majority of the money was stolen by rebels to buy weapons for their fight to overthrow the Ethiopian government. The claims sparked controversy, not least because one of the rebel leaders implicated was Meles Zenawi, now prime minister of Ethiopia and still a major recipient of western aid.

Previous allegations have centred on the role of the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam, which had been accused of stealing aid and diverting food supplies away from rebel areas. Band Aid officials used networks of aid agencies to deliver relief through Sudan to the epicentre of the famine in rebel-held Tigray.

Aregawi Berhe, the former military commander of the TPLF, told the BBC that rebels put on a "drama" to get their hands on the relief money, posing as merchants and handing over bags of sand instead of grain.

Mr Geldof dismissed the claims, saying that "the story and the figures just don't add up".

"If that percentage of money had been diverted, far more than a million people would have died," he said. "It's possible that in one of the worst, longest-running conflicts on the continent some money was mislaid. But to suggest it was on this scale is just b******s." (© The Times, London.)

Irish Independent

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