Live Aid Famine Cash Bought Guns, Not Grain

Misplaced altruism bears fruit

Amid an ongoing global effort to raise funds for earthquake-strickenHaiti, new allegations surfaced today that millions of dollars raisedby the 1985 Live Aid concertsfor the victims of the Ethiopian famine were actually spent on weapons.The charges offer a timely reminder that collecting money is the easypart of any relief effort; making sure it gets to the right people isoften far more complex.

Former Ethiopian rebel leaders have told the BBCthat they siphoned off hundreds of millions of aid dollars to buy guns.Some of the diverted funds allegedly came directly from Westerngovernments, and some from money raised in ticket sales at the twinconcerts in London and Philadelphia. A 1985 CIA assessment of thecountry uncovered by the broadcaster also acknowledges that moneyending up in militants’ coffers. “Some funds that insurgentorganizations are raising for relief operations, as a result ofincreased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted formilitary purposes,” it said.[snip]

Rebels got their hands on this currency by disguising themselves astraders — a trick they were using before Live Aid money flooded intothe country. The BBC quoted Christian Aid worker Max Peberdy, who took$500,000 into Ethiopia in 1984 to buy food supplies. A photo from thetime shows him counting out money for a grain merchant, who was in factGebremedhin Araya, a senior member of the Tigray People’s LiberationFront (TPLF). A member of the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) — theTPLF’s humanitarian wing, which was supposed to distribute the aid –supervised the transaction.