Geldof Denies Live Aid Money Used For Arms
Bob Geldof is dismissing a BBC report that said most of the money donated to help victims of the 1985 Ethiopian famine was siphoned off to fund rebels trying to overthrow the country’s government.
He told The Times of London it would be “a fucking 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.
In 1984 he put his music career on the backburner to raise funds for the region after seeing Michael Buerk’s report on how Ethiopia was desperate for famine relief.
The BBC story was reportedly based on interviews with two former senior commanders from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who allegedly said an estimated 95 percent of the money intended to feed the starving was diverted to buy arms for rebels trying to topple the Ethiopian government.
The British national broadcaster’s claims were made all the more controversial because one of the former rebel leaders was said to be Meles Zenawi, now prime minister of Ethiopia, as the country’s still one of the main beneficiaries of Western aid.
Geldof rubbished claims that as much as 95 percent of the aid was diverted.
“The story and the figures just don’t add up,” he said. “If that percentage of money had been diverted, far more than a million people would have died.
“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 bollocks.”
The Band Aid Christmas single and the following summer’s Live Aid concert raised $250 million (£170 million) for famine victims in Ethiopia and four neighbouring African countries.
Christian Aid director of emergency relief Nick Guttmann didn’t categorically deny that money may have fallen into the wrong hands, but told The Times the story needed to be put in context.
“We were working in a major conflict, there was a massive famine and people on all sides were suffering. Both the rebels and the government were using innocent civilians to further their political ends,” he explained.