Don’t mention the slippage

There are some things that are almost too sensitive and difficult to discuss. One such is the idea that the vast sums raised to aid and help our starving brethren in Ethiopia went walk-about. Band Aid and the Sir Bob Geldof have become iconic and only the shameless or mendacious would dare to subject them to critical review. However, after nine months of research, the BBC found credible evidence that Band Aid money was indeed used by the Ethiopian rebel group to buy arms. The Blessed Bob has predictably reacted with horror, condemning the BBC out of hand, saying that his scrupulous oversight of the aid could not have let this happen. But it is counterintuitive to believe that humanitarian operations in the midst of large-scale civil wars where territory is held by rival powers are not politicised and misused. The idea that NGOs never have to work with and through the powers that control the territory is a ridiculous fantasy. Plaut is a first-class journalist who was actually there on the frontlines in Ethiopia, with his wife, a nurse, in 1984, as the famine was brewing. One of his main sources, ridiculously dismissed by Geldof as an exiled malcontent was actually a founding member of the rebel group, and one of the main military commanders in the Ethiopian civil war in 1985. These rebels were drawn from the very families and communities that the Ethiopian regime was trying to starve. There is little doubt that faced with a government that was using famine as a tool of war against them, the rebels used the ocean of money coming from Band Aid et al, to buy the weapons that would rid them and the rest of Ethiopia of what was a horrendous regime. The politicising of aid is a fact of life everywhere. What is unacceptable is that a humanitarian operation can be elevated to the status of being above criticism.

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