Bob Geldof Threatens to Sue African Government

This is an updated version of a missive originally uploaded on 17 March.

I remember being slightly puzzled by Band Aid’s choice of song-title: not only was it appealing for help in a region which was not necessarily Christian, but famine victims are in no less danger on the other 364/5 days of the year.

But, a famine there was in northern Ethiopia and what is now Eritrea; even if the cause was not a preternatural Biblical plague outwith the control of local inhabitants, but disruption caused by war in the famine zone.

The national government, led by the Derg junta received backing from the USSR, East Germany, North Korea and Cuba. Cuba, in particular, had ground forces represented by the Cuban Expeditionary Forces in Ethiopia commanded by the ill-fated General Arnaldo Ochoa.

Of the several regional wars in Ethiopia, that in the famine zone against the Derg was dominated by Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, and it was with Tigrayan organizations that Band Aid worked closely.

With the weather report for Northern Ireland, as predicted in the Portadown Times, being replicated across the world, it is to be expected that showers of bastards be possible in the Horn of Africa. And this has been alleged by a recent BBC World Service report which stated members of the Tigrayan Relief Association had appropriated many millions of aid dollars to use for weapons and to prolong this war; as well as replacing sacks of grain with sand as part of internal distribution.

It appears quite plausible to me that any aid agency could be hoodwinked in a rapidly organized mission, just as I am unsurprised by Bob Geldof’s bombast in denying any links and threatening to sue the BBC. That said, my jaw did sag when he went on hedge his bets and vowed to sue the current TPLF-aligned Government in Ethiopia (under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi).

He said: “Produce me one shred of evidence and I promise you I will professionally investigate it, I will professionally report it, and if there is any money missing I will sue the Ethiopian government for that money back and I will spend it on aid. […]

Nice one, Bob.

UPDATE 31 March – since writing the above, I have read that the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK, Berhanu Kebede has similarly called for an apology from the BBC which has “destroyed its credibility in Africa”.

Writing in the Guardian, Edward Gidardet insists the BBC was right to broadcast the allegations, if only to spark further discussion.  Although the original report opened on Band Aid, Gidardet – as one of the correspondents in the region whom Geldof insisted had not noticed anything untoward – did not consider it to have suggested that the aid agencies were complicit: just that even the best-intentioned can be ripped-off.

Geldof’s default setting of bombast suggests to me that the issue has become one of personal pride to him (as in the Sin), and even that such Western aid missions are an reworking of the missionary mindset which sees non-Europeans in need of a European activist to direct their affairs.

UPDATE II – the Economist (until now, at least, the favourite newspaper of Meles Zenawi) reports on Zenawi’s threats to block Amharic-language broadcasts by the Voice of America, which he has likened to Genocide Hour at Radio Mille Collines.; but not $1 billion of US aid his country receives.

VoA’s dissemination of opposition to Zenawi’s increasingly authoritarian style of governance is more likely to be the source of friction.

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