Sunday, March 07, 2010

Do They Know What The Money's For At All?

The BBC World Service has claimed that millions of dollars intended for Ethiopian famine relief in the mid 80s was siphoned off to keep the popular civil war in weapons:

One rebel leader estimated $95m (£63m) - from Western governments and charities including Band Aid - was channelled into the rebel fight.

The CIA, in a 1985 assessment entitled Ethiopia: Political and Security Impact of the Drought, also alleged aid money was being misused.

Its report concluded: "Some funds that insurgent organisations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes."

Bob Geldof has denied it:
Mr Geldof told BBC One's Andrew Marr show he would personally sue the Ethiopian government and spend the money on aid if any evidence was produced.

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.

"There is not a single shred of evidence that Band Aid or Live Aid money was diverted in any sense, it could not have been."

Apparently the 1985 CIA assessment doesn't, for these purposes, count as "one shred of evidence".

Various charities are preparing to take complaints about the report to the BBC Trust and Ofcom.

Talking to The Independent, Geldof describes the report as "a Ross/Brand moment for me" - an interesting way of describing it, as that was a disproportionate fuss over a silly misjudgement. Is Bob saying that he's kicking up a stink that isn't warranted, or that the BBC was a little bit rubbish?

The Independent report ends with this, erm, "support" for the aid agencies:
A former British ambassador to Ethiopia, Myles Wickstead, added weight to the aid agencies' condemnation last night. "I'd give no credibility whatsoever to the idea that 95 per cent of aid to Tigray was diverted," he concluded.

"It was too highly monitored, most particularly that of Live Aid. Some money may well have gone astray in Ethiopia in 1985. But nowhere nearly on the scale which the BBC has alleged."

I'm not sure that saying "ooh, nowhere near as much as 95% was diverted" is quite the same as the agencies insistence that everything was accounted for.

Given the terrible state the country was in at the time, you'd have been surprised if some of the aid didn't go awry, no matter how well-intentioned the agencies distributing it were; no matter how well-considered their systems were. Personally, I'm more worried by Bob and the charities insisting that nothing was misplaced than I am by the BBC claims of massive amounts vanishing. Even Wal-Mart can't stop shrinkage to theft, and Wal-Mart are evil.