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Thursday 23 October  
A women and her children wait for food and care at a refugee camp in 1985
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Ethiopian aid spent on weapons

Published on : 3 March 2010 - 3:25pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: AFP)
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Millions of dollars meant for victims of the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s went into buying weapons for rebellions, documents released by the CIA have revealed today.

United States Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, said the suggestion that the CIA not only knew about, but also supported, the diversion of aid funds to rebel groups cannot be ruled out.

Although millions of people were saved by the Western aid that poured into the country, evidence suggests not all of it, such as food and cash, went to the most needy.

According to the BBC, former rebel leaders, mostly operating in the borderlands of Ethiopia, fooled charity workers by dressing up like merchants to get aid money. "I was given clothes to make me look like a Muslim merchant. This was a trick for the NGOs. They didn't know me. Underneath the sacks of grain I sold were sacks filled with sand. I handed over the money I received to TPLF leaders", Gebremedhin Araya, member of the rebel movement Tigrays People's Liberation Army (TPLF) told the BBC.

Former commander and founder of the TPLF, Aregawi Berhe, confirms Araya's story to RNW. He tells us how aid money was collected by the humanitarian wing of the TPLF, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and used to fund the rebellion against the regime.

According to Berhe of the $100 million that went through the hands of the TPLF in 1985, 95% was allocated either to buy weapons or to build the hard-line party within the rebel movement - the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray.

Reagan's cold war
In November 2009, current US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, who also worked as Secretary of Defence under President Reagan in the 1980s, described how President Reagan's approach was to "impose ever stiffer costs on the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union poured over $4 billion into Ethiopia, and provided Soviet officers to direct Ethiopia battle against the rebels."

In January 1983, President Reagan issued National Security Directive 75, which aimed to confront the Soviet Union across the developing world.

Mr Gates stated that since there were only a limited number of rebel movements, the suggestion cannot be ruled out that the CIA not only knew about, but supported the diversion of aid funds to the TPLF in order to battle to Soviet supported government of Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has refused an interview with Meles Zenawi to clarify the events.



Join the online discussion on this topic or leave your comments below.



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Eyob 5 March 2010 - 1:09am / The Netherlands

The rebels of the eighties are now continuously on power since the nineties. And they still abuse the hungry and the good willing foreign aid workers to earn big money. During the famine of the eighties about 1 million Ethiopians Suffered hunger. By using this faimine as a cover the rebels earned approximately 100 million U.S. dollars. Now there are approximately 14 million starving Ethiopians. Which means a boeming Business for the rebel leaders (TPLF / EPRDF). I would say, a bad habit never fades away. Having said that aid agencies should keep an eye, at all times, on how the taxpayers money is spent.

Anonymous 3 March 2010 - 8:16pm / Ethiopia

A snake is a snake and Is a snake no matter what it cahges its color

It dose not matter how long it took the story to come out the current TPLF goverement is criminal from the satrt.It is moraly bunkrupt socialy rejected and professionaly incapable.This fact is known by Ethiopian long time ago.It might be new to people of Tigri and Eriteria which are the main victim of this tragedy.

Josh 3 March 2010 - 7:48pm / canada

Dear Anonymous,

So let me see if I understood what you are saying. If this happened 25 years ago, it's not relevant to talk about it today or to hold sombody accountable for their action? Hmm so what do you think if we let all the Nazi criminals out of jail? I mean according to you they done the crime long long time ago right? Idiots like you make me sick!

Anonymous 3 March 2010 - 7:04pm / USA

What ever it is this happened more than 25 years ago. Ity is not news story. The sources of the "news" were leaders of the organization who left the organization. Why are they talking about it now and not when they left some 20 or so year ago. More over, at that time they were not an Ethiopian government. I think it is something that is fishy... Talk about what is going on now.

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