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.