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Ethiopia: “Grow up!” Bob Geldof

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Sir Bob Geldof told Meles Zenawi to “Grow up!” when he found out that security forces directly under the control and command of Zenawi had massacred hundreds of unarmed protesters following the 2005 elections. It looks like Sir Bob may have to take his own advice and do a little growing up. In the days after the BBC reported its findings some ten days ago on a scam that diverted $95 million from famine relief to weapons purchases by Zenawi’s rebel group in Ethiopia in 1984, Sir Bob has been throwing temper tantrums on the talk show circuits.

Before Bob became “Sir” Bob in 1986, and “Saint Bob” before that for his work in famine relief in Ethiopia in 1984/5, he was well known (vocalist in the Irish group Boomtown Rats) for his brash and abrasive personality in the British and Irish rock music scene. When he toured the talk show circuit last week in the brewing Live Aid-gate scandal in Ethiopia, he showed his true colors once again. He tongue-lashed, chewed out and raked over the coals the BBC, its investigative reporters and editors and the two former high level rebel group leaders-turned-whistleblowers who brought international attention to the scandal. Sir Bob was literally frothing at the mouth. He was furious, combative, huffy and testy. He was affronted, exasperated and totally rattled by the BBC report. Sir Bob was pissed off big time, not at the fingered criminals but at the journalists who dug up the evidence and the whistleblowers who spilled the secret beans. In his interviews, Sir Bob confused the issues and mischaracterized the report[1].

Sir Bob was categorical in his claim that no Live/Band Aid money went to purchase weapons for the rebels at any time:

Not a single penny went on armaments. Not one. Not a pound; not a penny. Let me be clear on that. And I’ve also spoken to some of the others, including the Red Cross, who say it is absolute rubbish that any of their money could have possibly gone on arms.

He said the two individuals who were interviewed for the report by the BBC have an axe to grind, and should be disbelieved because their intention was to embarrass Zenawi as the so-called May election draws near:

The Ethiopians say that he [Aregawi] wasn’t even in the country at the time. This is a dissident political exile whose specific enemy, of which he has a track record of spinning against, is Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, who has a General Election coming up. He is not a credible voice whatsoever.

Sir Bob challenged the BBC or anyone else to come up with a “shred” of evidence of misuse of any of the money he raised, and offered to personally investigate and initiate a lawsuit to recoup any stolen money:

Produce, produce one shred of evidence, one iota of evidence – not some dissident exile malcontent in Holland. 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 who are the rebels who were fighting the war in Tigray for that money back now and I will spend it again 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.

However, beneath the veneer of public outrage, Sir Bob was downright aghast and forlorn about what the scandal could do to his image and legacy in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa:

[Live Aid] did influence the entire debate about Africa and development and poverty. It really did have a huge political impact that resonates to today… Twenty-five … I was in Tigray just before Christmas and I saw what we began twenty-five years ago. Valleys, which were moonscapes, now verdant and lush and giving life and jobs and eighteen thousand Birr a year to the farmers of that neighbourhood. That’s what we started. We built dams. There’s our names on them. Not in armaments. We started that. Today, according to the Economist, Ethiopia is the fifth fastest growing economy in the planet in the year of the African World Cup. Isn’t that the story, or part of the story?

In short, Saint Bob saved Ethiopia! The Live/Band Aid-gate 2010 could seriously endanger his divine mission to save the rest of Africa! Right now, it is time for Sir Bob to save Sir Bob.

But why so much sound and fury from Sir Bob?

One wonders. Could it be that he finally got a definitive answer to the question he posed in his trademark song (one of the best selling singles of all time) in 1984: “Do they know it is Christmas?

Sir Bob seems to be having great difficulty handling the truth now that he knows it. Whatever failings the two former high ranking members of Zenawi’s rebel group may have, they are telling it like it was:

Yep! We knew it was Christmas! It was the best Christmas ever. Thank you, Sir Bob (or should we say Saint Bob [Santa Claus?]) for stuffing the stockings with goodies and for the millions of dollars under the Christmas tree. Tell ya what Bobby? Since them good old days back in ’84, for some of the big boys in the gang, every day been Christmas day!

The fact of the matter is that despite Sir Bob’s histrionics and temper tantrums, famine relief and aid is stolen and diverted for weapons purchases and other corrupt purposes in Africa everyday.

On March 10, 2010, the New York Times citing a U.N. report stated that $240 million in famine relief aid was stolen in 2009 by Somali rebel groups, local contractors and U.N. staff:

As much as half the food aid sent to Somalia is diverted from needy people to a web of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members, according to a new Security Council report. The [U.N. report] outlines a host of problems so grave that it recommends that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon open an independent investigation into the World Food Program’s Somalia operations. It suggests that the program rebuild the food distribution system — which serves at least 2.5 million people and whose aid was worth about $485 million in 2009 — from scratch to break what it describes as a corrupt cartel of Somali distributors… American officials believe that some American aid may have fallen into the hands of Al Shababa, the most militant of Somalia’s insurgent groups.[2]

For Sir Bob to categorically claim that “not a penny” of the relief money was taken by Zenawi’s rebel group flies in the face of the inescapable African reality of corruption, fraud, waste, abuse and outright theft of not just humanitarian aid, but all kinds of international economic aid and loans. If Somali “contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members” could steal $240 million in food aid in 2009 with all the sophisticated and “best practices” monitoring and auditing mechanisms of the U.N. in place, why does Sir Bob tenaciously hold the childish belief that Zenawi’s rebel group could not have taken a “penny” from the aid money he raised in 1984? Sir Bob does not want to face the truth so he has chosen to bury his head, like the proverbial ostrich, in the sands of denial.

Dr. Aregawi Berhe, one of the eyewitnesses to the scam, was a commander in the rebel army. Gebremedhin was a senior finance officer of the rebel group. Just because they have been critical of the Zenawi regime does not mean they are fabricating lies. As the Independent newspaper which interviewed Sir Bob noted: “That does not mean they are wrong, but it sets up reasonable doubts.” That is indeed a fair place to begin establishing the truth. Let Gebremedhin, Dr. Aregawi and many others with first hand knowledge of the facts (including all the principals implicated in the wrongdoing and the NGO bagmen who carried cash to pay the rebels) be called to testify publicly before an independent international inquiry commission. Regardless, as percipient witnesses any evidence given by Gebremedhin and Dr. Aregawi to date is admissible in any court of law in the world, except kangaroo court.

Zenawi, speaking for the first time on the issue last week said he met with Sir Bob in Nairobi who expressed deep disappointment over the BBC report. Amazingly, Zenawi neither confirmed nor denied the central allegation in the report that he and/ or other members of his rebel group diverted relief money in 1984 for military purchases or any other purposes [3]. It was a brilliant anticipatory legal maneuver stonewalling on the central issue as Zenawi leaves no potentially incriminatory statement which could later be used to impeach (show prior inconsistent statement) him. Naturally, one would have expected an impassioned denial and condemnation of the purportedly vile and scurrilous accusations. But not a word. Instead, Zenawi savagely attacked the integrity and professionalism of Martin Plaut, the BBC reporter who broke the story, as a former Eritrean stooge experienced in distortions and lies (elsewhere known as “yellow journalism”). He accused others who had commented on the matter as being driven by “blind hatred.”

Sir Bob should know better. In fact, he does. After he learned of the shooting of innocent protesters following the May 2005 elections, Sir Bob told Channel 4 News on June 9, 2005[4] what kind of a man Zenawi really is:

Spare me, what are they doing? It is pathetic. I despair, I really despair. No doubt, I’ll get a briefing from the Ethiopian embassy: ‘it wasn’t like this, it was like that’. Grow up, they make me puke. I know those people, Meles Zanawi is a seriously clever man, what is he doing? What is he doing closing down radio stations, and journalists and that, it’s a disgrace. Behave.

Whatever disagreements we may have with Sir Bob on the BBC report, we share his despair fully. We really despair with him. We agree with him wholeheartedly that it is a shame and a disgrace to shoot down innocent unarmed protesters in the streets, shut down the independent press, jail opposition political leaders and engage in gross violations of human rights. We share his belief that it is disgrace and a crime to misuse a single penny earmarked for bread and butter for the hungry to buy guns and bullets for a rebel army. Unfortunately, the fact is that the world is menaced by “seriously clever men” who will stop at nothing, even stealing food from the mouths of babes. That makes all of us puke with disgust, not just Sir Bob. Because one believes in a noble cause, it does not follow that those with whom one comes in contact are also noble.

It is a great thing Sir Bob did in Live Aid back in 1984 and thereafter. But there is new thinking and evidence on the horizon. As Dambissa Moyo’s new book “Dead Aid” shows, the influx of aid, including humanitarian aid, is at great risk of both being corruptly diverted and of exacerbating existing endemic corruption in Africa. It may be hard for Sir Bob and the rest of us naïve Ethiopian utopians to open our eyes in Africa’s New Age of Kleptocracy and see “seriously clever men” and con artists lining up to cannibalize their people for their last bowls of rice and handful of pennies.

The fact remains that there is still famine of the worst kind in Ethiopia and Africa that no Live Aid, Band Aid or Dead Aid can cure. It is a famine of democracy, justice, accountability, transparency, rule of law and human rights.

In the final analysis, the BBC report is not about Sir Bob’s reputation or legacy in Ethiopia or his future humanitarian work in Africa. It is about the truth; and if Sir Bob is truly committed to finding out the truth, let’s come together, relentlessly pursue it and let the chips fall where they may. We believe the truth shall make us all free!

[1] Audio:


Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.

8 thoughts on “Ethiopia: “Grow up!” Bob Geldof

  1. The TPLF began corruption and robbery while it was in the bush and has expanded them as a government. Even though, Meles Was not at the helm of the TPLF during the famine, he has taken control of the front and molded it in his own ways. Now the TPLF is equivalent to Meles and he is usinig it as weapon of coercion and robbery to enrich himself and his ethnic cronies. As a fascist and racist, Meles Zenawi uses all the means he could master to deny his daylight robbery and theft. His greedy and selfish cadres like the ones using the alias Getachew Mequanent, Dilwengeru Nega, Aba Mella and Washera are the beneficiaries of Zenawi`s scam. Of these eating cadres, the ones using the false names Getachew and Dilwenberu are Tigrayans and first class cadres or beneficiaries. The irony with these weyannes or ethnical fascists is that they are using Amhara names and posing as Amhara supporters of Meles Zenawi. In the eyes of Zenawi and his Tigrayan followers, the Amharas are the notorious enemies of the people of Tigray and should be dealt with as such. The ones using the nick names Washera and Aba Mela are non-Tigrayans and what Ethiopians call Hodams (sellouts) and are thus second class cadres. Despite Bob`s futile efforts to discredit the BBC journalist and whitewash the ethnical fascist front of Meles, the western public is getting some glimpse of the corruption in the world of ethnical fascism. The cadres and beneficiaries of ethnical fascism are smelling the danger of losing their cakes (aid money

  2. Elias, God bless you for you whole-hearted enthusiasm against the brutal regime in Ethiopia and its leader Meles Zenawi. Believe me most Ethiopians are with you. Keep up your hard work.
    By the way, GUNA, a TPLF company, is robbing the Afar people in the salt mine in Afdera by forcing them to sell it to GUNA only. Anyone who wants to buy salt has to buy it from GUNA. Remember GUNA is a company under REST. Meles and Company are robbing Ethiopian left and right. Weyane is a Mafia company.

  3. Dear Alemayehu G. Mariam,
    It seems that you write this article with the aim to harm the reputation of the existing government of Ethiopia and on the way you try to discredit Sir Bob Geldof, one of the most respected humanitarian of his age. May I remained you that he and his colleagues endeavour to raise money for the famine relief in Ethiopia in 1984/5 saved millions of our brother and sisters from eminent death.
    For his effort he was bestowed the title Sir by the United Kingdom government. We Ethiopians should be grateful for that all the time.
    The issue of the famine fund whether being used by the rebel group to buy weapons or not is not that important for Sir Bob’s personal reputation but for the people of the UK and elsewhere who gave there personal savings to save life. If this wasn’t the case those charitable people will have concern to gave out there money for any charity work in the future.
    I think this why Sir Bob have to fight with the BBC who broadcast a report with out any credible evidence.
    You have to ask yourself one thing, what have you done to improve the lives of the people and the development of Ethiopia? If you have done something about it let us know and we will join you. Other wise don’t try to score a cheap political point on the expense of the good people like Sir Bob and the poor people of Ethiopia in particular and Africa in general.

  4. Bob Geldof is defending with shameful lies the rebels (woyanes) that are on power for 20 years by saying:
    “Not a single penny went on armaments. Not one. Not a pound; not a penny. Let me be clear on that. And I’ve also spoken to some of the others, including the Red Cross, who say it is absolute rubbish that any of their money could have possibly gone on arms.”

    Bob Geldof is acting as if he was the one knows and had rights and responsibilities about woyane back then while he is rejecting the prominent and the highest members of TPLF (woyane) at the time. All the money given to woyane at that time was 100% G/Medhin’s responsibilities. All military activities including financing was under Aregawi Berhe. These two former rebels high rankers are the first and only body know to the very detail about financing the military. G/Medhin knows from where the money came from and where it was spent. That is from aid and went to the rebel military, meaning in the hands of Aregawi Berhe.

    Yet, Bob Geldof is denying the important ness of these two men in the rebel. Yes, this is the arrogant, liar, corrupt, secretive and with the likes behaviour the white man is doing towards Africa/blacks. He thinks he has always right and he gets his way no matter what if it is about Africa. Of course based on his physiological and material benefit. Yes, he was and still is acting in the African matters as if the Africans are nothing and have no right for their own sake. Him denying the two prominent and high rankers role in the TPLF back then is an arrogant and foolish behaviour.

    As he was the front-runner; damaging the Ethiopian image while dancing with happiness in the name of hungry and weak in front of the world pretending to help while the money was given to the rebel to kill people and destroy property, this fact would/will damage his empty reputation. Leave Ethiopia alone. Stop defending and supporting her enemies including woyanes that your band aid facilitated them to take power since 20 years a go. .

    “Dr. Aregawi Berhe, one of the eyewitnesses to the scam, was a commander in the rebel army. Gebremedhin was a senior finance officer of the rebel group. Just because they have been critical of the Zenawi regime does not mean they are fabricating lies.” Yes, that is right.

    “Do they know it is Christmas?”

    Yes, the none believers, drug addicts and with lots of weaknesses were singing and dancing this way in front of the world telling about the first Christian nation and her very deep believers to damage not only their dignity but their humanity, too.

    Yes, the Christmas song was about woyanes while collecting the Christmas gift intended to give them secretly while damaging the Ethiopian image openly with limitless crulty and hate motivated by race.

    “Amazingly, Zenawi neither confirmed nor denied the central allegation in the report that he and/ or other members of his rebel group diverted relief money in 1984 for military purchases or any.”
    Geldof is crying including in Kenya while Meles is laughing at him. Meles knows BBC has said the truth but not all. Because the scandal is huge and will be known soon.

    The whole truth about must and will be clear and open to us and the rest of the world soon. The only thing Geldof and others have to do is working in order all the truth is coming out. This is the only way to protect their reputation.

  5. Should we blame Bob for being arrogant or African leaders that loot the treasuries and starve their people to death? For Bob, as they say… Pride comes before a fall.

  6. The allegation made against woyane may or may not be true. But what is surprising is the confidence showed by one of the Big British crook as if he knew the minds and hearts of Meles and other woyanes.

    Leave alone Bob,Meles himself did not clearly deny the allegation rather he went on to critize the integirity of the BBC journalists.

    Bob becoming adamant towards this the story may be because the story uncovered the top secret that Bod has never expected to be unearthed.

    Bob has to learn that Meles and his friends allegedly got Hawuzen bombarded by the previous airforce in order to get more support from the people Tigray.

    I always appreciate what Bod did to save Ethiopian lives during that critical time but I have great doubt on how he did it.

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