An eyewitness humanitarian worker has rejected a claim that aid agency funds were misused in Tigray during the Ethiopian famine in 1984–5.
In a BBC World Service Assignment documentary broadcast yesterday (Thursday), Gebremedhin Araya, a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) alleged that he duped aid workers by filling with sand the grain sacks destined for starving people.
It was claimed that the money misappropriated was then used to buy weapons.
“But Max Peberdy, a worker with the internationally respected development agency Christian Aid, says he was on the spot at the time, and categorically denies being tricked,” says the Christian think tank Ekklesia.
A report on Ekklesia’s website quotes him as saying, “We routinely monitored the trucks shipping aid across the border. The claim made by Araya is frankly absurd. I was personally present at dozens of grain purchases and never once saw any sand in any grain bags.
“The implication that international aid agencies were aware that they had to ‘grease the wheels’ of power in order to get aid through to those in need is utter nonsense and there was absolutely no question of that happening at any of the grain purchases that I attended,” said Peberdy.
He went on: “Christian Aid’s experienced emergency team on the ground imposed stringent assessment criteria and the use of all donated money was carefully monitored through progress reports and rigorous accounting.
“These claims are outrageous and very damaging, and there is far more evidence that the money was channelled to where it should have been than there is for these inaccurate allegations.”
Peberdy’s statement has been supported by Penny Jenden, director of Band Aid at the time. “If this money had been diverted to rebels and not used to buy food, you would have had thousands of people lying dead at the side of the road,” she said.
“The fact that there was no major death toll or mass migration clearly demonstrates that the money was not diverted.”