On Martin Plaut and Aid Politics


(Aigaforum 03/03/10)

Martin Plaut is a self appointed expert on the Horn region and from time to time he has been trying to paint the horn region as gloomy and hopeless using one of the biggest media in the world, the BBC. He has tried every trick to put wedges between Ethiopia and Eritrea to expand the already fractured relationship between the two countries. His biggest opportunity to paint the gloomy picture came with the so called  Algeries agreement. In the end though, all of his analysis and hot air predictions, in regard to Ethio Eritrea relations unravel in his face with the recent sanction passed by the UN on the Eritrean government. We remember Martin telling the world, that Eritrea has the moral high ground and international support in its handling of the Algiers agreement.

Today Martin has found a discredited and run away ex-TPLF personality to defame TPLF. His source for a post 1984 happenings (Ethiopia famine aid 'spent on weapons') is Aregawi Berhe, a person who left the organization right in the middle of the vicious famine. Aid to TPLF came for most part after Aregawi left for Sudan. The other source Martin has is Aya Geremedhin, need we say more about Aya Geremdhin...No!  But, for the record he was a low level fighter with no clue about the overall operation of the TPLF.  Ghebremedhin worked in the accounting and administration division of TPLF and defected to Derg after being suspected of embezzling funds.

Relief Rehabilitation Society of Tigray (REST) used cash and grains and everything in its disposal given by donors to save thousands of starving people. But Martin wants us to believe REST/TPLF took food away from starving people to buy arms. This is purely defamation, fabrication and outright lunacy ! The main source for arms for TPLF was the enemy himself, the Derge! The fact is REST managed and saved over 200 thousand people by helping them move and cross to the Sudan away from the daily bombardment by the Derge. It repatriated over 150 thousand people and helped them resettle in their original place after sheltering and feeding them during the dry season in Sudan. REST and TPLF run a school and hospital in all librated areas including in refugee camps in Sudan. Such huge operation requiresd money. Money was also used to buy oxen and other farming equipments to be given to each returnee. Since many Ngo's were not giving cash but grains, and there was plenty of grains donated which could have gone spoiled if not used on time, some grains were converted to cash. Not to buy weapon as Martin alleges wants us to believe but to sustain the resettlement effort of the thousands affected by the drought. Martin could have asked simple why the many Ngos who have direct oversight of their donation to learn the stringent requirement REST was subject to but Martin never did. He did not ask REST for his story.

When the camp in Sudan was vacated, REST faced a huge challenge to move grains deep in to the country. Eritrean Liberation front (EPLF) blocked the only safe route and Derge was bombarding the only rough dry road day in and day out. One can imagine the challenges faced, yet, by and large most grains were transported to inland feeding centers. The truth is without a strong organization of TPLF, the catastrophe in Tigray would have been unimaginable. With Derg and EPLF closing all the available routes to Tigrai, it was TPLF that mobilized hundreds of thousands of farmers to build a road to Sudan in less than two months. It was that corridor that was used to bring in the badly needed aid that saved the lives of millions while the Derge leaders were enjoying a lavish party that included the drinking of imported whiskey from Scotland.

This being the fact why would Martin come back after 26 years with such a story to tell? EPRDF after defeating the Derge is doing a superb and outstanding job to mitigate any drought years. Ever since EPRDF came to power the country is doing all it can to avoid famine and it has demonstrated it by its unswerving efforts that has led it to its success.  Also, it is clear as daylight that the Derge was the major contributor in neglecting to address the dreadful famine of 1984.  How can one criticize any one from using all means necessary to defeat Derge? Martin the expert of the Horn of Africa should have known that the struggle was a popular struggle supported by most if not all of the people of Tigrai. Thus, saving the people was saving the struggle and TPLF could not have misused Aid money or Aid grain.  TPLF stood for a cause that aligned itself with the interest of the Tigrai and the rest of the Ethiopian people at large.  As the saying goes the proof is in the pudding and there is no turning back the hands of development. Ethiopians once and for all are standing together as one to make poverty history.  Defamation or fabrication of their history will not derail their hard earned gain from the development that is in every corner of the country. Today we are witnessing the popularity and success of the TPLF. Without popular support TPLF could not have defeated Derge. And we think Martin will agree with us that popular support is not earned by taking food from starving children but by an extraordinary on the ground demonstration of development activity.