Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who knew what when?

Hmmm, this World Service story is a bit funny. From comments below, Phil says:

"I collected at the time for War on Want, which did have contacts in Eritrea and Tigray. As far as I was concerned we were collecting the money because people were starving in Eritrea & Tigray, and getting it to the EPLF and TPLF because they were best placed to do something about it. We knew they weren't dedicated humanitarian agencies (the 'PLF' is a clue), and we knew there was the possibility that not all the money would be used for food. So my initial reaction to hearing about this programme was that if the proportion diverted really was as high as 95%, then that was a story. And my second, more cynical reaction was that if the amount diverted hadn't been claimed to be as high as 95%, then there wouldn't have been a story"

An anonymous commenter says:

"I find this story intriguing. Martin Plaut was on the Council of War on Want at the time of these events, when War on Want was the only aid organisation openly providng aid to famine vicitms in areas controlled by the Eritreans and Tigrayans."

Really? Was he? It's hard to find out, but he certainly did write this book published by WoW in 1981, and he is mentioned in this biography of George Galloway, albeit that I can't find a full text search to get context. Googology also turns up this article, which has Plaut inviting the EPLF to a Labour Party conference in 1979.

I have no feel for the reliability of these sources, but taken together and coupled with Plaut's own mention in the story that he "had gone on the long, difficult journey through Sudan and into Eritrea with rebels who had been fighting the government for more than 20 years", it seems pretty clear that he was involved with EPLF, possibly in a capacity related to distributing aid via them. The strange thing here is that Phil remembers the diversion to weapons as being something that WoW were aware of as a risk and prepared to live with, while Plaut is retrospectively surprised by it thirty years later.

It is of course a nasty jolt to suddenly be faced with the possibility that you misjudged people you trusted in the past, but the only source for the claim that more than 90% of the aid was diverted is a disgruntled old guy who lost out in a party power struggle, and as Geldof notes, this isn't really consistent with the mortality outcomes. So I think the evidence points to Plaut having been really quite amazingly naive.
5 comments this item posted by the management 3/12/2010 12:12:00 AM

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