Band Aid, Ethiopian Governmnt Agree on Seized Goods
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) _ Ethiopia and the Band Aid relief organization have resolved a dispute over a shipment of medical supplies that the government confiscated at gunpoint last week, a Band Aid spokesman said Saturday.
″The Relief and Rehabilitation Commission of the government of Ethiopia will ensure that the relief items impounded recently at Assab will be promptly distributed for the benefit of needy Ethiopians in northern drought-affected areas of the country,″ John James said in a statement issued in Addis Ababa.
He said the government also would allow Band Aid to deliver a replacement shipment to Eritrea province, where secessionist rebels have been waging a civil war for more than 20 years.
The Marxist government made no public announcement, but James said it had promised that he could monitor the distribution of the seized supplies.
Ethiopian officials confiscated 51 tons of medical supplies from the ship Band Aid Star last Tuesday at Ethiopia’s main port of Assab on the Red Sea.
The shipment of blankets, medicine and hospital equipment was destined for Port Sudan in neighboring Sudan and was then to be sent to Eritrea.
James said the ship also was carrying a load of seed potatoes for a government-controlled area, and it had to stop in Assab first or the potatoes would have rotted.
Bob Geldof, the Irish rock-music star who founded Band Aid, responded to the seizure by withholding $900,000 in relief aid earmarked for Ethiopia.
James said that the cost of replacing the confiscated cargo would be deducted from the money being withheld.
Band Aid has raised nearly $103 million from records, Live Aid trans- Atlantic rock music concerts and other projects to aid African countries that were affected by a severe drought.
″In reaching this agreement to differ, Band Aid regrets that the government of Ethiopia found it necessary to impound relief supplies at Assab,″ James said. ″At the same time, it must be appreciated that if, for example, a ship discharging at a United Kingdom port were seen to have a cargo on board consigned to the Irish Republican Army, it would seem reasonable to suppose that Her Majesty’s government would have taken similar action.″
The mainly Roman Catholic IRA, which is outlawed in both Britain and Ireland, is fighting a guerrilla war to unite Northern Ireland, a British province where Protestants outnumber Catholics 3-2, with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic.