In 1999, U2 frontman Bono helped establish ONE, a charity in South Africa that works to end poverty and preventable disease. Accusations of abuse at the organization have recently resurfaced, and Bono has come forward to apologize.
The New York Times reports that the allegations came from employees who worked in ONE’s Johannesburg office form 2011 to 2015, and include accounts of bullying, abuse, and in one instance, “sexual coercion.” One employee said she was demoted after refusing to have sex with a Tanzanian minister and another claims her boss ordered her to work in their own household doing chores. Altogether, seven employees have filed a lawsuit against ONE, seeking $5 million in damages.
Bono gave a statement to the Daily Mail on Sunday regarding the lawsuit, saying he extremely angry that the abuse ever took place:
“We are all deeply sorry. I hate bullying, can’t stand it,” he told the paper.
“The poorest people in the poorest places being bullied by their circumstance is the reason we set up ONE.
“So to discover last November that there were serious and multiple allegations of bullying in our office in Johannesburg left me and the ONE board reeling and furious.”
The abuse allegations resurfaced in November of 2017, when a former employee at ONE named Idriss Ali Nassah took a walk down memory lane after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, and detailed some of the instances of harassment and abuse at the organization.
Nassah’s tweets opened the floodgates, and soon other employees were sharing their bad experiences. ONE opened up an official investigation, supported by their new chief executive, Gayle Smith. (The previous chief executive died in 2016.) The investigation supported the allegations, and Smith called the situation an “institutional failure.”
Bono has offered to meet with employees to apologize in person, saying that “the head office failed to protect those employees and I need to take some responsibility for that.”