"The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being." - Lech Walesa

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Dawit Kebede: From Hero to Zero

U.S. Ambassador Donald Booth told Dawit Kebede a "secret"July 5, 2013

by Selam Tesfay
When Dawit Kebede received a CPJ award, as a ‘hero’ of press freedom in 2010, Ethiopians in the Diaspora fired fireworks. So many people were proud of him. His story was compelling. Unfortunately, it didn’t take Dawit too long to ruin his good records unleash a self-destructive war that has harmed himself more than anyone else.
Dawit was one of the journalists who were locked up after the 2005 election turmoil. He was then editor and publisher of a little known paper called Hadar. Then he was released along with Kinijit leaders in late 2007. Unlike other journalists, such as Eskinder Nega and Sisay Agena, he was able to secured an operating license and launched Awramba Times. His courage was admired. The paper became popular even among the Diaspora as he distributed the soft copy online. This was indeed very commendable that made Dawit a darling among Ethiopians all over the world. But today Dawit Kebede has chosen to play a destructive role, much like Aigaforum that leaves no stone unturned to divide activists and dissidents opposed to the Tigryan dictators in power.
Coming to America

Like Eddie Murphy’s popular comedy, Dawit’s Coming to America is full of drama although it may not be too comedic. Dawit suddenly decided to flee Ethiopia. That was not unusual as Ethiopia is the number one source of exiled journalists in the world in the last decade. But there were definitely confusions on the circumstances that led him into exile after he had declared to the world that he would never flee whatever the risks. His colleagues working for Awramba, whom he did not even inform on his new plan, had one version. The regime had another. Dawit had two versions; one for public consumption another one that he says is the real one.
According to the last version of events, one day Dawit got a phone call from the outgoing U.S. Ambassador Donald Booth. The U.S. Ambassador wanted an urgent secret meeting with him. Dawit rushed to the sprawling American Embassy in Northern Addis Ababa. He was wondering about the “top secret” that His Excellency wanted to report to him. Normally U.S. Ambassadors around the world report to the State Department in Washington DC. So Dawit was a bit wary when a U.S. Ambassador was eager to share a secret with him.
At the U.S. Embassy in Addis, Ambassador Booth was waiting for his guest from Awramba. As soon as he arrived, the Ambassador started to share the secrets. Dawit claims that the Ambassador expressed his concern over his safety and future. Booth said that he had received very credible information from his informants within the Ethiopian government that Bereket Simon and his colleagues had hatched a new plan to throw him in jail again. Dawit, claimed that the Ambassador went out of his way and gave him an ultimatum. He had no option but to to leave the country urgently.
Endorsed by the ambassador, his visa was processed speedily in a paranormal manner. So Dawit flew to Washington D.C. and sought political asylum. Though the story seems a passage out of a movie script, it is the version that Dawit Kebede stamped as official.
The Root Cause
It is customary in any part of the world that a job application can either be accepted or rejected. That is a fact of life. But it is extremely unusual for anyone to commit suicide or become an arsonist just because a job application has not been successful. Sadly enough, Dawit Kebede’s problems with ESAT, an emergent media organization he used to praise in flourishing terms (watch the video), began due to such a rare scenario.
When Dawit arrived in the U.S., he was received and welcomed warmly by activists. Anyone arriving in a new country needs some help. That is quite normal. Washington D.C. did not disappoint Dawit. Wherever he went, people accepted and embraced him like their hero.
He wanted to work for ESAT. No problem, of course. Owing to his once cozy relationship with Dr. Berhanu Nega, he asked him to give him a job. But Dr. Berhanu, regardless of his valuable contributions, does not own ESAT. So his application had to be considered by ESAT’s management. As an organization with limited budget and resources, the management had to find budget to cover the cost of hiring Dawit.
While his application was pending, Dawit became too impatient. He started spreading rumors that ESAT did not want to hire him because he was a Tigrian. Many do not want to be seen around ESAT let alone working for it. ESAT believes in diversity and there was a consensus that he would be an asset. He took his strong opinion to the next level. He started saying that ESAT was anti-Tigrian. The evidence he submitted was the focus on the crimes of the TPLF. But it is still a fact that TPLF is the major force behind the corruption, tyranny, abuse of power, gross human rights violations and massive robberies under the guise of EFFORT companies.
In the meantime, Dawit decided to move to Arizona, where his brother lives. His brother is known to be a long time operative of the TPLF. As a matter of fact, he is said to be very close to the top TPLF hatemongers.
Aggressive strategy
While Dawit’s frustration was building up, Ethiomedia and a few other websites published an article critical of the questionable Awramba Times editor. Dawit went ballistic. He responded by launching a personal attack against Abraha Belai. Instead of discrediting Abraha, Dawit exposed his weak side and raised serious doubts about his maturity not only as a journalist but also as an adult. A few more critical articles appeared on ECAD Forum. This time he called Dr. Berhanu Nega a few times and demanded that he stopped ECADF from discussing and publishing anything about him. Again he linked the issue with his Tigrian identity.
Dr. Berhanu politely told him that he had no control over the people criticizing him and was logically unable to censor them for him. He correctly advised him to contact the people running ECADF instead of him. Again, Dawit got threatening and ballistic like the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the punk dictator that threatened to destroy the United States.
Dawit started exhibiting his overt hostility toward ESAT and Ginbot 7. ESAT and Dr. Berhanu Nega became his punching bags. Whenever ESAT broadcasts anything that seriously exposes TPLF crimes, Dawit comes up with a counter effort to “discredit” ESAT. While Dawit’s spin has had no impact on the growing popularity of ESAT, he fully exposed is deviousness more than his skills in journalism.
Dawit went on the offensive and appeared on former TPLF motor-mouth Berhanu Damte’s “Civility Forum.” Then Berhanu was amenably bending too much for the TPLF, who used him in exchange for food and pocket money. Dawit claimed that he had a mission of saving Ethiopian journalism from bankruptcy. He wanted to restore ethics and professional journalism. But it was an ambitious effort as his inexperience and lack of training wasn’t too evident to miss.
The whole project was futility at its best, Awramba Times way of ethical journalism was nothing more than spreading distorted, biased, twisted, divisive and inflammatory stories. The story of hero to zero became more and more bizarre. Dawit’s Kebede’s journey from hero to zero is quite confounding. What is even tragic is his loss of credibility by making a fool of himself.
To be continued.

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