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Abebe Gellaw: The journalist who silenced the tyrant

by Hilina Taye
There is no doubt that 2012 was one of the most memorable years in our history. We witnessed high dramas, an unforgettable protest, a tyrant’s global hide-and-seek game, the elite’s wailing and cries, a mass hysteria, a dictator’s funeral in par with North Korea, the coronation of a puppet…. All these happened from mid to the end of the year.

Thousands of listeners and viewers of the Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio residing across the world have cast their votes for the honor, “Ethiopian Man of the Year in 2012,” to select the man that had a noticeable and significant impact in the year.

Over 20 prominent Ethiopians were nominated. Yenesew Genre, the man who self-immolated himself calling for freedom, artist and activist Tamagn Beyene, jailed journalists Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, and Wubishet Taye, Ethiopian Muslim movement leader Ustaz Abubaker Ahmed, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Andualem Arega, Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, pop sensation Teddy Afro…and even the late tyrant Meles Zenawi.

When the results of the votes were revealed, one man stood out tall among the crowd. Forty-eight percent of the votes went to the man who generated the most significant buzz and impact in the year by writing the last chapter of Meles Zenwi’s fall and demise. Journalist and press freedom activist Abebe Gellaw was selected ESAT’s audience and viewers’ Ethiopian Man of the Year.

I find this a fitting tribute to a man who took a great risk at the G8 Food Security Symposium on May 18, 2012. When Meles Zenawi was in the middle of his insipid lecture in front of world leaders, distinguished scholars and corporate leaders, Abebe stood up and told Zenawi the bitter truth he tried to avoid in his 21-year long misrule. It was a shock therapy to the arrogant tyrant that shattered and broke the tyrant in front of world leaders.

At the G8 summit what broke Meles was not Abebe thunderous voice that shrank the tyrant, but the toxic truth he spoke loudly for the world to hear. Interrupting Zenawi in the middle of his lecture of lies, the powerful words that became the highlight of the “G8 food security” meeting carried the weightiest messages that overshadowed even the speeches of U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delivered the opening and closing speeches respectively.

“Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Meles Zenawi is dictator! Free Eskinder Nega and political prisoners! You are a dictator! Stop committing crimes against humanity! Don’t talk about food without freedom! We need freedom more than food! We need freedom! Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Free Eskinder Nega and all political prisoners!” No one could stop the message.

These words will remain valid until Ethiopia is free from dictatorship, injustice, abuse of power and misrule. For me and millions of Ethiopians across the word, those words represented us at the highest level. They represent our aspirations, interests and dreams. They will be etched in our mind as long as we remain oppressed.

Journalist Abebe Gellaw deserves the honor. A true journalist is not always afraid to take risks for the sake of speaking out truth to power. The words that irreparable broke and silenced Meles Zenawi have uplifted us and injected inspiration in our struggle for freedom.

Award winning journalist Abebe Gellaw has already collected a few awards and recognition He was one the 2011 recipients of Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett press freedom award, he was named a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum in 2010. Former John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and Yahoo International Fellow in 2009, journalist Abebe Gellaw has clearly and steadily demonstrated that commitment to make a difference will eventually pay off. But no honor is as good as those that are closer to home. That is why such an honor from ordinary men and women the most coveted.

I congratulate journalist Abebe Gellaw for being selected man of the people. As much as you lifted up our spirit, Ethiopians have unequivocally spoken that they do not forget their heroes and heroines that fight for freedom. This coveted honor is not just for you but for all those who take risks for the sake of freedom. Ethiopia and Ethiopians will never forget the history you have made.

Abebe will be remembered in history as the journalist who silenced and broke Meles Zenawi, who went to his grave humbled and humiliated. It is an ironic miracle that the man who silenced and broke a nation for 21 years was permanently silenced and broken in less than a minute. It is for this reason why Ethiopians have chosen the man responsible for such an audacious act at a meeting of the great powers.

Dictators and oppressors should take a serious note that the day of judgment is always around the corner. No amount of armory can protect tyrants from harsh judgments as this case attests. Encouraged by our Godsend victory, we should finish off the ruthless TPLF tyranny and oppression that has taken away our freedom and dignity.

Thank you, Abebe Gellaw! You spoke for me and millions of Ethiopians. You are a true voice for the voiceless!

We shall prevail! Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

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