Q & A with Ethiopian community radio host

Off the Air with Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts Radio, D.C.

D.C. resident Abebe Belew is the host of the Addis Dimts radio show, a weekly Amharic talk show broadcast in D.C. via 1120 WUST AM/New World Radio and received in Ethiopia via 17845 kwh 17 mb. Emily Goulding caught him offline for a few minutes to ask him about radio, politics and power suits here in the Capitol region…

1. How did you decide to become a DJ? Were you a DJ in Ethiopia?
Well, actually I was a comedian in Ethiopia. And I was a traditional dancer, I used to work for a famous theater called the Ras Theater. Later, I became a host for an Ethiopian TV show called Variety Show. When I came here, I went back to my old job, entertaining Ethiopians at university campuses and stuff like that. Now, I have my own radio talk show here in Washington. I’m broadcasting on Sundays from 1pm to 2pm from D.C. all the way to Ethiopia.

2. How do you decide what your show topic is for the week?
It’s all about Ethiopians. It can be about sports, comedy, politics- any kind of topic.

3. What’s your favorite thing about being on the radio?
The main reason I decided to have a radio show is freedom of speech. Here, my show can one day be about restaurants, the next day about comedy. There is no such thing as private or free media in Ethiopia, so I’m living my dream by running free media.

4. When you call your family back home and tell them what it’s like to be Ethiopian in Washington, what do you say?
I tell them to come here to see it, it’s a very big difference. I grew up in a very strong culture, our culture was everything. The rule of law has no place in Ethiopia, so if it wasn’t for our culture, we wouldn’t be able to live in there. Our culture helps us live. Like for poor people, it doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, they just don’t have freedom. In that aspect, the United States is a dream that I wish all Ethiopians could see. Freedom is a great thing for all humanity.

5. Do you feel that you have a certain social responsibility as a radio host?
Yes, yes, I have a big responsibility both here and back home to represent all sides. Whatever people think, I give them a chance to explain. I feel a great responsibility to stand up for what I believe, for free media, for giving a chance to every point of view.

6. Do you know who Piolín de la Mañana is? Sí venimos a triunfar?
I haven’t heard of him, but I don’t think he’s a journalist, he might be an activist. If he believes a rule is wrong and wants people to go out and fight, I don’t think that’s wrong, but if he’s a journalist, he can’t just take one side.

7. What’s the most difficult topic that’s ever come up during an interview?
Religion is the most difficult topic to discuss. In Ethiopia, we are mostly Orthodox, but we’re also Muslim, so whenever those two religions have things going on, it’s very difficult to host that program. Also, as a radio host, I can’t know the outcome of my program. You never know who is listening or what they’re going to do.

8. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while at WUST-AM?
The weirdest thing that happened to me is that people think I’m not good enough to be a journalist. They think that just because I was a comedian and a dancer, I can’t be a journalist. That’s weird to me, because I believe anyone can be anything they want to be.

9. Who wears nicer suits, Zenawi or Afewerki?
Zenawi (laughing). No, he’s actually a really funny-looking guy. In Ethiopia, people draw pictures to see who can make something that looks the closest to Zenawi… when you draw a goat and you take off the horns, you’ll see that it looks a lot like Zenawi.

10. And between Clinton and Obama?
Hillary looks better in a suit. Obama’s head is too little, so it looks kind of silly. Obama would look good in a runner’s outfit, or in a basketball uniform.

11. So who should I vote for?
If you don’t vote for Hillary, you should vote for me. (Laughs again.) Hillary has lots of experience, but I’ve never done anything in politics before, so if you don’t want experience, you should vote for me.