The People Have Spoken… “We cannot be bought”

ESFNA 30th Opening Ceremony DC/Maryland 2013
by Meron Ahadu*
I got back yesterday to my hometown Los Angeles after spending an amazing 4 days and having a blast with thousands of my people at the 30th anniversary of Ethiopian Sport Federation cultural Festival. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Ethiopian women” and what a celebration it was.
I have to set the record straight right from the beginning. For almost 10 years I have been a very vocal critic of Ethiopian Sport Federation (ESFNA). I was relentless in my attack of ESFNA. The reasons for my criticisms were the organization’s lack of accountability and transparency, the organization’s complete disregard and insensitivity to the needs of the community that supports it. Their dependence on millionaires to finance their yearly soccer tournament etc. etc. the list goes on.
In 2010, I completely gave up on ESFNA after a small minority within the organization overturned the majority Board members vote to honor Judge Birtukan Mideksa at the 2010 July Festival. I decided the organization was corrupt to the core, would never reform and the Ethiopian community in North America needed an alternative that would be responsive to the community’s voice. Initially, when I was approaching people with this concept of an alternative competitor to ESFNA, it seemed very far and not achievable to a lot of people. Ten people bought the idea and Ethiopian Heritage Society (EHSNA) was born. The principle behind EHSNA was simple it would be everything that ESFNA was not, it would be accountable, transparent and responsive to the community. The growth and viability of EHSNA is another story and I will maybe address that at some future date.

Getting back to ESFNA’s 30th anniversary, I can honestly say it was one of the best few days I have had in a very long time. I have seen tremendous improvement in almost everything I used to criticize about ESFNA. I can sincerely say that ESFNA is on the path of positive organizational transformation. The organizational culture of ESFNA of years past that used to have an antagonistic relationship with the community it was serving has turned around 360 degree in a positive way. It was very apparent at the 30th year anniversary ESFNA had worked hard to change its image and had walked miles to build bridges with the community.
The organization that I am a member of, Center for Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) has been communicating and collaborating with ESFNA the last 6 months. The courtesy and support that all the Board members have given our organization has been and continues to be overwhelming.
The positive cultural transformation has not only been directed towards our organization but to the community at large. ESFNA seems to have understood that the people will support them if they are responsive to their needs and treat them with respect and dignity. Thousands of people showed up day after day at Byrd Stadium starting June 30 until July 6 the closing date. It was a time of joy and happiness, the young and the elderly waving their homeland green, yellow, red flag. Thousands of people being happy just being together in one place. Thousands of people by their presence at the Byrd Stadium affirming their solidarity with ESFNA. Thousands of people with their presence at Byrd Stadium stating loudly and clearly… ”we cannot be bought.” How proud I am of my people.
The community has shown its commitment, in turn, ESFNA has also shown it is taking steps towards positive organizational transformation. What is next? How can ESFNA move to the next level and continue on the positive path. Much needs to be done, as much as there was a lot of positive things at the 30th anniversary there was also a lot of room for improvement. One thing that ESFNA Board members have to understand is that ESFNA has reached a level where professionals with strong marketing and financial backgrounds need to be recruited to manage the day to day affairs of ESFNA. The organization has to have a permanent office. Another suggestion would be to create an Advisory Board comprised of individuals from community based organizations; this will allow the Federation to have a direct link with the community. Having surveys and getting feedback is a good way to get an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses and I would encourage ESFNA to utilize this tool to make improvements in the coming years.
I congratulate the leadership and Board members of ESFNA for prevailing and putting together a memorable 30th anniversary festivity and truly bringing Ethiopians together.

0 Comments

  1. Well Ms. Meron, while I appreciate your assessment of the nature and spirit of the 30th anniversary of ESFNA celebration, I take issue with the title and the spirit of your article. ESFNA was never bought by anyone in the past, presently nor will be sold by anyone to anyone in the future. There is never a debate that ESFNA, since its inception, has been ineffective and in efficient in handling its business affairs over the years. I do agree with Meron that there was never any accountability of its resources and revenues over the year. For that reason, ESFNA has put itself in the unenviable position of having to ask for funds from outside sponsors and as such functioned for decades in this manner. That is called sponsorship. While I don’t want to rehash what had transpired the past two years within ESFNA, the manipulation of the characterization of the fallout two years ago involving the sponsorship of Mohamud Alamoudy has obviously polarized the community at large. At the end of the day, a split within the organization has resulted in a creation of another organization known as ESFNA One. While the legitimacy and longevity of this second federation remains to be seen, my concern still remains with ESFNA and Meron’s misleading characterization of the current event as overwhelming overnight success of this organization.
    Since two years ago, as a matter of practice, ESFNA has not changed a least bit. It is the same old organization dominated with the same old dictatorial and closed minded personalities. Furthermore, the most qualified evaluators of any change within the federation are none other than the players who have been with this organization for the past 30years. That is why I contend that Meron’s enthusiastic assessment of the success of ESFNA stems purely out of politics and nothing but politics. So, when Meron champions what happened in this years’ celebration and expresses her new found love affair for ESFNA, she is essentially testifying to the final success of politicizing ESFNA, after years of unrelenting attempt by her and those like her.
    For the past couple of years, I debated with many well meaning friends and acquaintances that ESFNA is being taken over by a few politically motivated people representing the opposition to the government of Ethiopia. So two years later, I rest my case! As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The split among the founding members of ESFNA two years ago, which I suspected was orchestrated by people with political agendas, has given a window of opportunity for people like Meron to be in the driver seat of this organization. Unfortunately, ESFNA has found unlikely partner in people like Meron for lack of its own capacity to attract the population with its credibility, accountability and creativity. This is a dangerous trend that will eventually kill ESFNA for good in the next few years. The founding “mission statement” of ESFNA was never a political one. It appears now individuals who are affiliated or are sympathetic to the so called opposition group have made serious gains within the structure of ESFNA. I submit, it will be a matter of time before ESFNA gets completely kidnapped, and its original mission to promote competitive sports and culture lost to undue influence of promoting a political agenda of the few. Meron’s final suggestion that the federation should have an outside advisory committee from “the community” to the board of directors of ESFNA is a suggestion to setup the final blow to the core mission of this organization and to make certain that people with a clear political agenda have absolute say in using ESFNA as a platform to advance their political cause.
    While I don’t have any qualms with Meron and her political cronies, I find their attempt to use the only organization that brings Ethiopians together on common grounds of competitive sports and shared culture extremely disconcerting. I implore Meron and people like her to please refrain from eventually destroying ESFNA for good.
    Finally, I challenge Meron to please designate a day of either Ethiopian Day and or have a I hate Ethiopian Government Day rally and see how many people will show up. Let us see how well the people speak on what you are insinuating in your article. I will bet not many at all. What this shows me and many others is that, Meron and her gangs are using ESFNA as a vehicle to advance their own agenda without regard to the life of ESFNA. As a fellow Ethiopian, I find Meron’s action detrimentally cynical to the cause of ESFNA and the Ethiopian community at large.

  2. Dear Mesfin Felleke
    I don’t know Meron & I don’t know you but. We all know the story of ESFNA because we are Ethiopians & we care about ESFNA & thats why we came in a great number to show our support because ESFNA refused to be sold for Alamudin cash value.
    We are Ethiopians, We are not Arabs & ESFNA is not Arab Soccer League
    We may not have the money like the the Saudi Rich man but we have whats important to our generation that’s -Ethiopian Pride.
    We all know that Alamudin have succeeded in purchasing every company in Ethiopia because our people are poor & they dont have a voice or power. But this is USA not LALA Land so Alamudin may have the Audacity to breakup ESFNA & his Servants in diaspora have tried everything but they have failed as stupid should
    Dear Mesfin Felleke
    Instead of asking Meron for a debate , you should ask yourself “if you are a real Ethiopian who stands with principle or you dont even mind selling your soul to please your master”
    Dear Mesfin
    Can you tell us why Alamudin & Abenet (two fat overweight midgets) are obsessed with ESFNA? Do they look like they can play soccer to you ? They are so fat they can hardle tie their shooes. Please advice them they should be more concerned purchasng a treadmill not a soccer team

  3. Dear Mengesh:
    With all due respect, I have neither remote connection or affiliation with Mr. Alamudin. As it is typical of a person who lacks the skills of reflection and on the contrary is driven by emotions, you made the cardinal sin of assumption. And you know what happens when you make assumptions…as the saying goes, you make an ass out of yourself.
    However, in the interest of keeping the conversation real and elevated, I will not go down that road of getting personal with you.
    Now going back to the point: I was only trying to for warn all of us that we should refrain from mixing soccer and politics and in the process save ESFNA from an impending death.
    Fact: To date no one has presented a single shred of evidence that Mr. Alamudi has actively tried to break up this Federation. The sin he has committed thus far is to financially support those who split from the federation. Is the decision by Mr. Alamudi to do just that a wise decision? That is open for debate.
    Fact: The assumption that he deliberately is attempting to break up the Federation without evidence is at best sensational and opportunistic.
    It is no secret that the self designated politicians of the diaspora have taken over ESFNA. ESFNA has guarded itself from any political influence since its inception, in spite of the relentless attempt by political groups to infiltrate it over the years. Today, these groups have found the justification in Mr. Alamudi to advance their political agenda and the opportunity to have plenty ears through an organization that can bring together thousands of Ethiopians for the purposes of competitive sports and cultural show.
    Mr. Mengesha, unless you are one of Meron’s gang, (and let the record show that I do not want to make that assumption) and on the contrary, you care about ESFNA, the recent course of events both behind the seen and in public should worry you immensely as it is to me. Reason is ESFNA is a not for profit community organization and as such enjoys certain privilege given by the US government, provided that ESFNA refrains from engaging in a political activity or associates itself with actively engaged political organizations. Please I urge you to read the bylaws of ESFNA, if you have not already.
    One of the most tiresome tactics of people such as you is to question the authenticity of the identity of those who question you on simple matters of disagreements. Samuel Johnson has once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Hence, I will not give you the satisfaction of responding on that account.
    Finally, a bit of history lesson for your benefit. Abenet happens to be one the founding members of ESFNA, similar to those whom you are currently applauding and are currently running ESFNA into the ground. So, if Abenet is obsessed by ESFNA, he has every right to be as obsessed as they are. If I did not address any other points you expressed, it is because the thoughts are beneath me and not worthy of my time.

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