Does the Letter “E” in ESFNA Stand for Ethiopia? By Ephrem Madebo

October 22nd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

personal opinion

The late Yidnekachew Tessema, the undisputed father of modern sport in Ethiopia, was a man who effectively used sports to create closeness, peace, and understanding between people. Mr. Yidnekachew hailed from a highly political and uniquely poetic family, but during his lifelong service to our nation and to the African continent at large; Yednekachew clearly identified the fine line between sports and politics. He knew and understood where sport and politics differ and where they relate to each other.

Ato Yedenekachew always advocated for the non-interference of politics in sports, but when the human dignity is mortified and when the freedom of people is bulldozed, Yednekachew always stood for higher moral values. He did not stand between the lines; he jumped the line and stood on the side of people. He did not allow “by-laws” that are subject to different interpretations to stop him from doing what is right. We Ethiopians and the whole world love Yednekachew because he was a man who valued liberty and equality above anything in the world.

When the “All Blacks”, the New Zealand Rugby team, visited South Africa in 1976, African nations led by Yednekachew Tesmemma requested the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to ban New Zealand from the 1976 Olympics in Montréal. The IOC declined the request citing ESFNA like poor, myopic, and immature reason. In short, the IOC declined claiming that sports must be free of politics. But, Ethiopia’s Yednekachew and 28 African countries disagreed. The Africans did not want to wave their flag alongside the New Zealanders because at exactly the same time, the New Zealand Rugby team was visiting South Africa, a country where native blacks were treated as subhuman. During the 1976 summer games, what mattered to Yednekachew and to most African countries was not what the rules said – what mattered was freedom and equality. We as a society respect the law or obey rules only when the law protects freedom, otherwise, we always side with freedom.

The absence of freedom, human rights abuse, and lack of political and civil rights are the major characterizations that define Ethiopia in the world today. The Ethiopian people led by many political leaders including Birtukan are fighting for freedom and equality. I believe and the good gentlemen of ESFNA also believe that the struggle for liberty and equality supersedes any man made law. The person who authored Ethiopia’s constitution did not even bother to honor the constitution when he tossed Birtukan to jail. To him the unjust action of sending Birtukan to jail was more important than the law of the land. Then why would the just action of inviting Birtukan as a guest of honor would be breaking the law in the minds of the ESFNA senior executives? As I said it above, the EFNA by-laws can be interpreted in so many different ways. Besides, if the executives of ESFNA were loyal to themselves, they could have invited Judge Birtukan instead of political Birtukan!

Come-on ESFNA- No law, [ordinance, rule, or procedure including your by-law] is sacrosanct when our liberty is taken away and when the soul of our people is battered by dictators. ESFNA’s contribution to the freedom of our nation may be minimal, but totally avoiding the struggle for freedom and still have that precious letter “E” in its name – to me is beyond the pale! Where is the spirit of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two black American athletes who performed the Black power salute at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City? Most importantly, where is the spirit of Yednekachew Tesema?
When the US boycotted the Moscow Olympic in 1980, and when the USSR retaliated four years later in Los Angles – that was a political tit for a tat, and both incidents must have been avoided. But, when 28 African nations boycotted the 1976 Olympic, that was not just politics; it was the major part of the struggle against apartheid and it was the symbol of black of solidarity! So what will be ESFNA’s place in history? Will it imitate the dirty political tic-tac-toe of the Soviets and the Americans, or it sides the Africans and be part of the freedom struggle in Ethiopia? The choice is yours, but don’t forget that every choice you make has consequences!

How do the Ethiopian people see Birtukan and how do ESFNA’s senior executives see Birtukan? Are the two mutually exclusive? Does ESFNA understand [even know] that Birtukan has multiple identities? She is a judge, not just a judge, but a model judge who courageously maintained judicial transparency. Birtukan is a community moral leader whose demonstrated virtuous life is a heritage that edifies the younger generation. Birtukan is a mother who has many things to say to young mothers. Birtukan is a leader of a political party (UDJ). I fail to understand why ESFNA chose only one aspect of Birtukan’s identity and played its own dirty politics in the name of avoiding politics? Birtukan has the potential to inspire the entire Diaspora, and she could have been ESFNA’s best guest of honor to date.

I am indifferent to “Face Saving” when it really saves, but I hate face saving when it hides the true face of people or organizations. Here is what ESFNA said in its Press Release: “ESFNA prides itself to be a democratic organization” What a joke and what a ridiculously ludicrous statement! ESFNA’s senior executives reversed a decision made by the majority and yet you call this a democratic decision? Or are we talking “Revolutionary Democracy” here, a bad lesson from Addis Ababa?
ESFNA’s role in the social and cultural life of the Ethiopian Diaspora is priceless. It is nostalgic, romantic, poetic, sportive, and community oriented. The days of the first week of July are circled on the calendar of most Ethiopians who live in the Diaspora. Politics is a useless loose-loose game without the participation of the masses, and this is absolutely true with ESFNA. ESFNA is just an ensemble of people without the participation of the masses of the Ethiopian Diaspora. True politics always listens to its constituency; otherwise, it is doomed to die. Therefore, instead of reversing the decision of the majority in a politically charged move, ESFNA must listen to the voice of its constituency. If its constituency wants to see Birtukan as a guest of honor in Atlanta, then ESFNA must satisfy its constituency, or disband itself and let the constituency deicide on what should be done next. Decisions made in the Diaspora including that of ESFNA’s must not be influenced by millionaires, billionaires, sycophants, or political psychopaths in Addis Ababa.

“Toxic Diaspora” is the nickname given to the often boisterous Diaspora by the TPLF junkies. With no reference to any kind of antidote, yes, indeed, the Diaspora is toxic to the entire TPLF establishment. But, things are dramatically different with ESFNA. There would have been no ESFNA without the Diaspora, but the Diaspora existed and may continue to exist without ESFNA. ESFNA must acknowledge that its existence wholly depends on the will of the Diaspora Ethiopians. Therefore, it should listen to them and stand for their vital interest. ESFNA’s recent decision to reverse its previous decision and rescind Birtukan’s invitation is deplorable and does not go with the Ethiopian Diaspora spirit of fighting for freedom and equality. Finally- we must remember that a police officer who himself is under the influence does not have the moral background or the professional integrity to perform sobriety test.

  1. Kes bekes enkilal Be’egru yihedal
    | #1

    Ato Efrem, this good analysis but why do you deny the existence of Law if you study law class or may be civics. Law is Law, argue about the perfection of Law not a person. It is this stupid Ideas of our own citizens that have been creating havoc among us and beyond. your article is good for nothing. sorry to say this. Do not rely on external interference that was what happened during the 30 years of civil war in our nation. Two groups both saying “I am correct but you are Wrong” which killed physically and mentally millions, and destruct the nation for decades. Believe in Dialog. Neither Meles not Birtukan will never live for ever, it is the nation that lives. It is the lack of Dialog lost in between Derg and Woyane which resulted millions of loses. it is lack of dedication from the rest of the society which put us for decades nightmare. it is this dialog and consensus which put us unable to use even Nile. Leave them do their business cos they are politicians and have many complex issues that you can not even imagine it. But you seem/pretend to be a researcher and do find the many possibilities that can shape the future well being of the society. Do not use knowledge to blame some one who is making his business. Mengistu was also right working following the best path for him to unite the country, and woyane was right in solving the problems of that time…. do not repeat the old stories. But I do no if you are too old like them.

    Peace and love for you!!


  2. Melkamu
    | #2

    You the top commenter you are simply a confused woyanne – ask the ESFNA to be out of politics when they receive hundred thousands from a tycoon whose political affiliation was crystal clear. Bertukan is a symbolic personality in Ethiopian History and this is the least we can do to show our respect. You are advising us to leave the politics for the politicians and to mess up our nation with morons like you – get a life!

    Dear Abugidas, Prof. Ephrem Madebo,

    this is a shame and like spitting on the millions of diaspora. The strategy should be to completely replace the ESFNA board with a new one (or just ignore them) and arrange this year’s game with a new vibrant team just weeks or days ahead of the puppet arranged one. A board bowing to a minority rule against the Ethiopian spirit wouldn’t represent us Ethiopians. The advocacy groups shall take over the responsibility.

  3. Matha
    | #3

    Ato Ephrem Madebo

    I appreciate your analysis and totally agree with your assessment. However as a G7 supporter I would been more appreciative if G7 leadership focus more on Particular armed struggle to topple Wayne. After two years of patiently waiting and supporting we have come to realize that there is not a single bullet fired on Woaynes . That is not a good record

    Good Luck

  4. Goitom
    | #4

    Dear Ephrem, Thank you so much. You are a true Ethiopain and lover of peace and freedom. In your article, I was expecting a solution how to force the excutrives to invite Judge Birtukan. I would recommend all Ethiopians to boycott the sport unless she is invited as a gust of honor. At this time, I can not think of any one other than Birtukan who sacrified his life, time and family for this poor country.

    Thanks all,

  5. Melaku
    | #5


    Real Haile or one of the ESFNA excutives? You are so weak. What Efrem wrote is the right timly article. What is law if it is used to abuse human freedom. Do you know the purpose of law is to protect your own fredom? What kind of human are you? Birtukan went to jail for you and she must have come here and spoke to us in Atlanta. This is what Efrem argued. If you had one oever hundred of Efrem’s brian, by now Ethiopia would have been free. He is one of the fighters that woyane fears the most. He is not yefere fere hodam like you. Efrem ayzohe kante gar negn!

  6. Yeshitila Araya
    | #6

    Dear Ato Efrem: I read your article with great intrest and admired how well you tied sport to the struggle for freedom, which undoubtedly is a priority for freedom loving Ethiopians. I knew Gashe Yednekachew personaly,whoes knowledge and dedication to sports I admiered. If he was alive he would have sided with you and condemened the EFSNA leadership for not taking advantage of sport to struggle for freedom in Ethiopia. You will have enemies coming at you from all sides including the Woyane supporters, all of whom have chosen to betray the Ethiopian masses for the sake of opportunistic gains. Yes,my friends and I will boycot the July 2010 games, but most of all we will aggitate for others in MD, D.C and VA to do like wise.
    Thank you for standing for a united democratic Ethiopia.

  7. መቅደላዊ
    | #7

    ESFNA should be non-partisan. Do not politicize everything. Let us meet to drink, dance and celebrate. Birtukan does not belong to be a guest of honour at ESFNA. Guys! We have to complicated. There areas where we all can work together. ESFNA, music festivals, going to Church or honouring the Victory of Adwa or honouring a celeberity like Haile Gebreselassie and our wonderful athletes etc.

    Some in the Opposition are not cultured or not civil. The Ruling Party is also not civil. Any way w should be able to co-operate as citizens of a nation. We can continue politicking in a civilized way. Let us learn from Europe and the US.

  8. le voyageur
    | #8

    mr haile, ephrem’s idea is beyond ur knowledge,simply what i want to advice u is try to learn how to spell a simple english,tu comprends?

  9. መልካሙ
    | #9

    ይገርማል …ይደንቃል ይሄ የስፖርት ቬሲቲቫል አይደል እንዴ? መቼ ነው የፖሎቲካ ወይም የሲቭኢክ መሪዎች የክብር እንግዳ ሆነው የሚያውቁት ? ብርቱካንን መውድደና ማክበር አንድ ነገር ነው:: ለብሩቱካን ተብሎ የስፖርት ህጉን ማስለወጥ ግን አግባብ አይደለም::

  10. Dias-ethioman
    | #10

    I am Birtukan’s fan but I believe ESFNA is correct in this case. Soccer should not be politicized; it’s should be an event for all to enjoy.

  11. Melaku
    | #11


    if you are using only your brain to think like me- I hope you have read Mr. Madebo’s well said message. Birtukan is not only a politican she is a judge and many other things. Even if she is a politician so what. Once a decision is made by a majority, no minority group can come and change it. We are fighting the process not only the decision. I see you did not understind the argument. Please listen and ask when you don’t get it instead of “Gebto kemefetfet” ok!

  12. Girma Ayalew
    | #12

    Ato, Ephrem how come you didn’t oppose Ethiopian Review (Elias Kifle) when he nominate an named 2008 Person of the year Ato Esayas Afework (Eritrea) and in 2009 Minister Ali (Eritrean)person of the year. When we have judge Bertukan and Dr, Berhanu. For your information ESFNA at the San Jose tournament gave free boots to promote “FREE BERTUKAN”

  13. አፍሪካን እናስብ
    | #13

    ምንም ምክንያት የለህም ዝነኛውን ወገንህን መልካሙን የምትጎረጥጥበት!!ይህ የነጸ አስተያየት መስጫ ፎረም እንጂ ,የቃላት ስንጥር መሰንጠቂያ ድርጅት አይደለም እና እኩያህን ፈልግ…ለቀቅ ጋሽ መልካሙን!!!!

  14. Anonymous
    | #14

    lemahonu Elias Kifle (Ethiopian Review) Eritrean hono sele Ethiopian tekorekrie yehonaw yewnate naw bemegemrie ejia Ethiopian esune matefat kaza ESFNA laregaw nager mateyek kamachie wadia naw Eriterean le Ethiopia ytakorekorew Birtukan ye Ethiopian Gegena nate engie ye maneme Eriterian adelechem

  15. Yenehun Belew
    | #15

    Mr Melkamu (# 11)
    The present Minister for Melese are Woyanes Minster, the present Judge in Ethiopia are Woyanes Judge Yes Judge Bertukan before she joined Kinjet she was Woyanes Judge.

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