October 23rd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Legal Opinion by Attorney Shakespear N. Feyissa

ESFNA grossly misunderstood or misinterpreted its own by-laws when it comes to inviting Judge Birtukan Midekssa as its guest of honor. Also, ESFNA either intentionally, or, unintentionally misread, misstated, and misquoted its non-profit status. Sadly, the organization is using its by-laws and its non-profit status as a pretext to unfairly preclude and block the invitation of Judge Birtukan Midekssa. Since ESFNA no longer posts its by-laws or governing law, quite conveniently to avoid challenges, it’s very difficult for one to ascertain what the exact wording of the provisions in the By-law, if any, that the organization now claims to justify for not inviting Judge Birtukan. I am certain that ESFAN’s by-laws, unless it’s misinterpreted or is broadly vague, it does not contain any provision that states ESFNA cannot invite a political party leader or high officials in a political party in its annual events. If indeed such provisions exist, then it’s fundamentally wrong and inherently flawed, because being a political party leader and attending an event, a gathering, or a meeting does not automatically mean the inviter endorses, promotes, or supports the invitees political view or beliefs.

For instance, ESFNA annually invites Senators, Congressman, Governors, Mayors of the host city, and other elected and non-elected officials. This is undisputed fact. Also, all the elected officials who come and speak at ESFNA events have political affiliation, have a political party – Democrats, Republicans, or independents, or other, and hold leadership positions in their respective political parties. I recall in the summer of July 2008, ESFNA made unsuccessful effort to get then candidate Obama to come and speak at ESFNA event. Consequently, when we have many politicians, elected officials, party leaders come and speak, and are invited as guests of honors, why is it that the first Ethiopian woman to lead a major political party is barred from being invited? Does the ESFNA by-law and/or their “non-profit” status permits them to discriminate between Ethiopian politicians versus American politicians based National Origin?

I am of the opinion that both the ESFNA by-laws and the non-profit status do not openly allow ESFNA to discriminate against two similarly situated individuals or groups based on their immutable characteristics. Therefore, ESFNA should be ill advised to contend that “our non-profit status”, which I believe is issued by the Federal Government, gives them permission to discriminate. ESFNA should review and re-review the terms and conditions of its non-profit status, if any, to ascertain if indeed they are allowed to bar a speaker simply on the basis that she leads a political organization, and, she happens to be Ethiopian, not American.

I would like to assure ESFNA that the mere fact of having Judge Birtukan, or President Obama, or Congresswoman Maxine Waters, or Mayor Greg Nickles (former) does not make them violate their oath, by-laws, or any Federal government given status as non-political organization. In fact, unless ESFNA openly endorses the speakers view, political belief, party affiliation, and encourages its members or attendees to do the same, the personal opinion and belief of the speaker remains just that. For instance, if ESFNA begins to say we are an organization that supports UDJ, all our players, guests , sponsors, and members should follow our lead and join and support UDJ, then that is clearly being political. Short of that, ESFNA should not be concerned being labeled, if that is the right word here. Similarly, another illustration, as long as ESFNA does not have a banner, poster, and t-shirts saying “we are all Orthodox, we are all Christians”, so should you! Unless it does that, it is not endorsing or promoting one religion over another just because majority of its players, boards, or guests prefer certain religion. The point is it takes a little more than simply giving guests a podium for few minutes, hours, or even days to endorse and promote a political party or a religious following for an organization.

Therefore, ESFNA should examine its principles of non-political and non- (fill in the blank) stand, and apply it to each situation and facts prior to overturning the will of its players through their respective representative. There is substantial evidence to justify, pursuant to ESFNA’s tradition and mission, upholding the invitation of Judge Midekssa because of her personal struggle and sacrifice to better Ethiopia (not only for UDJ members and supporters, but for all Ethiopians), being a young single mother and standing up for principle against adversity, and her vision, courage, and conviction to see a democratic Ethiopia should, at minimum, earn her a brief moment in being a guest of honor among Ethiopians who love her.

In sum, I fail to see any factual or legal ground in defense of ESFNA’s position to exclude The Honorable Judge Birtukan Midekssa as its guest of honor in its upcoming event. The lack of any reason, law, and common sense of ESFNA’s current stand to dis-invite Judge Birtukan Midekssa may carry a far reaching public-relation and legal consequences for the organization. I strongly recommend and advise the ESFNA executive committee to immediately re-examine its decision and reverse its current unjust, unwarranted, and unmerited action. I am confident that ESFNA will heed the call of Ethiopians in and out of Ethiopia and repeals its denial of Judge Birtukan Midekssa’s deserving honor as an esteemed citizen of our nation-Ethiopia. ESFNA should not arbitrary take away Judge the rights of all those who voted to invite Judge Birtukan by giving petty excuses that have no grounds in fact or in law. Let’s hope that ESFNA will avoid making major historical error, and grave injustice of depriving a great woman her rightly place, privilege, and honor.

  1. Yilma
    | #1

    Thank you Ato Shakespear unfortunately we are talking to illiterate individuals whose sole claim to fame is their yearly ‘creative accounting’ to steal and enrich themselves like their Woyane cousins. Like Ato Meles used ‘VOA is not allowed to broadcast in the US’ to justify his jamming, ESFNA is trying to use ‘non profit’ clap trap to hide behind their betrayal of our country. I doubt they have the capacity to read and understand your article. The only thing individuals can do is boycott this festival organized by Bandas and shame them into bankruptcy.

  2. Muluneh Yohannes
    | #2

    Thank you Shakespear for your timely opinion on the disappointing path ESFNA is heading. Ephrem Madebo also made compelling reasons refuting the exuses given by the ESFNA executive cmt. Just to add up one more, Birtukan recently made it to the three finalists to an international human rights award!

    Most importantly, the diaspora dearly wants to see Birtukan in that event, then…ESFNA should not stand between the people and Birtukan.
    I am certain this outcry will continue untill they correct this grave historical error. The rest of ESFNA’s preparation in the coming months will be significantly derialed by their mistake. Unintended consequences, including city boycotting might occure. Imagine if Ethiopians in Atlanta withdrew thier host assignment!

  3. Teklu
    | #3

    Thank You Shakespear, you did express the meaning of 501(c)(3) very well. I think this woyane tugs knows that too but, “LIBELUAT YALUATIN AMORA JIGRA NAT YILUATAL” the real reason behind it might be some thing else.

  4. aha!
    | #4

    The genuine reason is to my understanding is not to discriminate between US politician and an Ethiopian figure, rather to make distinction and/or discrimination Ethiopian politicians that are engaged in a peacefull struggle for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians under liberal and/or social democracy.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    Correction: “…rather not to make distinction and/or discrimination among Ethiopian politicians from 2005 to present”…..

  6. kidist
    | #6

    እጅግ በጣም የሚመሰገን አስተያየት ነው:: በጡንቻ ከሚስታሰብበትና ከሚወስንበት ዓለም ውጭ የምንኖር መሆናችንን ቢያውቁት የሚሻል ይመስለኛል::

  7. Abesha
    | #7

    Nice article by beloved Ethiopian. If ESFAN did not make urgent correction and invite Birtukan Ethiopian dispora in USA simply boycot ESFAN sport festivals. Let them celebrate thier sport festival with theie Woyane gangs. Come on Ethiopian dispora in USA show them how you are commited in supporting Ethiopian heroine by boycoting the ESFAN sport event. We Ethiopian dispora in Europe will follow your lead in boycoting any event organised by Woyane gangs. God bless Ethiopia.

  8. abdu
    | #8

    I think ESFNA is giving a lame excuse. Why did they invite Professor Asrat? Wasn’t he a politician? Eventhough he couldn’t attend the occasion they did invite him and his message taped and we all listened to it. I can mention other names from the past who were politicians and invited. I think the shiek has so much influence he is bying everyone in the comittee.

  9. Yinegal
    | #9

    What a sad!!! something has to be done as early as possible. This is a win win game for the EPRDF, and it’s tugs. They don’t care whether we Ethiopian are gathering for this event or not. What they are worried is about to show the diaspora how much their hand can stretch and abolish. WOW Ethiopian!!! Need to wake-up men!!!

  10. when does almariam be come Shekspare?
    | #10

    is this another Almariam’s A.K.A ?

  11. Lucy
    | #11

    We have two choices . if the so called ESFAN will not reverse it’s un democratical decission against the invitation of Judge Birtukan medekessa. The Ethiopian’s judges must take to court against those odds who are working for TPLF and sold them selves for almoudi. Revesere the majority votes is simply a violation of the HUMAN RIGHTS. These the sold out bandas and hodams are living in democratically stabe country like USA , but backed internationally well known genocider and dictator back to ethiopia against their own poor people who have been struggling to be the owner of their country. The second alternative, Boycott this sport festival and Invite Judge Birtukan . Ethiopians must stand only with their poor people and their annicent country , not with the enemies of ethiopia like TPLF.Boycott this shamefull sport festival who are haijacked by Tegere’s thugs. It is really very immorale to give ESFAN to tegere’s thugs who are killing our ppl, our country and lootting our country with other foreign lootters. AND TAKE THE LISTS OF ALL THESE ODDS.

  12. Anonymous
    | #12


  13. Wordofa
    | #13

    ESFNA made an incalculable mistake. This is going down as a major blemish in the face of ESFNA not to mention the amount of audience they could have attracted by inviting Birtukan. With the audience comes revenue (which they meaning ESFNA is after).

  14. Dedeb
    | #14

    @when does almariam be come Shekspare?

    Very Narrow minded- Who told you Almariam is the only person who can articulate the misfortune we face in Ethiopia. You are the only one who does not see it.

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