ESFNA and the ‘art of lying.’ By Yilma Bekele

October 27th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

What is it about us Ethiopians that invite abuse? Is there a big fat lettering stuck on our forehead that proclaims ‘I am stupid?’ It is not some idle question but a subject that requires some soul searching and must be answered if we have to move forward and expect to bring positive change to ourselves, our surrounding and our poor country.

What brought this important question to the surface is the recent action by none other than the infamous ESFNA (Ethiopian sports federation in North America) and its Board of Director’s ongoing dysfunctional behavior. This is not the first time ESFENA have gone the extra mile to humiliate its constituents. What I have in mind is ESFNA’s acceptance of large amount of money from good old Sheikh Al Amudi back in 2008 and the condemnation it received from the North American public. They promised to be mindful of their responsibility to the public and claimed that they will work on the question of accountability. It was an empty gesture.

Here we are 2010 and we can see this wild animal is not tamed yet. They decided to insult and disrespect their cash cow once again. This time it is no other than the honorable Judge/Chairwoman Bertukan they decided to dis.

Very timely and educational articles were written to clarify the situation and encourage rational discussion on the subject. I am referring to the opinion pieces by Ato Ephrem Madebo and Ato Shakespear N. Feyissa on our independent Web sites.

The response to this invitation for reasonable and grown up discussion took a bizarre turn. The article by Ato Tesfaye Abebe, a member of one of the clubs is a little disingenuous to say the least. It is a well-written article as far as the grammar goes but the facts are revised to fit the writer’s bias. That is not an honest thing to do. I spoke to two individuals that were present in Atlanta to have a good understanding of what exactly happened in that meeting.

Is Ato Tesfaye not telling the truth or simply put is Ato Tesfaye lying in his article? He wrote:

‘ As those that nominated Birtukan spoke passionately to underline the importance of inviting her, those that did not believe she should be invited expressed theirs. Reasons for not inviting her, ranged from the inappropriateness of inviting her in the cultural category to her being a leader of a political organization whose invitation might compromise our non-profit and non-political status.
Upon the insistence of those members that nominated Birtukan, and following parliamentary procedure a vote was taken by the Board Members and Birtukan narrowly won.’

In my opinion what Ato Tesfaye is doing is what is called ‘lying by omission’. He is cleverly using ambiguity in order to deceive and mislead the reader. Weizero Bertukan was nominated; the issue discussed and voted upon, that much is true. But there is more to it than that. The issue on the so-called jeopardizing the ‘non profit’ status was mentioned in passing but was not brought as a major hurdle. The main argument by those opposed was the question of ‘timing’. They felt it was not a good idea ‘at this time’ since she was just released from jail and it would create a bad impression on the organization (I guess by the government of Ethiopia) After a lengthy argument the issue was voted upon. When he says ‘Bertukan narrowly won’ that is a bold lie. She won 14 to 4 and that is 77% majority. Some will call it a landslide.

If you noticed I characterized it as an ‘argument’ not a ‘discussion’. According to my sources it was a very shameful meeting fit for gangsters. The Chair was clueless and weak and members were on each other’s face taunting and insulting like kids in a playground. Some members were forced to leave the meeting out of shame and disgust. The real purpose by those who lost was to create chaos so those well meaning individuals will be discouraged and will give in to the demands of the bully’s. If you think about it there is no rational reason or parliamentary procedure that allows an issue that was settled by an overwhelming majority to be brought back for further discussion.

Please notice the fact that Ato Tesfaye qualifies both Ato Ephrem and Ato Shakespear with their political party’s affiliation. What brought that about? They wrote their opinions as concerned individuals not Party officials. We are familiar with that kind of argument, smear rather than answer the charges is the logic behind it.

I have noticed these two characteristics to be a must among TPLF school graduates. None other than junta leader Meles Zenawi practices the best example of ‘lying by omission’. During the question and answer at Columbia University when asked why he jams Ethiopian Satellite TV and our independent web sites he responded by saying ‘the US does not allow VOA to broadcast to the American people either. Yes it is true VOA does not broadcast inside the US but it is not due to jamming. It is because the US government does not think it is appropriate to use taxpayer’s money to distribute the news. There are zillions of news outlets operated privately. Ato Meles on the other hand does not want independent newscasters telling the truth and unravel his house built on sand. Technically he did not lie, but he just subverted the truth.

There was also a second article written by Ato Tibebe Ferenji titled ‘In defense of ESFNA’ I don’t think it is a wining strategy to baselessly attack those who you disagree with instead of presenting one’s opinion and letting the reader be the judge. There is no point in putting words in your opponent’s mouth when the reader can easily go to the source and verify. My copy did not include such allegations as Ato Ephrem claiming to be an attorney nor asking organizations to break their rules.

On the other hand Ato Tibebe gave us a section of IRS rule as if reading those five lines will entitle us to reach a reasonable conclusion. I truly believe my friend Ato Shakespeare’s approach is most appropriate here. Interpreting the law is his domain. That is why he invested time and money to qualify and hold a license to practice the law. This Ethiopian habit of being an expert after a cursory glance is not a good idea. I ask both Ato Tibebe and ESFNA to read Ato Shakespeare’s analysis and correct their mistake and wrong interpretation of IRS code.

What can we do to remedy this unfortunate situation is an important question. The organization is too important to be left to individuals that do not have the interest of the community at heart. It has been a playground of those whose sole aim is to enrich themselves at the expense of others and use the organization as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. In its over twenty-five years of existence it has nothing worthy to show that could be mentioned in public. Its own supporters have no example or instance to mention to convince the public of their good deeds. Ato Tibebe is forced to say ‘more over, ESFNA has been engaged in various charity activities including providing scholarship in Ethiopia.’ Looks like we are a little short on verifiable facts here because there is nothing to show.

The fact that during the Atlanta meeting the financial report showed that the 2009 festival in San Jose showed a profit of just $13.000.00 is cause for alarm. Either the Board is engaged in creative accounting or they are not fit for the position they hold. When you consider they were bilking our local business people $3,000.00 per tent and were charging us $20 for admission one wonders where the money went. As the name implies it is an Ethiopian sports organization. I agree with my friend Ato Ephrem. The use of ‘E’ in the name is not a simple matter. I do believe the use of ‘E’ is a privileges and an honor. Yes my dear Ato Tesfaye it can be taken away too! I don’t think you will put Abuna Petros and some Banda like Dejazmach Gugsa in the same league, would you? The ‘E’ in front of Abuna Petros brings warmth to our heart while the ‘E’ in front of Banda Gugsa looks out of place.

What we should strive for is ‘empower’ the clubs to exercise their right as owners and main actors of this outfit and run it like a business and make us proud. After all it is the clubs and the players that we all gather to see and there is no need for a Board of vultures to lord it over and abuse us all. The clubs can hire professional Ethiopians that are experienced in the hospitality and convention business and produce a better product that what we have now. Twenty-five years have shown that the current leaders are void of new and creative ideas and repeat the same old tired formulae until it is beaten to death. Frankly I don’t see any difference between them and their Woyane masters. It is up to us to work with the clubs and make them aware of their strength. It requires work, perseverance and unity of purpose. Like their Woyane cousins they are good at creating side issues, character assassination and a lot of smoke. On the other hand we have a good cause and the support of the majority of our people. We got work to do. Now quit talking and take the garbage out.

  1. Weyegood
    | #1

    I am not a supporter of the Ethiopian government, but it is scary that there are functions within the diaspora who have excelled in the art of intimidating Ethiopians around the world into prescribing to their political dogma or else. ESFNA was around before Meles and will be around after Meles. It is one good thing we Diasporas have that brings Ethiopian together once a year. LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!

  2. Drama
    | #2

    IF YOU ARE A HYPORCRITE, THERE COMES A TIME WHEN THE CRITICS FXXX YOU IN THE AXX. HONOR THE TRUTH. ESFNA SHOULD HIDE IN THE WILD.

  3. Solomon
    | #3

    Yilma don’t let your frustration get the best of you. To say ESFNA has been no good for the past 25 years doesn’t seem to be a fair assessment. I agree with you that they should have handled this better but name calling is not the answer.For better or worse this is the only organization we have that brings us all together. Let us all do our share to make it an organization that not only brings us together but also one we can be proud of.As they say don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  4. Yewnetu F.
    | #4

    Talk about the art of lying, Ato Yilma there are many factual errors on your piece. First of all the vote was not whether we should invite Judge Birtukan or not. The vote was between Birtukan and Mohmmud Ahmed. Second the vote was not 14 to 4 as you reported.It was 12 to 10 Birtukan getting the 12 vote. That is why ESFNA’s press release stated she won narrowly. Third you’ve no idea of how much we made in San Jose. You’re just throwing numbers. Once and for all the only reason the nomination was withdrawn by the Board members that presented it in the first place is because it goes against our core principle of being non-political that we held on to for 27 years. No one in ESFNA is saying Birtukan does not deserve the nomination or she is not a hero. We’re simply saying it sets a precedent and next year Berhanu Nega’s, Lidetus, Merara Gudina’s supporters can demand they be invited to. By the way do you know we gave “Free Birtukan” movement a booth where they can gather signatures this year in San Jose, while she was still in prison. I don’t know why every time ESFNA is mentioned Al Amoudi also gets mentioned because he donated money two times in 28 years. Both donations came when the tournament was in DC. An organization should not be vilified because it wants to stick to the formula that has worked for it for a long time.

  5. Tulu Oda
    | #5

    Why did ESFNA invite Lady Liberty in the first place only to withdraw the invite later. It is a shame to withdraw the invitation without legal or factual justification. Read Attorney Shakespear Feissa’s write up on this point.

  6. Ted Befekadu
    | #6

    Ok let me get this straight, Mr Yilma Bekele!
    You spoke to two individuals to have a good understanding of the situation, when 18 people voted at the meeting. And also you stated the main argument by those opposed was the question of ‘timing’ and they felt it would create a bad impression on the organization( you guessed it may disappoint the Ethiopian gov’t). Just because they hesitated to nominate her at this early stage the are Woyane cousins!
    Readers beware! Isn’t this’the Ethiopian habit of being an expert after a cursory glance!’

  7. የ ቕራዉ
    | #7

    My two cents

    On The Issue of ESFNA
    a)ESFNA is the only strong organization that has managed to connect & entertain the Ethiopian Diaspora for such a long time and so we should give credit for such lengthy service.
    b)The absence of a neutral body to administer the organization’s functions and enforce its policies has resulted lack of financial and leadership transparency within the organization.
    c)The fact that ESFNA leadership retracted the decision to invite Birtukan Mideksa as Honorary guest for 2011 is a huge mistake that may result a boycott by the majority of the Ethiopian Diaspora even ESFNA may ultimately loose its Non-profit (Except) status if the link between TPLF and key ESFNA leadership can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt .
    d)Though I have immense respect for ESFNA’s historical service, I believe the ESFNA needs a swift reform to ensure the organization is clear and free of any TPLF/Alamudin agents influence or indirect control.

    To Ato Yilma Bekele
    I admire your passion for Ethiopian related political and social issues. However I am also reminded that not too long ago your were posting article left and right to undermine UDJ and MEDREK leadership as if they are worthless. Almost of all your articles have a pattern of extreme self righteous views as if everyone on this planet is wrong except “Ato Yilma Bekele”. Honestly I can’t think of a single Ethiopian political or social group that was saved from your sharp criticism while failing to give any credit for their effort.

    Ato Yilma I have a suggestion and a question for you
    a)It is ok to criticize anyone but keep in mind that it is also OK to be civil and give credit for their effort despite their imperfection.
    b)If we are quick to insult and condemn every political and civic group from a distance without providing a positive feedback we will be left almost with nothing. Is that really what we need ?
    c)Since you are appear to be the expert in all Political and Social issues it would be nice if you could inform us any organization that is under your leadership so that we could learn from your “perfect leadership.”

    No Hard Feeling

  8. Sammir
    | #8

    Yewnetu F. :
    Talk about the art of lying, Ato Yilma there are many factual errors on your piece. First of all the vote was not whether we should invite Judge Birtukan or not. The vote was between Birtukan and Mohmmud Ahmed. Second the vote was not 14 to 4 as you reported.It was 12 to 10 Birtukan getting the 12 vote. That is why ESFNA’s press release stated she won narrowly. Third you’ve no idea of how much we made in San Jose. You’re just throwing numbers. Once and for all the only reason the nomination was withdrawn by the Board members that presented it in the first place is because it goes against our core principle of being non-political that we held on to for 27 years. No one in ESFNA is saying Birtukan does not deserve the nomination or she is not a hero. We’re simply saying it sets a precedent and next year Berhanu Nega’s, Lidetus, Merara Gudina’s supporters can demand they be invited to. By the way do you know we gave “Free Birtukan” movement a booth where they can gather signatures this year in San Jose, while she was still in prison. I don’t know why every time ESFNA is mentioned Al Amoudi also gets mentioned because he donated money two times in 28 years. Both donations came when the tournament was in DC. An organization should not be vilified because it wants to stick to the formula that has worked for it for a long time.

    22 board members voted for each one of nominees at the meeting. the rest (5) may have been absent or may have abstained.
    10 voted for Birtukan
    8 voted for Mohamud
    .. in the Culture Category.

    By any maths old or new…. that is the difference. 55% to 45 %
    This is what I heard too.

  9. Abe
    | #9

    Why don’t you invite Bertukan in the capacity og North American residents? Why do you want her to be invited through the Ethiopian Sports association in North America? I am a strong opponent of this government, but I see a ,lot of dishonesty when people try to insist
    Bertukan should be invited. The association includes people who oppose and support the government. If this association is to continue embracing these opposing and warring groups, it makes sense not to invite Bertukan. If the sports association should chase out government supports, I totally agree ESFNA should invite Bertukan. No doubt the associations justification we heard so far is flimsy to say the least. As much as we hear this flimsy justification ( so called non-political and non-profit organization), we are also seeing dishonesty in people who want to use the association as a means to do their job. I say to all that cry for inviting Bertukan, do it on your own. Any noise outside this line is neither good for ESFNA nor to Bertukan.

  10. Ethiopia
    | #10

    I don’t agree with Ato yilma. Please read what Ato Tibebe samuel Ferenji wrote on Ethiomedia. He wrote an article with Ethiopian descency and not used “tera ” words like some writers. ESFNA should be free from political and religious organization. We are in USA, it is ae rule that you can’t change.Please be descent when you write your ideas.ESFNA had travel long and hard journey.It is the only organization that have survived the “enemies” conspiracies to dismantel it. Please stop throwing bad and filthy words. Don’t abuse your freedom of speech.” ye meiyalf ken ye mialfe sem yesetal”

  11. Abe
    | #11

    Samuel ferenij’s arguement is also as lame as the so called ESFNA. The US law bla bla bla. He is talking very unrelated things. People have convincingly dealt on this matter and I won’t comment to respond to Samuel ferenj. Rather I say to him, come up with your inner genuine expression. Deep down people who do not support Bertukan’s presence is out of the assertion that there are Ethiopian government supporters who do not want Bertukan to be there. In short Samuel and Co. do not want to displease these people, which is fine to me. But why not they state this instead of running around the bush? Like wise, people who want Bertukan to be invited are unnecessarily creating tension while they themselves can organize and invite her.

  12. Tesfaye Abebe
    | #12

    Dear Ato Yilma
    A few notes in reply to your article of October 27 seem to be in order.
    If you had read my piece with an open mind you would have been a bit less strident in your response than you appeared to be.
    In what way my piece could be considered as an indicator that ‘invitation for reasonable and grown up discussion took a bizarre turn’ is a mystery to me. All I tried to do was explain the facts as I witnessed them without sensationalizing and to make a few comments on selected opinions posted on the internet.
    As you are aware there were some immature and vulgar postings on the internet, wild discussions in paltalk rooms and even in some radio talk shows. I did not think it was helpful to engage in a discussion with people who had already made up their minds without verifying the facts.
    I purposely chose to engage with Ato Efrem, Ato Shakespear and Ato Abiy precisely because I consider them to be respected personalities with a track record. Contrary to your thinking I am not qualifying Ato Efrem or Ato Shakespear with their political party’s affiliation whatever that means and I fail to understand in what way the identification becomes a smear. I clearly indicated that Ato Efrem wrote a personal opinion and Ato Shakespear wrote in his capacity as a lawyer and the identification was merely to point out their social standing.
    Smear, Ato Yilma is when you accuse me of lying without presenting a shred of evidence; unless you consider the manufactured number and percentages your ‘informants’ gave you. As the wise in Ethiopia would say ማ ያዉራ : የነበረ፣ማ ያርዳ ፣የቀበረ since you brought it up allow me to give you the actual breakdown of votes.
    ESFNA has 28 teams, 27 of which were represented at the Board meeting that took place in Atlanta on October 16-17. When the vote for the guest of honor in the Cultural category was taken there actually were 25 Board members present. 12 voted for Birtukan 10 voted for Mahmud and 3 abstained. Ato Yilma, this being the case how does my characterization of the margin of victory being narrow becomes ‘a bold lie’?
    You see Ato Yilma, I didn’t bother with the detail in the vote tally because to me that was not the central issue. From what I witnessed there was unanimity as to the esteem and respect everybody held Birtukan. The differences were on the appropriateness of the category in which she was nominated, and the possible impact her nomination will have on our legal status as a non-political and non-profit organization.
    It is not only on the issue of the votes that your ‘informants’ misled you but also on how the meeting was conducted. Again I will refer you to my previous article where I indicated that discussions on both sides were passionate and gut wrenching on this issue and there is nothing unique about such an occurrence.
    If you had an occasion to watch parliamentary debates in South Korea or Taiwan sometimes, the passionate manner in which discussions take place might not be to your taste, but you will never characterize it as a ‘shameful meeting fit for gangsters’ or lead you to question the democratic credentials. of the institution
    I wish you were there to witness when at the end of the meeting and after coming to an agreement, the Board members from both sides of the debate, together (brothers as they are) went to have dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant with no ill feeling towards one another, and with the determination to make our 28th Annual event a success.
    The other issue that I think that needs mentioning is your statement that proclaims that our Ethiopianness is a privilege that can be taken away. By whose authority Ato Yilma! Let there be no confusion on this matter, our Ethiopianness is our birthright and no one has a right to bestow it upon us or take it away from us. I agree with you Abuna Petros and Dej. Gugsa are not in the same league, one was a symbol of patriotism and determination while the other was of betrayal and cowardice, yet both were Ethiopians.
    As I tried to point out in my last piece ESFNA is home to all that consider themselves Ethiopian, irrespective of their political view, religious preference or ethnic background. If you can not be proud of all the good our organization has done in the past, you must at least be proud of the fact that we are the only Ethiopian organization that has held aloft the banner of Ethiopia and Ethiopianness for the past 27 years, and are committed to do so in the future.
    Tesfaye Abebe

  13. Tessema
    | #13

    One thing we have to realise is that ,this football thing has now become the tool of Al Modude and Meles.Well, that will mean, we are being invited to an event to dance to the Woyeyene tunes.So we need to stand firm and let it be known that, we won’t nail down for this.Hence ,we must all start writting emails to the committe that, unless Britukan is reinvited we will boycott the whole thing altogther.Moreover, we must start another associtation for the annuall fotball game and ignore this one .If we can do this, Meles and his dogs will understand that, they may have been sucessfull to buy some dogs but not the real Ethiopians.

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