By Ephrem Madebo –
Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them - Aristotle …
Last month, sitting in my Washington, DC office right across the Potomac River, I watched NASA’s Boeing 747 carrying the 30 years old shuttle Discovery making its finals flight to National Air & Space Museum near Dulles Airport. Just a little distance outside my office, tens of thousands of Washingtonians were jubilantly screaming when shuttle Discovery saluted the nation’s capital. As I rushed back to my office across Independence Avenue, I slowed down and asked myself- am I witnessing history?
I walked to my office believing that I was part of history. However, my short lived ecstasy was over when I logged into my computer and started navigating the different Ethiopian websites. I read depressing articles such as the deportation of ethnic Amharas from the south, the appeal of Addis Ababa University, the passing a legend [Maître Artist Afewerk Tekle] and the victory of ESFNA over ESFNAONE [the only comforting news].
I closed the browser, rolled my chair towards the table and asked myself another question – is good losing its battle against evil in Ethiopia? I never wanted to say no, and I wasn’t sure to say yes, but just the thought of losing to evil broke me apart and I left my office to find courage elsewhere. I tried many things, but at the end, I went to my home when I felt I had no more energy to gather myself. Is this the end of three thousand years of history? Hell no! However, unless we do something as a society; this could mean the beginning of the end of our dream. Not just a dream, but our capacity to dream.
In the last few years, especially after the 2010 election, the tyrant regime in Ethiopia has been working at full gear to export its divide & rule policy to Ethiopians outside Ethiopia. Today, Addis Ababa’s most thought after Diaspora Policy . . . aka “Basic Information for Ethiopians in the Diaspora” is already circulating in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. The Ethiopian Diaspora has already seen the precursor of this policy that has divided churches, ruined our social fabrics, destroyed marriages, and created animosity between Ethiopians. Zenawi and his surrogates here in the Diaspora have targeted many organizations that bring us together, and in recent years no organization has been battered and bribed like ESFNA.
Ever since the News of judge Birtukan’s invitation to the 2011 ESFNA event became public, ESFNA’s survival as a uniting institution was challenged by the forces of evil; and as it is usually the case, the boisterous evil seemed to have won the battle. Not really! I’m very proud and of course reasonably optimistic to see ESFNA at the hands of such a determined group of disciplined professionals who put principle and country above everything. Their hard work, perseverance, patience, creativity, advocacy, fair-mindedness and passion have all paid off, and most importantly, they have made us victorious over the ‘carpetbaggers’.
If the struggle of ESFNA to save the 29 years old federation from the TPLF bullies needs a series of victories; definitely, the first and the most important victory has already been won in the US District Court for the District of Maryland [Southern Division] here in Greenbelt, MD. For those of us who were innocently confused between ESFNA [in Dallas] and ESFNAONE [in Washington, DC], . . . behold! I have good news for you. There is no ESFNAONE or AESAONE. There is one ESFNA, and ESFNA 2012 is not in Washington, DC. It is in Dallas, Texas.
For Meles Zenawi and his Diaspora intermediaries [who always believe that money can do everything], the April 13 court decision in Greenbelt, MD was of course a very strange and unexpected decision. They thought the pile of money flowing from Addis Ababa can give them a win here in the US courts. Nope! Money straight from the billionaire’s pocket may have bought some amoral foodies like you, but not justice like it always does in Addis Ababa.
Today, the ‘carpetbaggers’ here in the Diaspora know that they can’t use the name ESFNA, ESFNAONE, or any variant of the word ESFNA. Therefore, they have resorted to a brand new name- which is AESAONE (All Ethiopian Sports Association ONE), or simply known as Abinet Employees Sport Association.
Those of you who are planning to come to Washington, DC for the July event . . . Watch out! You are not coming to ESFNA event; you are coming to a private event financed by poor Ethiopian tax payers and a billionaire.
This week I watched the AESAONE general board meeting hosted by Abinet G/Meskel here in the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel. If there is anything substantive and true in this meeting, it was Teddy Afro’s song used as a prelude to the meeting ( click to watch the video). I don’t want to bore you with the full narratives of the meeting, but I just want to mention one thing that struck me the most. First of all, had Mr. Abinet and the so called board members listened to Teddy’s song that they used as a prologue for their video, they wouldn’t have proceeded with their meeting. In fact, they would have rushed to the genuine and elected leadership of ESFNA and asked for an apology. Here is a line from the prelude: ለሚከዳ ወዳጅ ለማይበጅ የምን መለማመጥ መተው አንጂ
In his speech addressed to the AESAONE board members, Mr. Abinet shamelessly blamed the ESFNA leaders for the following two things: 1) Political Involvement 2) Dividing churches. Dear Mr. Abinet, did you know that ESFNA did not have any internal problem until you and Al Amoudi the billionaire joined the inner circle of ESFNA in the name of financial support? Besides, the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora were parts of the Holy Synod in Ethiopia until Meles Zenawi ordained a patriarch on top of existing patriarch. Look Mr. Abinet, If you don’t have political interest and if you weren’t a messenger of Meles Zenawi [the paladin of divide and rule policy], why are you sticking your hands in the affairs of the Diaspora? Whose money are you using to rent stadium & hotels for three years in a row and to pay for a Grammy award singer? Mr. Abinet, you must know the difference between St. George Soccer Club and ESFNA. Instead of bothering us here, please go back to Ethiopia and restore the glory days of St. George Soccer Club. Until you do so, I consider you as one of those confused people who go fishing every day without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
It’s evident that Meles Zenawi knows the tremendous development potential of the Ethiopian Diaspora. In fact, his regime has designed various strategies aimed at engaging the Diaspora for development. However, unlike countries like India, Israel, and Poland; our country Ethiopia couldn’t benefit from its enthusiastic and resourceful Diaspora. The reason is obvious. Meles sees the Diaspora as a serious threat to his power that seems to have no ending. Yet, he still wants to use the Diaspora as a cash cow to build his one party ethnic & economic empire. This double-faced attitude has put Meles Zeawi at odds with the Diaspora to whom development has multiple dimensions that include freedom, democracy, and human rights. Therefore, Meles has vowed to use his emissaries and some weak individuals as a steppingstone to divide the Diaspora.
Today, Meles Zenawi’s divide & rule policy has already claimed its first victim, and no wonder that Zenawi’s first victim is ESFNA, a civic organization that brings Ethiopians together. Meles Zenawi and his Diaspora agents have taken the 29 years old sports federation form ‘ESFNA’ to ‘ESFNAONE’ and now to ‘AESAONE’ (Ps click to see the respective sites, ESFNA, AESAONE). Dear fellow Ethiopians, this summer we have a choice between ESFNA and AESAONE. What is your choice? To me, choosing AESAONE [Abinet Employees Sports Association] is effectively killing ESFNA, the nostalgic organization that treated us with dignity for the last 29 years. I believe it is also allowing Meles Zenawi to extend his abusive rule where ever Ethiopians are.
In the last 20 years, despite the tyrant regime’s repeated attempt to contain the flow of information in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Diaspora has been a consistent and reliable source of information for the oppressed people of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Diaspora is full of men and women who are filled with undaunted courage and patriotism. However, today, this courage and patriotism is put to the test. The dictator in Addis has sent some sold-out gluttons and a huge stack of money to buy the courage and the patriotism out of us. Do we continue advocating freedom, or sell our identity for money?
I strongly argue that we cannot defeat Meles and company in Ethiopia if we can’t beat them decisively here in our own turf where we have absolute advantage. Besides, we would be more hypocrites than the Pharisees if we keep on calling Ethiopians at home to rise up and fight the tyrant regime, while we allow the same enemy to conquer us here in the land of freedom. Fellow Ethiopians, the decision we make this summer is not as trivial as choosing between ESFNA and AESAONE. In fact, this is not even about playing and watching soccer. This is about telling an arrogant dictator that he cannot do to us what he is doing to our brothers and sisters at home. This is about sending the right signal to fellow Ethiopians at home that, we will never let them down by allowing Meles Zenawi play his divide and rule game here in the Diaspora.
This summer, the Ethiopian Diaspora in the United States and Canada has a history to make, a history that will be told and re-told to posterity. Zenawi and his TPLF party have time and again showed us that they have nothing, but bad ideas; and their puppies here in the Diaspora have no ideas at all. Well, I’m not saying that the Diaspora is perfect, but I’m dead sure that we have much better ideas than them because our idea is the peoples’ idea, and the peoples’ idea is always freedom, justice and equality. This summer we have to choose ESFNA over AESAONE and send a very clean message to Zenawi that, we’d rather be poor and die with a clean conscience than selling our dignity for money and live in a state of mental slavery.
In his speech to the AESAONE board members, Mr. Abinet strongly argued that sport should not be mixed with politics. Well, I’m from the old school and I can’t agree more, but what exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the sport world and its institutions embrace dictatorship and become bystanders when citizens are abused, tortured and killed? Mr. Abinet, is this the message you’re paid for to bring to the Diaspora? I understand that you are the president of St. George Soccer team, and most importantly, you are a student of the legendary Yednekachew Tesema. What did you learn from him? Wasn’t Yedenekachew a hero who mixed sport and politics to score victory in both? Look Mr. Abinet, the history of the world since the time of Gladiators tells us that sport has affected politics and shaped public opinion.
In 1976, twenty eight African nations [including Ethiopia] boycotted the Montreal Olympics to protest against South Africa. Evidently, the boycott in itself did not close the apartheid chapter in South Africa. But, make no mistake! It has played a very important role. Mr. Abinet, whether you like it or not, we in the Diaspora are determined to boycott TPLF sponsored events including business and politics. Of course, we know the boycott by itself won’t bring an end to Zenawi’s ethnic dictatorship. But, we want to tell Zenawi and the rest of the world loud and clear that, it won’t be business as usual for Meles Zeawi here in the Diaspora. He should either change his nasty attitude or get out of the way. Other than this, I think there is no need to drag ESFNA to the world of politics. We want ESFNA to continue doing what it does best … bring us together, entertain us, and bring memories of the good old days.
This summer we must tell the TPLF bullies that the freedom of our brothers and sisters is not negotiable, and we do this by committing ourselves to a week long freedom march in Dallas, Texas. I’m sure radio and television stations, newspapers, websites, blogs and social media networks will play a vital role in disseminating the news that, the host city for the 29th ESFNA annual sports festival is Dallas, Texas; not Washington, DC. We have one and only one ESFNA that brings Ethiopians together. Yes, ESFNA . . . just ESFNA.
As a proud people of a proud nation, we must not negotiate our freedom and dignity with those who abuse us. We must fight hard for our liberty because liberty is the expression of our existence as a human being. Remember, no human is enslaved until he/she accepts the enslavement. We should never and ever allow the TPLF net to cross the oceans and ensnare us here on the land of freedom. We must join our efforts to ignite the fire of freedom, a fire that incites those who feel its power; and a fire that consumes those who contain the progress of freedom. This is the only way our people in Ethiopia can experience the freedom that we relish here on a foreign land every day. See you all in Dallas. .. Dallas…Dallas…Dallas