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Ethiopia: ESFNA Festival in Maryland: Some Observations



  07:15:04 pm, by admin   , 2350 words  
Categories: Fekade Shewakena

Ethiopia: ESFNA Festival in Maryland: Some Observations

Ethiopia: ESFNA Festival in Maryland: Some Observations

Ethiopia: ESFNA Festival in Maryland: Some Observations

By Fekade Shewakena

Ethiopians from all over the United States and other parts of the world including from Ethiopia descended on Washington DC by the thousands during the past July 4 week to be part of the annual weeklong soccer and cultural festival organized by ESFNA (Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America). It was a flood of Ethiopians everywhere that a friend of mine who watched the crowed in downtown Silver Spring said that this is the only instance he knows in history that people from a far away land can invade a place in such huge numbers without an army. Downtown Silver Spring, located some 15 minutes drive from Byrd Stadium of the University of Maryland, where the event was held, was so crowded that, at times, you may even think you are somewhere in Addis Ababa.

The scene at the stadium was simply a colorful celebration of Ethiopia and a show of its culture in all its forms. According to ESFNA officials there were more than one hundred eighty vendors selling all kind of goods and food around the stadium. Seeing many people eating from the same plate, the smell of Ethiopian food and coffee and the loud Marakato-like music coming from every vendor’s tent at the same time, nearly blowing your head, gives you the impression that you are somewhere in Ethiopia. The adorable Ethiopian tricolor was splashed everywhere in different forms that it seems the only thing you see all around you is it. Even my little 6 year old, Liya, that I was walking with through the crowed on “Ethiopia Day”, demanded that she gets Ethiopia painted on her face and stood me in line for nearly half an hour until her turn comes up. She calls everything green-yellow-red “Ethiopia”. She was more beautiful with the tricolor on her face but she also said she needs more “Ethiopia” and made me buy her the Ethiopian soccer team’s shirt of her size and a small Ethiopian flag to wave. She was at her happiest when she owned the colors that watching her happy and excited nearly drove me to tears. You know, she is an all American child that has not seen and experienced Ethiopia. She only heard about it and still thinks she belongs to a distant land named Ethiopia and loves it anyway.

Soccer is only the excuse. More people come here for numerous other purposes and be part of the celebration of their culture and their country. There were more people walking the vending area than watch the interstate soccer tournaments in the field. Many people have experiences of finding long lost friends and acquaintances during this ritual. I found mine both this year and in the past. Some, I heard, have found their wives and husbands here. But whether you find anybody or not, struggling to push your way around through the crowed also gives you a special feel. Outside of the stadium and all over the Washington DC metro area, there were probably hundreds of meetings during the week. Political organizations, civic groups, professional associations, alumni associations, ‘edirs’, charity organizations etc., held their meetings. ESAT has the largest and most crowded fund raising gathering. It probably needs a stadium in the future.

ESFNA that hosted the gathering lived up to its motto of “bringing Ethiopians together”. That is all it did. It brought us together and left us to do what we want to do. Its dedication of this year’s event to celebrating Ethiopian women and appreciating their plight was a great idea. The Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) was made to stand at the center of the celebration this year representing Ethiopian women. They did a wonderful job of bringing up the plight of our sisters in the Middle East.

The Ups and the Downs:

As the saying goes, no good did go unpunished. Like many things Ethiopian, this beautiful event has not passed without seeing something mind boggling. There was a failed attempt to divide the community and destroy such a beautiful institution built over thirty years of toil, perhaps one of the best Ethiopians ever built in our countries of exile. This was exactly what a splinter group that gave some weird name to itself “AESA one” or as Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi, in one of his addresses to its members calls it, “Essawa”, were trying to do.

With the help of billionaire Sheik Mohamed al Amludi’s millions of dollars, the group was trying to organize the same thing at a huge stadium in Washington with identical programs like ESFNA. Some anonymous sick crooks were also writing emails to local government officials, the University of Maryland and the managements of hotels reserved by ESFNA in attempts to sabotage and crash the event. The crooks who wrote the emails under pseudonyms wrote ESFNA is a cheat organization that has no money to fulfill its side of the obligation and advised these organizations to cancel the contracts and any help they may be giving. I have seen these emails with my own eyes as received by these agencies. I hope ESFNA will publish this emails on its website or even find this individuals and expose them to the public. ESFNA organizers were made to climb an unnecessary uphill battle to fight the possible effects of these evil campaigns.

But, thanks to the community, the net result was the opposite of what these dividers intended to do. In fact, the unexpected huge turnout this year is in part explained by the anger this splinter group and the Sheik’s efforts have produced in our community. This group deservedly had an empty stadium for a week and a well deserved egg all over their faces at the end of the day. What they did is simply sad. Even if they have a problem within ESFNA, they could have tried to change it from within rather than go out and do this satanic thing.

Why the Sheik got involved in this sham exercise with his millions of dollars is hard to understand. For all I know, he was a supporter of ESFNA for many years in the past and a onetime guest of honor of ESFNA. I can’t for the life of me understand why he spends so much money for attempting to destroy this wonderful organization. I don’t think he is basically a bad person himself. Perhaps he is fed bad information from bad people. I know many people accuse him of queasiness with regime officials in Addis Ababa which they perceive as a corrupting influence. But I think that is his right. He can believe in any politics of his choice. But trying to destroy our institution in a land where we live as a free people is a different thing all together. In one of their radio advertisements the splinter group even insulted themselves and the entire Ethiopian community by promising to give us free lunch, paid by the Sheik, if we go and attend their event. This is despicable. Come ‘on, in America, where food is one of the cheapest things? I almost puked when I heard it. If you are his friend and happen to read this, please tell the honorable Sheik to do a favor for himself and for all of us by stopping this destructive agenda as he promised to continue doing on one of their events. He can get more respect by trying to reconcile divided groups rather than joining in the fray. He should also be told that there are a few things money cannot and should not buy. Just watch the reaction of the crowed on “Ethiopia Day” in this video (see video ) as the singer in the lyrics says something about the meaning of “money without love”. It was no doubt the public’s reaction to the Sheik’s attempts.

The event was a success but there are a few things to be said about everybody to make it better for the future.
ESFNA Management:

There were numerous glitches in the event including people returning from the gates of the stadium for lack of space. There were problems following the daily schedules and meeting obligations as advertised. The public understands that ESFNA officials are doing a hard and difficult job. This year they have to spend quite a lot of time and energy in defending the organization from the splinter group. That obviously takes their attention and time. But they could have added manpower by asking for volunteers and overcome some problems. For the future, they should do a huge reorganization and restructuring of the management and outsource some of their functions to businesses and professionals. They should consult Ethiopians with management expertise for helpful advice on reorganization. We have all kinds of professionals around us that can help voluntarily. Adding the negatives and positives together, ESFNA has done a wonderful job under difficult circumstances. We all should be grateful to all the leaders and Ato Getachew Tesfaye, the president of ESFNA, who had to juggle this monumental task with his tough work schedule. Ato Getachew is a nuclear scientist who has lots of responsibilities at work and travels between Europe and the United States frequently even while he was working on the festival. All the leaders of ESFNA deserve a huge thank you and our respect for what they have done for us and Ethiopia.

The DC Area Businesses:
Most Ethiopian businesses, particularly the restaurants were prepared for the crowed and provided a lot of entertainment. We have heard of some who charged exorbitant prices for their services, obscene in some cases, like selling a bottle of beer for twelve dollars and a single lunch for thirty dollars. We all know that there are additional costs these businesses incur during these times and some price hikes are understandable. Many restaurants employ additional labor, police and security during the week. But thirty dollars for a single lunch? This boarders on the criminal and should never happen again. Such greedy get-rich- quick individuals should know that the community can punish them by boycotting their businesses if they frequent it. Fortunately these are only a handful. There were also many who charged everything at their regular prices and treated their gusts professionally and as though they were doing it in their own homes.

The Crowed:
The crowed was magnificent in every respect. We are all prouder of the dignified way we handled ourselves. There wasn’t a single case of violence. There wasn’t a single incident of misbehavior or drunk driving or anything of that sort. Not even accidents. The hotels have already started asking when this crowed is going to come back again so that they can prepare for better services. Even the police are wondering how a large crowed of people stay one week together and leave without creating a single incident. Those of us who live in Maryland are grateful for the crowed for positively affecting our lives and giving us a good image in addition to contributing millions of dollars in income to the state. More importantly, we all need to be happy by the unanimity in our rejection of division in any form. Ethiopia was a little more proud of us during the week.

The Ethiopian Government:
No government agency or embassy official of the Ethiopian government was around the stadium. I am told embassy officials chose to go to the empty stadium organized by the splinters ignoring the 99.9% of us who were celebrating Ethiopia at the ESFNA event. That of course is unfortunate and a shame. This event was not a political event as anybody who has been there can attest. ESFNA is a demonstrably non political organization. We also want it to keep out of divisive politics. ESFNA’s job should remain bringing us together. All political groups did their events outside the stadium. Of course, they had their tents at the stadium like any other agency would. If we were a lucky country, we would have seen a tent among the nearly 200 tents in the stadium to encourage people to buy bonds for the Abbay dam or demonstrate the project. It is a proof that all this patronizing the Diaspora by the government is about love of our money and not us. I only pray for the day we have a loved government official sitting among us at ESFNA events and celebrating Ethiopia with us.

ESFNA has proven itself that it has become a big institution owned by the community. It is so obvious that ESFNA has outgrown its capacity and the way it is being led. ESFNSA officials could be making a huge mistake if they think the large turnout this year was due to their exclusive efforts. I hope they understand this more than anyone. I am also sure they will be responsive to the public and be a transparent organization especially when it comes to financial matters. There are huge expenses that the public doesn’t know. Some think the Organization is amassing money only by looking at the turnout. Make the details public so that we have more trust, respect and love for ESFNA. In as much as possible ESFNA should avoid big money from individuals in the future. We are better of poorer than involving people who want to pull strings though the money they help us with. I am told ESFNA makes better money when it holds the event in Washington DC. If that is the case, I suggest that the 2014 celebration be also held in the DC area. This is just a suggestion to help its financial strength. I also suggest that it open an office with at least one full time employee. It is also good to start preparation for the next event in advance than rush though it during the last one or two months before the occasion.

What a week!! The 30 year anniversary of ESFNA was a blast. Thanks to our brothers who started it thirty years ago and the many who still keep it going.


Comment from: [Member]

ESFNA is not anymore a sporting event. Rather it is a fund raising event for ESAT and ginbot 7.
We know it is been hijacked long time ago by the likes of eliass kiftkit, who were seen around with their delusional wish of transitional govt and a collection of X dergue members.
Stop the fantasy losers!

07/25/13 @ 20:19
Comment from: ment4you [Visitor]

This were Addis Frat opens his filthy mouth out of insecurity and inferiority complex….go ahead Addis Zefen the refugee with no country and a burden to Ethiopia …. it is your turn….

07/25/13 @ 21:51
Comment from: AB-Dallas [Visitor]

Come on! Ato Fekade Weshetam….it doesn’t take 20 days to write this kind of bulshite. I’m pretty sure if you take this to your English teacher you might gate C+ Anyways Just keep it up…. You probably make it for the 40th year anniversary.
Let me ask u this. can u explain, given the argument you make on ur article blablabla….. Observations?

Anyways I’m sorry if kids grown up on your surrounding….
Plz keep out reach of children your self.

07/26/13 @ 03:19
Comment from: YHD [Visitor]

Mr. Shewakena,
It is because of selfish and a shortsighted politicians like you the association is divided in to two groups. It used to be one of the venues that bring all kinds and all walks of Ethiopians irrespective of our political, religious, and ethnic affiliation. It is unfortunate of us to be manipulated by greedy politicians who lack the wisdom and vision to see, think and act selflessly, beyond personal goals and narrow political agenda, for the good of all of us. Individuals like Mr. Shawakena have no qualm, have no regard to the type of events or places when they inject their poisons and divisive politics praying on emotions of their unsuspecting victims. Sadly, nothing and no one is spared from their poisons political venom. They have targeted, in-filtered and poisoned the traditionally politically neutral mediums, such as: churches, sport and cultural events and festivals, community centers, etc… Political Activist Shewakena is not ashamed to come out and tell us the success of his cynical mischief of dividing our neutral house.
Those of us who understand today and think beyond tomorrow realize that there will always be differences in political opinion among people of the same nation. But, we also realize that differences should not create divisions. It is also fair to note that there are many individuals who would prefer to avoid to actively participating in politics and avid affiliation to any political group, Left or Right. Don’t you think that we should be able to exist together with tolerance and respect to our differences, and preferences? If you ask yourself, in a sober mind, you will find out the many reasons why it was necessary for the original association to stay out from politics, religion and ethnic affiliations. The winners are those few who are principled enough to stand with integrity and refuse emotions and political manipulations dictate them. Weather there is a big turnout or not does not matter much, as it does not heal or mend what has been broken irreversibly – what you have ruined is the common platform that brings all Ethiopians together, what is broken is the commonly agreed and accepted principles and standards that maintains and holds together a diversified community.
In the past, political, religious and ethnically affiliated groups and their members could come and participate as individuals in the festival. They had the right to advertise or call meetings or other activities on the side without using and abusing the association’s resources. They were never allowed to hijack the association, the festival, and still the peoples show.

07/26/13 @ 04:06
Comment from: [Member]

To Mr. fekade, Indeed it was a success for the genuine Ethiopian diaspora and an embarassment for those TPLF looters and their “Sheik".
It was a sharp contrast when on one side the true Ethiopians embrace each other with love, unity and true Ethiopianness, on the other hand,those handful “opportunists” were shamefully had the empty stadium to themselves and the The Gold-looting Sheik:)
Ethiopian for ever:)
We shall see a democratic & prosperous motherland soon:)

07/26/13 @ 11:44
Comment from: Kassa Abebe [Visitor]
Kassa Abebe

Ato Fekade Shewakena used to teach at the University of Addis Ababa. But look at his writing and judge when the Ethiopian education started going south.

The first sentence his article contains several errors besides it being awkward:

“Ethiopians from all over the United States and other parts of the world including from Ethiopia descended on Washington DC by the thousands during the past July 4 week to be part of the annual weeklong soccer and cultural festival organized by ESFNA (Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America).”

I challenge the writer to fix the error and to post the corrected sentence. Tip: No amount of chopping heart sentence effectiveness.

By the way, readers can compare and judge the quality of the writing of Mr. Obang Metho with Fekade Shewakena at

07/26/13 @ 12:56
Comment from: AL HABASHA RASHIDEEN [Visitor]

Next year there will be NO MUSLIMS at your “sports event".

it will be Ramadan and u can enjoy your all christian amhara orthodox event.


07/26/13 @ 19:08
Comment from: getu [Visitor]

We don’t need to agree or disagre here which sport event most Ethiopian people attend with high spirit. The fact speaks volume.The most important thing is that Esfna is based on people contribution where as Aesaone is totally funded by a single individual. We need to develop a culture of doing things collectivly than living by the mercy of the super riches.Whatever may the choice,I wish both brothers comeback together & celebrate their country in union in the comming sport event!

07/26/13 @ 22:52
Comment from: C\'est moi senait [Visitor]
C\'est moi senait

Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun,” said Mao. You could try teaching those who disagreed with you, but if that failed you should destroy them.

I do not believe in western toilet soft paper dealing with enemy, I believe in TERMINATING . That include this bullishite Arab terrorist with dikkala blood. I think this bastard has gone too far. In Washington dc ,there are many crack heads and you hire one or two with 100$ uncle Ben ,they do it well. Now, that Arab haalamuzii will shit in his pant when he read this.
By the way, who the flu#€¥ck is he? I will dig his background,including his DNA in Jerusalem .

07/27/13 @ 05:55
Comment from: MIMI KEFYALEW [Visitor]


07/28/13 @ 17:16
Comment from: azeb [Visitor]  

Ato Kassa Abebe:
Please clearly show us which part of Fekade Shewagne writing had mistake. Was there a spelling mistake, sentence construction, spelling, verb, noun, over run sentence. The message was very clear. It seem you don’t have any substance. I have read Fededa’s Shewagne flawless writing for years. May be you were not a student of Fekade but one of those cadres that graduated from Civil Service college in Ethiopia

07/29/13 @ 16:40



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