By Oromsis Adula*
It gets worse by the day. For years, the biggest disappointment for many Oromos has been the lack of progress in political arena. We did not know it is contagious. These days, it is even hard to believe some of the things that are happening to Oromo Diaspora communities and organizations. Not too long ago, I wrote a short article about the brewing disaster around the Oromo Community of Minnesota board of director’s election. Now it is OSFNA. Who is Next?
Oromo Sports Federation in North America
Today, as I was planning a summer gateway for my family, I decided to check the Oromo Sports Federation in North America (OSFNA) website.
For about thirteen years, OSFNA brought together Oromos from all walks of life in an annual pilgrimage that consisted of sports, meetings/conferences, fundraisers, parties, and reunions. Long lost friends met at OSFNA. I have talked to couples who met at Oromo soccer Tournament and eventually got married. Although the premier event organized by the federation is the soccer matches between Oromo teams; political, community and other organizations plan their events around this convention because it attracts the largest number of attendees.
Oromo artists highlight the convention weeknights. Party goers are sometimes forced to choose which one to attend. For most people, summer meant time to see and party with kins or friends from other states or other countries. Or time to see your old high school friend who just came to the states through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. For political organizations, like the OLF, it meant a high time for fundraising. The week is normally launched with a well attended and anticipated OLF opening party.
During its first ten years of existence, OSFNA relied financially on contributions from teams and fundraisers. That changed in 2007. Amidst financial problems and political controversy, the federation was in desperate need of a bailout. Suddenly; news broke that an Oromo tycoon, who was eager to uplift a community dwarfed by lack of financial capital, was interested. The federation sold the ownership along with its soul to Oliqaa Foundation [a non-profit organization many allege formed solely for acquisition of OSFNA]. Cynics cautioned about the risk of glamorous takeover by a celebrity like tycoon, whose identity was not known to many at the time.
Nevertheless, 2007 was a major year in the history of the federation. The week was designated as “Oromo Mega fest”. Many activities, that never happened in the history of OSFNA, were added. To mention few; the famous and well-organized Run 4 Oromia Race, Oliqaa Award Night (to recognize elite Oromo artists and others who made significant contribution in the community), for the first time a hotel stay was free for out of state soccer players and the winning team received the highest ever monetary reward. The sentiment of the people was unbelievably positive. I should probably mention that there were fewer or minor instances of a fight at the field, which was a common pattern the years before.
At the last year’s 12th Annual Soccer Tournament, people had mixed feelings. Or at least some people did. Broadly speaking, 2008 was not one of the best summers for many Oromos. After all, the spilt within OLF leadership and the controversies that followed came to light at the middle of the soccer week. Some feared a violent end to a week that was otherwise full of sportsmanship spirit. But thank goodness, the final game was fair, quite competitive and the win was unquestionable.
Throughout the week, undeniably, for whatever reason, the previous year’s hype was nonexistent. By the end of the week, there were rumors that the owner of the federation, in this case the Oliqaa foundation, has failed to follow through with most of its promises. Did the foundation over promise and under deliver? Did OSFNA risk its reputation by engaging in a miscalculated business venture? I don’t know the answer. It is up to OSFNA, to come forward and make a public apology, and tell its tales. Or maybe up to the Oliqaa foundation to make a public announcement to clear up the air.
While doing research for this article, I was told, a recent fundraising plea held in Minneapolis was nothing but an utter disappointment. There is also a talk of various collection agencies going after the federation to collect debts from last year. It is alleged that the horrendous debts were originally supposed to be paid by the Oliqaa foundation. One thing is certain. Now it is public secret that, the foundation not only refused to share the earnings from last year, but it also referred all outstanding payments to the federation.
At this critical juncture, OSFNA announces;
Due to some technical challenges we are facing in Atlanta, the OSFNA would like to advise all teams not to purchase ticket or any advance arrangement in Atlanta until we send further notice. Please, listen to the attached news broadcasted on Oromo Community radio of Washington DC area and we will communicate with team leaders for the detail of the plan. Hopefully, we will hear from our community at large very soon and resume our preparation.
Would another Oromo tycoon come around and save OSFNA? Would Oromo communities around the world, recognize the effect a cancellation of Oromo Soccer Tournament will have on the morale of the general populace, and ultimately bailout OSFNA? Would Oromo political organizations and others, who have a huge stake in the occurrence of such event, work in partnership with OSFNA for the event to go forward as planned?
Many questions remain unanswered. This piece is only intended to bring to light a disaster befalling a giant Oromo organization. Excuse my cynicism but everything Oromo is getting worse by the day. And no one cares to talk about it.