“Respond Quickly and Powerfully”
The Honorable Senator John Kerry
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman,
Subject: Talking to the American People
I am writing to you in response to your Excellency’s E-mail “Respond Qucikly and Powefully.” I am so honored to get the opportunity to talk to your Legislative Aid few years back about the severe torture I have endured in the notorious prison cells of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. After our testimony, your aid said, “I have never doubted the wisdom of my father. He always says, don’t expect the regular diplomats as the best diplomats. Usually, ordinary citizens are more diplomatic than the regular diplomats. That is what you have proved to me today.” I wanted to study politics at college but studying politics for an Oromo was a very risky business. My friends advised me to choose another field. One of them said, “For people of our caliber, we can read and understand politics.”
One of the interns that accompanied us to the U.S. Senate asked us what we felt after our testimony and I replied, “There is a saying among the Oromo people. It took Fascist Italy modern tanks and airplanes to conquer Abyssinia/Ethiopia. But it only took one man, an Oromo athlete Abbaba Biqilaa, to conquer Rome bare foot. Similarly, it took billions of U.S. dollars and a Tigrayan mercenary to conquer Oromia. It took only two Oromos to conquer the U.S. Senate building!” She loudly laughed and said, “You people are very good at making fun at others and yourselves.”
I am neither a politician nor a diplomat but thanks to the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) – International we managed to talk to a wide range of American citizens including your Excellency’s legislative aid. Personally, I have applied two of the five principles that I have studied in Accounting – objectivity and consistency to our Truth Speakers Project. I have tried to tell my story consistently and objectively based on facts. I have shown your aid my own photographs that show the bruises all over my legs and hands as a result of a torture technique the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front security forces call “Code Number Eight.” After a surprise release, they warned me not to show any one even my own wife. They were wrong. I have shown the world what they were trying to hide thanks to the conviction of a torture survivor Catholic Nun and her friends. I had shown the fresh bruises to my friend Taarraqany Chimdi and my wife Zannabach Gurmessa Salgan. I had also shown to the person they were trying to capture and torture.
Your aid also asked me to give him an article famously known as “The Prison Speaks Oromiffa”, which I was holding during our testimony. That article was written by an Ethiopian scholar called Fekade Shewakena. I am not sure whether you had the time to read it or not but it was a very good article that briefly articulated the reality of the prisons in Ethiopia and the conditions of the Oromo people. I was severely tortured three times from 1991 to 1996 alone by Meles Zenawi’s security forces and I know the inside out of some of these notorious prisons.
I have forgiven Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia while he was alive in front of a Catholic Nun, another torture survivor, and an American intern at the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)- International. Today is his funeral. It is unethical to celebrate his death. However, I would have been glad if he had been alive and held accountable for the crimes he has committed against me and the Oromo people, the Ogaden people, the people of Gambella, Sidama, Hadiyya and so on.
I believe that America’s foreign policy on Ethiopia has been wrong and it is still wrong during President Barack Obama’s administration. Today, Ethiopia is the number one recipient of U.S. foreign aid in Africa. That empowered the minority ethnic group that have organized themselves as Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. In their widely read and circulated report of September 4, 2009 among the Oromo Community and others, the International Crisis Group (ICG) have put their concerns on record and they have identified the problems and best articulated them than any other human rights group about the Ethiopian crisis.
I also seize this opportunity once again to send your Excellency synopsis of this report. I hope you will give us few minutes from your precious time to read it to prevent another human crisis in the Horn of Africa. I sincerely demand the U.S. to change its disastrous foreign policy of embracing dictatorial regimes like that of Ethiopia.
Fayera Nagara Soboksa