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Remarks by Feyera Sobokssa

Delivered at the Baluchistan International Conference, Washington, D.C., Nov. 21, 2009

Feyera Sobokssa

My name is Feyera Sobokssa. I was borne on July 29, 1961, in a place called Tuqur Inchinni, about 100 miles away from the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa. I am a graduate from Addis Ababa University with a BA degree in Accounting. I worked for Ethiopian Airlines for more than 18 years and I was Manager Corporate Accounts before I fled my country. I was forced to leave my country and my career.

Ethiopia, like Pakistan, is a client state. The European powers sided with the Northern Abyssinians and supplied them with weapons and military training to conquer our land. The land of the people in the south was forcefully annexed and an empire was formed. There are 82 nationalities in Ethiopia and the union has never been based on the free will and consent of the people.

Anybody who understands Pakistan can easily understand what is going on in Ethiopia. Thomas H. Johnson, a research professor at Naval Postgraduate school in Monterey, California, wrote in the Washington Post on March 27, 2008, under the title: US Steps up Unilateral Strikes in Pakistan. "People in the beltway are aware that Musharaf's days are numbered, and so they recognize they may only have a few months to do this. Musharaf has very few friends in the world - he probably has more inside the beltway than in his own country."

Now, with the conviction of the people of Pakistan, Musharaf's days are over. I don't think this solves Pakistan's problems forever. However, it is one step forward for people who struggle for freedom.

I also hope Meles Zenawi's days will soon be over and the Oromo people and other nations and nationalities shall be free. Unlike the Baluch people, the Oromo people are the majority in Ethiopia.The irony is, we are ruled by the minority. As I mentioned earlier, they denied our people the right to quality education; they used the divide and conquer techniques to divide us along regional and religious beliefs. The educated are persecuted, killed, incarcerated and sent to exile.

And citizens of both countries suffer torture at the hands of their security agencies. On June 25, 2009, while we were commemorating the UN's Day in support of Torture Victims and Survivors, we were asked to define torture by one of the participants who was at the vigil held in front of the White House. A Pakistani woman rose to speak and said, "Torture is worse than death!" I joined her and said that she is right because I was begging my torturers to kill me, but they were saying "We want you to suffer not die." They preferred my suffering to my death, therefore, torture is the evil work of dictators designed to inflict the maximum possible pain and suffering on the victim. That woman also told a story of Pakistani woman who was used as a sex slave to spy on alleged terrorists against her will, and of a teacher who was forced into prostitution by authorities.

Torture is the moral equivalent of terrorism. We need to fight both.

You can read the recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) about the Ethiopian crisis at www.internationalcrisisgroup.org/Ethiopia: Federalisim and ethnic discontents. You can also go to www.oromiaonline.com, www.gadaa.com to know about the Oromo people.

We will invite you in the future to show solidarity to each other's freedom movements.

Thank you.

Feyera Sobokssa