Minister of Transportation, Civil Aviation, and the Merchant Marine,
Representative of the President of the Republic of the Congo,
Members of government,
First President of the Supreme Court,
Ambassadors and Chief of Missions of International Institutions,
Distinguished guests in your ranks, grade, and qualities,
My fellow Americans,
Ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for joining us to mark the two-hundred-thirty-ninth (239th) anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. I particularly thank our co-sponsors, Chevron and Noble Energy, for their contributions that assured that this event was a success.
The celebration this evening follows the theme: New Orleans, twin city of Pointe-Noire.
A space called “Congo Square” is found in this historic American city. In the eighteenth century, Congo Square was a sacred place where slaves could freely express themselves and preserve their history and culture. Every Sunday, the first African-Americans gathered in Congo Square to sing and dance to the rhythm of tam-tams. This tradition allowed future generations to witness and preserve the culture of their ancestors. In our time, we, the heirs, pay tribute to this space by guarding this unique city’s ancestral heritage.
The New Orleans theme reminds us that what we do today contributes to the heritage that will be written in the pages of history.
Like Congo Square, free expression is a powerful means to unify communities today. This year, Americans from “Bitchini Bia Congo” came to Brazzaville, danced Congolese dances, and sang in Lingala and Kituba to honor their ancestors and reinforce their connections between our two peoples. The American artist Bruce Sherfield held a concert in Brazzaville with young Congolese who expressed themselves through “slam” – a frank, honest, and free music style born from African sonorities, the Negro spiritual, jazz, and hip-hop.
The connections between the United States and Africa are not solely cultural. In a few weeks, President Barack Obama will be in Kenya for the World Business Summit and in Ethiopia, where he will meet with the African Union, marking the importance of the African continent whose population and economy are growing the fastest in the world. The United States contributes to the development of Africa, not only through bilateral frameworks, but also through multilateral organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.
And thanks to this historic summit of African leaders in Washington last year, relations between the United States and African countries are reinforced. After hearing our African partners, and following a bipartisan consultation in Congress, President Obama signed legislation that reinforced and updated the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. This law gives advantages to business in eligible African countries, to export their goods to the United States to open their economies and reinforce free markets.
In the Congo, economic development occupies an important place in our bilateral cooperation. We work in partnership to advance regional security and democracy.
In the economic sphere, in March, an American delegation from the Business Council for International Understanding visited the Congo to launch a support project for small and mid-sized businesses in coordination with the Project to Support Economic Diversification (PADE) and the World Bank.
This project will contribute to the diversification of the Congolese economy, develop the private sector, and create short-term employment for the Congolese. The American people increased their support for the Congolese people across the country, doubling aid to socio-economic groups at the community level. Economic development is an alternative to illicit activity, including poaching, a long-time challenge in sub-region. This year, the Congo made a significant advance in the fight against poaching in burning five tons of ivory tusks. This shows the Congo’s commitment to protect wildlife that is so important for world heritage, ecotourism, and economic diversification.
The United States salutes this effort, and a few weeks ago in New York, we crushed ivory from the poaching industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,
The training of young people is the foundation for all development. We have also increased the number of beneficiaries in the Mandela-Washington Fellowship program to the United States – an initiative for young African leaders – to reinforce their skills. We also recognize the importance of health, since a healthy population contributes to a more dynamic economy and society. It is in this framework that the United States is the largest contributor to the World Fund and one of the largest to the World Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization. These multilateral programs aim to improve public health in the Congo, through increasing accessibility to essential vaccines and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
In world that is more connected than ever, prevention, detection, and responses to epidemics are a priority. For this reason, the United States collaborates with the Congolese government in research and skills training for the prevention of future pandemics.
In the framework of security, the Republic of the Congo plays an important role in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and crisis resolution in the Central African Republic.
The United States salutes the mediation efforts in the CAR crisis of President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, in the search for lasting solutions. The United States also recognizes the sacrifices of elements of the Congolese Armed Forces. We are proud to accompany the Congo alongside other partners, in the training and equipment of peace-keeping forces. And just this week, the American government gave one (1) million dollars to provide food for central Africans who have found refuge in the Congo.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, democracy is cherished everywhere in the world, in the United States and in Africa. In the United States, democracy is well established, but remains imperfect. We recognize that democracy requires a lot of work. It asks that people communicate with each other, take the time to hear each other. Democracy expects a spirit of compromise for the benefit of all citizens. In the United States, we work to leave a nation stronger and more just to our children and grand-children.
All of this would not be possible without the courage and wisdom of leaders who paved the way with a strong foundation based on equal opportunity, freedom of expression, and peaceful transfer of power. The United States will always support these universal values of democracy.
What we do today should contribute to a history of which we will be proud tomorrow.
Mayé tozali kosala lélo E sén geli ékota na li si tua lé éyé é ko sé pél isa biso na mikolo mikoya.
Ce que nous faisions aujourd’hui devraient contribuer à l’histoire dont nous serons fiers demain.
To my fellow Americans, I wish you a very happy Independence Day. Thank you to all who made this Independence Day party possible. Long live the friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of the Congo! And as we say in New Orleans, “Let the good times roll!”