Ambassador Sullivan on Independence Day

His Excellency the Prime Minister,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Members of government,

Venerable Senators,

Honorable Deputies, Ladies and gentlemen of the Supreme Court,

Dear Ambassadors and colleagues of diplomatic missions and international institutions,

In particular those from the Cuban embassy whom we have invited for the very first time,

Distinguished guests in your ranks, grades, and qualities, My fellow Americans:

Welcome to the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville for the 240th anniversary of our independence.

First of all, I’d like to thank our private sector contributors — Chevron, Ernst and Young, Noble Energy, Seabord/Minoco, Radisson Blu, Western Union, BCIU/Thatcher and Co, and BRASCO/Coca Cola, whose generosity has helped make this party a success.

For Americans, this is a joyous celebration, during which we spend time with family and friends. So, my entire embassy community, in addition to myself, is very happy to welcome each of you this evening. It has been a tremendous honor to serve as President Obama’s representative in the Republic of the Congo over the past three years, and to get to know this beautiful country during my time here.

For example, I think I now understand the Congolese expression:  “kozala nguembo!” I have also learned that we, the American and Congolese people, have much in common. In the U.S. Ambassador’s residence where my husband and I live, we showcase a collection of American art that I have chosen to reflect much of what our two countries value: harmony among diverse people, environmental conservation, and the opportunity for all citizens to develop their full potential. That we may all live by these values each day!

I have also learned the phrase, “When a stranger builds a house in your village, you know that he’s here to stay.” Well, we have recognized the sovereignty of the Congo from day 1, August 15, 1960. This relationship continues today. As you can see, we continue to build. But building is not all about bricks and mortar.  It’s just as important to build human capacity, equitable systems, and institutions that are stronger than any one individual or interest group.

Today, in reflecting on the Declaration of Independence, I would like to point out that it commemorates values, and not battlefield victories.  As we focus on the core value put forth in the Declaration – that all people are created equal, with rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – I would like to affirm the American conviction that these fundamental rights belong to all people, everywhere.

Our Founding Fathers built a solid foundation for our democracy by establishing strong institutions. However, the struggle to keep our democracy thriving and continuously improving is a never-ending process. The institutions our Founders built established the bases upon which successive generations have continued to build.

I am especially pleased to see so many Congolese friends here who have participated in U.S. exchange and training programs.  As befits our desire to build for the future, among you are young entrepreneurs and innovators, bright young men and women who will help solve the problems of tomorrow, and who will create jobs along the way.  We believe in Congo’s potential to build on the past and create a brighter future for all Congolese.

Through USAID initiative in Congo we are aligning with the goals of COP 21 to fight climate change to protect the second lungs of the planet. A few weeks ago, we signed an agreement with Congo’s Forestry Ministry to build institutional, material, and technical capacities. Recently, scientists from the University of Maryland and Congolese counterparts conducted a baseline survey that will build upon our extensive efforts with a range of partners such as WCS, WIR and EAGLE/PALF, to help protect this country’s amazing flora and fauna. As we all know, once these treasures are destroyed they cannot be recreated.

We equally recognize that peace and security are essential for development and prosperity. We are partnering to improve regional stability and protect civilian lives by training Congolese peacekeepers for the MINUSCA in the Central African Republic.  We also work together to increase maritime security. In addition, every year we train law enforcement professionals, and this year saw the first all-female cohort.

Equally important for development are policies and institutions that support economic growth and political inclusion and diversity. The rule of law, fiscal transparency, and not least, accountability are central tenets of good governance. The importance of accountability is why we support President Sassou-Nguesso’s inaugural pledge to tackle corruption. As President Obama said in his address a year ago to the African Union, “Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.” We cannot count on individuals to be “good,” and no country is immune from the temptations of corruption – including my own. What we all need is clear rules that define what is acceptable and what is not. There must be consequences for breaking those rules, while always respecting the presumption of innocence.

Space for peaceful, constructive dialogue is also a value held by modern pluralistic societies, which recognize that complex challenges require many different viewpoints. As an autistic American artist who recently visited Brazzaville told other autistic Congolese students, “the world needs everyone’s brains.” I sincerely hope we can all learn from artist Stevens Vaughn to be more tolerant of others’ perspectives.

Citizen engagement, a free press, and independent non-partisan civil society organizations have a vital role to play in a healthy multi-party democracy. Tolerant, open and transparent societies attract investors, and allow innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, to conclude, I return to the belief that we share many similarities. Every day, I wear a pin with two flags on it close to my heart, reflecting the friendship between us and the Congolese people. I am confident that our enduring ties and our friendship will continue. Just as we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, so our children and grandchildren will stand on ours.

So let us all continue to work together to build a stronger partnership. Let us work for a more democratic and more prosperous Congo, in which citizens feel secure and well-served by their elected leaders. Let’s be good stewards of the earth, and our societies, for the benefit of ensuing generations.

Thank you again for coming, and thank you to all who worked to make this evening a success. Happy Fourth of July to everyone, and bonne fête à tout le monde!