Venerable President of the Senate,
Honorable President of the National Assembly,
His Excellency the Prime Minister, head of government,
His Excellency the Minister of State, Cabinet Director to the Chief of State,
Ladies and gentlemen members of government,
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen chiefs of diplomatic missions and representatives of international organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen members of political parties and of civil society,
Ladies and gentlemen alumni of American government exchange programs,
Ladies and gentlemen in your ranks, grades, and functions,
Hello! I am very happy to celebrate with you this evening. Thank you for coming and for the warm welcome that you gave me during my mission here. As I prepare to leave in a little under a month, I have the singular honor to be the Ambassador of the United States who has stayed in post the longest in the Republic of the Congo; this is to say three years and four months, including four pledge exchange ceremonies and three rotating national holidays. Indeed, I have spent more time in this Congo than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I arrived in Africa for the first time thirty-six (36) years ago.
In returning to the Congo Basin, my husband John and I cherished the Congolese people, saka-saka, rumba, the majestic beauty of the Congo River and the tropical forests. We spent numerous hours with friends and colleagues who helped us to understand this magnificent country. It was an honor in my professional life to represent President Barack Obama and the American people to the government and people of the Republic of the Congo.
As the administration in Washington is undergoing the transition phase, the personnel of the United States embassy in Brazzaville are also preparing the foundations for our successors. President Obama made an example in asking all governmental organizations to work closely to assure a smooth transition for the next administration. He compared the presidency to a relay race, where the baton is passed between runners, saying, “I want to make sure everything goes well, since in the end we are all part of the same team.” As President Obama said, “We all want the best for this country: a feeling of unity, a feeling of inclusion, respect for our institutions, our way of life, our rule of law, and mutual respect.” In other words, it is in the interest of all passengers to wish for the success of the pilot of the plane on which we all board, is it not?
We lean on the shoulders of those who came before us, our personal and professional ancestors. We build on their success, to constantly improve their work. I know that I can count on you to offer the same support and spirit of partnership to Mary Daschbach, who will be Chargée d’Affaires after my departure on January 20th.
I have been to all the regions of the beautiful country, and due to this variety of travel, on each stretch of paved road between Pointe-Noire and Ouesso. This infrastructure is essential for development, so that farmers can transport their harvests to markets and the sick can have easy access to health clinics. Roads generate revenue from tourists who can now visit anywhere. I congratulate, and all Congolese should applaud, the initiative of President Denis Sassou N’Guesso for productive investments like these roads, which help to spur economic growth.
Congo is known for its natural resources. But, the greatest asset of the Congo is its human potential. This is why I insisted on sharing knowledge and experiences, through skills training and exchange programs between our two countries. This country is full of potential. In the Congo, people want the same fundamental things that everyone desires: opportunities to lead a healthy life, in prosperity, and sheltered from danger. Parents want their children to study and flourish. This is why I am a tireless defender of the school food program of the Congo, through which the United States has helped hundreds of thousands of primary students to pursue their studies.
This is also why I encourage constant improvement in the management of the World Funds, so that medicine destined to save lives is effectively delivered as planned. The reinforcement of the delivery of quality social services, which the government promotes, will help Congolese to realize their true potential.
The American astronomer Ms. Vera Rubin noted, “There is no problem in science that can be resolved by a man and not resolved by a woman. Half of the brains in the entire world belong to women.” To also quote the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, “Women hold up half the sky.”
Pluralist societies benefit when their citizens share their talents and unique skills, regardless of their ethnic origin, gender, age, religion, political beliefs, or socioeconomic status. The United States revels in its diversity. It is why our national motto is “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of many, one.” The Congo can also achieve its goal to be an emerging economy by the year 2025 by inclusively building on its rich mosaic of diversity. After all, what would raffia fabric be without colors, designs, and contrasting textures? In the same way, at the local and world-wide level, when our distinct contributions interlace, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I am proud of what we have accomplished together. This year, more Congolese studied in the United States than ever before. The scholarships from the beacon program of President Obama, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) brought a paradigm change. They go in dependence of public service, towards innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Congolese participants repeatedly won prizes for the best business plans amongst their peers from around the continent. I am convinced that these young people will help the Congo to diversify its economy and to create employment possibilities outside of the public sector as the government wishes.
I am inspired by the entrepreneurs, like the young woman who produced ready-to-eat saka-saka, perfectly adapting Congolese traditional culture to modern life. Certain young entrepreneurs and exchange program participants began others, like the young man who invited around eight-hundred (800) other aspiring entrepreneurs to an annual international conference. He independently raised fund and formed others to launch small businesses, offering money to acquire the best ideas and business plans. These small businesses stimulate the local economy and create jobs.
I am profoundly inspired by the incredible Congolese that I met thanks to these programs that we parented and ordinary, everyday encounters. In partnership with the Government of the Congo, we fought for sub-regional peace and security. We reinforced our military cooperation. The annual ACOTA training helps peace keeping forces to protect civilians in the Central African Republic. Civil-military seminars reinforce the cooperation between the military and civilians and their mutual understanding. We encourage peaceful solutions and civic engagement. We congratulate President Sassou for his diplomatic efforts in the CAR and his involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he ceaselessly worked to preserve the peace through an inclusive political agreement. We continue to collaborate on maritime and port security in the Gulf of Guinea.
To reinforce the rule of law and the struggle against transnational threats, we trained lawyers, NGO directors, and law enforcement personnel. We encourage the Congo to pursue the project of the law on human treatment elaborated with the support of the United States that is still in progress. President Sassou deserves congratulations for burning five tons of ivory and for his efforts against poaching. In training park rangers, we allow them to better protect Congo’s national parks. The resulting arrests, and judicial proceedings of poachers, dissuades others. These efforts preserve Congo’s precious biodiversity.
The United States finances conservation efforts through the American NGOs, the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect lowland gorillas and forest elephants which can stimulate ecotourism and economic diversification. The USAID regional program on the environment of central Africa, or CARPE, helps to preserve the second largest tropic forest in the world. We work together with Congolese and international partners to protect the second lung of the planet, to reduce world carbon emissions and the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, work cannot stop! I strongly encourage constant improvements in electoral governance and the “ou Mbongui” dialogue among the Congolese.
As the American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin wisely said, “If we desire a peaceful society, we cannot attain such a society through violence. If we want a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate in the process of constructing this society. If we want a democratic society, democracy must become a means to an end.” Citizens must raise their voices and be hear through peaceful engagement to make a positive change. For example, recently members of the American Congress tried to weaken a supervisory ethics committee. The public reaction was great, and they abandoned the effort. This goes to show that citizen engagement can maintain transparency and the responsibility on the part of the elected. The balance of powers keeps political leaders more honest and more attentive towards their citizens.
This example equally demonstrates the vital role that an independent and responsible press plays in our democracy, where journalists pose difficult questions to politicians and correct misinformation. The constant improvement of the media allows citizens to take advantage of clear decisions and demand accountability from their leaders. I am worried by the worldwide tendency to believe the misinformation on social media. It is dangerous and irresponsible to circulate lies. As Koffi Olomidé sang, “Lokuta ekaya na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier, mpe ekomi.” (Lies take the elevator and the truth takes the stairs, but both get there in the end). We need more truth and less songui-songui!
Today, as on the majority of days, I wear close to my heart a pin with the two flags of our nations. The Congo will indelibly rest in my heart and spirit. In my next appointment at the State Department, I will continue to guide my efforts on central Africa. As the African proverb says, “Nzela na ndako ya moninga eza mosika te.” (The path towards the home of a friend is never far). I can’t wait to see my Congolese friends again in the United States, and maybe return to the Congo myself. Why not?
Thank you so much to my incredible team at the embassy, especially my number one fan, my dear husband John Sullivan. Long live the connections between the United States and the Republic of the Congo.