Ambassador Speech on Independence Day 2015

Madame Marie Kafando, Spouse of the President of Burkina Faso, President of the Transition,

Excellency the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation , In Charge of Regional Cooperation, Head of the Governmental Delegation,

Honorable Deputies of the National Transitional Council,
Excellences Presidents of Institutions,
Members of Government,
Excellences Chief of Diplomatic and Consular Missions,
Representatives of International and Inter-African organizations,
Military, Paramilitary, Customary and Religious Authorities,
Our sponsors,
My fellow Americans,
Distinguished guests here in your varied levels, ranks, functions – genders, ages, confessions, civil status, home towns, political leanings, and aspirations.

Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Good evening and welcome to our celebration of the 239th  anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. What a difference a little year makes! We have put behind us “Lenga,” “Article 37,” “Stadiums filled recto-verso,” “budget devouring Senate,” “strong institutions versus strong men,”etc … All these expressions that filled the daily lives of normal Burkinabe for months on end and are slowly fading from our memories, and almost makes us nostalgic!  I did say “almost.” Despite everything that has happened since we gathered right here last July, I am pleased that the partnership between the United States and Burkina Faso remains fruitful and growing. This is true in all areas where we work together, particularly in security, health, economic development and good governance. Our partnership in security is strong and continues to strengthen. We have seen an unprecedented growth in this sector to above 36 billion Francs CFA in train and equip in these last five years. Today, with the assistance of the United States, three Burkinabe battalions support UN peacekeeping operations in Mali and Darfur. I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the weeping families of the soldiers of the Badenya Battalion who died in Mali for the cause of peace. As we speak, a group of anti-terrorist experts are on a training mission with the 25th Parachutist Commando Regiment. We also have American logistic support experts training with the Burkinabe counterparts. In the health sector, the United States and Burkina Faso can celebrate the fact that since the start of our Anti-Malaria program in 2009, Burkina Faso has recorded a 40% reduction in deaths attributed to this scourge. Starting this year, the government of the United States will increase its investment in the fight against Malaria to 7 billion Francs CFA. In addition, it is clear that the Government of Burkina Faso is committed to improving its results in health. With that in mind, I have the pleasure to announce that Burkina Faso has been designated as one of the 17 priority countries in the world to receive assistance within the Global Health Security Agenda.

Over 15.5 billion Francs CFA will be invested to prepare Burkina Faso to respond to potential risks of infectious diseases. As well, next month experts from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, will join our Embassy staff to build capacity within the Ministry of Health. In the area of economic growth, we will invest more than 55 billion Francs CFA between now and 2017 in the Resilience in the Sahel program RISE. We are also pleased to support the travel of four bright entrepreneurs from this country, present here this evening, to the next World Economic Summit, that will be held this month in Nairobi.

Despite the uncertainty and the economic slowdown seen last year, American private sector interest in Burkina Faso is expanding. I hope you had a chance to discover some of the products and services that the United States offers when you visited the trade show. However, our present priority is to partner with the transitional government in support of the elections. With the sum of 1.5 billion Francs CFA, we support the efforts of the CENI, political parties and civil society to promote a peaceful electoral environment. Our support for good governance will continue following the elections. I have the pleasure to announce today a new program to promote democratic accountability and oversight, with an initial investment of about 500 million Francs CFA, with the goal of creating a strong and democratic National Assembly.

Honored guests,
On this 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the American law that allowed the African-American population to fully exercise their right to vote, and on this 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, allow me to share with you some thoughts on the importance of inclusion. Inclusion is to recognize the contributions of persons with physical handicaps. These brothers and sisters having infinite potential should not be shunned, because as Miss Tani so eloquently explained to us, no one can succeed without people to support us. Inclusion is to support growing opportunity for women. The integration of women into the security forces of Burkina Faso is one of the most visible examples of progress toward equality of the sexes, which would have been rare, or even impossible a decade ago. During an exchange program with officer cadets in Po last month, our American military cadets met 20 new sisters in arms in their first year of training as officers. I hail these pioneers represented this evening by women in the Burkina Faso Armed Forces. Speaking of extraordinary women, the Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan will be held tomorrow. I ask the “Naabas” to convene a “Wak” commission to guarantee the victory for our American women. Inclusion is necessary for sustainable and equitable economic growth. Mrs. Minata Kone, here this evening, who produces cashews for export to the United States, is one great example of success and the dynamism of businesswomen and the potential they bring to move this country forward.

Honored guests,
Inclusion must also be part of a political process that puts everyone on an equal footing and given the same opportunity. I remain certain that the greatest strength of a democracy comes from the ability of each voter to vote for the candidate of his choice. Any action that goes toward providing this possibility for all citizens strengthens democracy and social cohesion. As you move closer to you historic elections this year, I encourage non-violence, respect for laws and procedures, and that all accept the results of the election. Finally, inclusion also requires promoting the well-being and advancement of rural populations.  The efforts of Mrs. Kone, Miss Tani and many others among your are a testament to the fact that good things happen outside the capital. These Burkinabe have shown enormous ingenuity to adapt to their changes in their environment and to the challenges they face from climate change. During my visits on the 13 regions, I have had long discussions with people, and have no doubt about their ability to think independently. I reject the arrogant notion that those who live “in the bush or in the sticks” do not know what is in their best interests, or that their votes can be bought with T-shirts, or gasoline, or that the rural populations are easily manipulated, as we hear too often in Ouagadougou. From what I have seen during my travels inside the country, I believe the opposite.  They are more than you think up to date on the politics and subjects that interest them or impact them directly. No one knows this better than our Peace Corps Volunteers. With over 100 volunteers in 12 regions, we are proud that they speak local languages, and that that they are hardy promoters of education, health and economic development.

Representatives of the Transitional Government, Burkinabe people: I congratulate you for what you have done so far to bring Burkina Faso into the ranks of democratic countries. Despite the foreseen obstacles, the economic difficulties and the tremendous social challenges, I believe the entire world will remember that the Burkinabe people took their destiny in their own hands against all odds. It is now up to you to channel and realize this hope brought about by the spread of patriotism, the thirst for democracy and the desire for a better future for your youth. As President Obama said early this year:  “Looking to the future instead of the past …. that’s what makes us exceptional.  That’s what keeps us strong.” Or, in other words, “Nothing will be the same again.” I must stress that this transition must succeed. Its success will be an historic moment for your country and all of Africa. As Burkina Faso heads towards Presidential and legislative elections next October, our hope is that the entire nation embraces its diversity and encourages an open dialogue and equal participation of all its citizens. Let these elections be an expression of tolerance, of joy, of tolerance and an unprecedented hope throughout Africa and applauded by the entire world.

Long Live Burkina Faso,

May God Bless the United States of America,

Long Live the Friendship and Cooperation between our two peoples.

Thank you.