Ambassador’s Speech on Independence Day

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen

My fellow Americans

Mrs. Chantal Compaoré, Spouse of His Excellency the President of Faso; His Excellency the Prime Minister, Head of Government and of the Government Delegation; Excellencies Heads of Institutions; Honorable Members of the Cabinet; Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic and Consular Missions; Honorable Representatives of International and Inter-African Organizations; Honorable Governors of Regions; Honorable Members of the National Assembly; General, Chief of Staff of the Armies: Military, Paramilitary, Customary and Religious Leaders, and Dignitaries  present here;

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening! Ramadan Karim to our Muslim sisters and brothers.

Welcome to you all to our Embassy to celebrate together with American citizens the 238th anniversary of the United States of America as a nation. As you know, since I have arrived here, I have had the chance to visit the 13 regions of “the Land of Upright People.”  During these visits as part of the “American Road Show,” my team and I used some of the roads built by the Millennium Challenge Account, including the new Dédougou-Nouna-Malian border road.  I had the honor to accompany the President of Burkina Faso to the Boucle du Mouhoun to attend the inaugural ceremony of the 2,240 hectares of the Di Irrigated Perimeter in the Sourou province. The ‘Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact’ between our two governments expires this July 31, after five years of exemplary partnership. The term “compact” means “commitment,” or a promise in good faith between partners who commit themselves to achieving their joint objectives.  During my visits, I was able to realize that though our “Compact” is ending, our commitment continues.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Our commitment continues for a sustainable economic growth and the opening-up of the country:  I witnessed firsthand the strength and courage of populations facing an encroaching desert and other adversities of nature and gained confidence that U.S. government programs that are working on building the resilience of the most vulnerable populations are already bearing fruits, which will keep growing strong in the coming years. For this reason, I am pleased to announce the forthcoming official launching of a new initiative called “RISE” in English: new USAID resilience programs focused in the areas of water and sanitation, health and nutrition, as well as good governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our commitment continues for the building of human capacity:  I have met American Peace Corps volunteers who are working alongside their Burkinabe counterparts throughout the country.  To date, more than 2,000 volunteers have got the opportunity to serve “the Land of Upright People”.  In return, as I speak, six young Burkinabe are in the United States of America to take part in the “Young African Leaders Initiative” program, an initiative led by President Barack Obama to train and encourage promising young Africans in order to stimulate growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance and consolidate peace and security across the continent.

Ladies and gentlemen, our commitment continues in the area of security:  I spoke with soldiers and gendarmes from Burkina Faso’sGroupement des Forces Antiterroristes who are patrolling the northern border to deter terrorist activity.  United in this cause, we have assisted the Burkinabe in training and equipping three military units vital to regional security.  Since 2007, we have supported the training and equipping of seven peace-keeping Burkinabe battalions in Mali and Darfur.

Finally, our commitment continues in the area of human values and good governance:  I tasted tô (even at Mrs. Chantal Compaoré’s house) and grilled garlic chicken in Ouayigouyaenjoyed watching a wide range of dances and felt the healing qualities of shea butter.  I also appreciated the speeches with a little ribbing (‘parents à plaisanterie’) as when, in the stadium in Tougan, the Mayor welcomed the President of Burkina Faso.  I have seen stadiums of Burkinabe citizens (“filled to the brim” as it is the case tonight) free to express themselves and peacefully support their political parties. We are ready to assist the Burkinabe people, the members of the government or political parties, the members of the civil society and ordinary people, especially young people and women, to build a democracy with strong and stable institutions.  We are in particular ready to support the Independent National Electoral Commission, the CENI, in its work since free, fair and transparent elections is the hallmark of this democratic process.  But, despite all of its accomplishments, Burkina Faso has yet to experience a peaceful and democratic transition. The fear of what is to come, we can all agree, surrounds us. But as President Barack Obama said in Warsaw last month: “There is no change without risk, and no progress without sacrifice.” 

Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight, as on every 4th of July, we citizens of the United States of America, no matter our national origin, political party, age, gender, sexual orientation or economic class, reflect on the meaning of independence, and the strength of our nation as it was founded in 1776 on the principle of “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  This commitment was established in another form of “compact”:  the American Constitution, ratified 225 years ago. Over the years, we have clarified what “equality” means and have adopted 27 amendments to the Constitution.  Many of those amendments expanded individual freedoms. Others limited the power of the government, such as the 22nd Amendment that limited to two the number of presidential terms. Today, we, Americans, stand united in the belief that we are all created equal and endowed with unalienable rights, including taking part in our government.

 Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the experience I have gained over the few months I have been here, I have realized that Burkinabe people possess not only resilience, but also and most importantly, courage and determination to reach this same goal.

Long live Burkina Faso!

 God Bless the United States of America!

Long live cooperation between the American and Burkinabe Peoples!

Thank you very much!