Distinguished Guests and members of the Tshisekedi Administration,
Members of Parliament,
Chiefs of Mission,
International Organization partners,
Members of civil society and press,
And Friends of the United States,
It is an honor for me and my wife Margret to welcome you to America’s House in Kinshasa for our Independence Day celebration.
We are living through historic times in the DRC. The elections on December 30 resulted in the first peaceful transition of power since independence. This is a significant achievement not only for Congo but for the Central African region.
As a member of the opposition becomes president, there is an opportunity to embark on a new path toward peace and prosperity.
A path the Congolese people want and deserve.
A path the United States strongly supports.
A recent poll found that two-third of Congolese are, for the first time in years, optimistic about Congo’s future.
I am optimistic about Congo’s future.
I have seen in my first 6 months here in the DRC that you have all the potential to be a truly great country:
— a dynamic people,
— vast natural wealth and beauty,
— a strategic location in the heart of Africa.
And positive change is happening.
Since taking office in January, President Felix Tshisekedi has opened political space and improved respect for human rights. He has directed security forces to allow opposition party events, prosecuted security force members responsible for excessive use of forces, released political prisoners, closed illegal detention facilities, and prioritized the need for security services to respect the human rights of all Congolese. He has vowed to fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law and hold wrongdoers accountable. He has said no to impunity!
President Tshisekedi has made bringing peace and security to the East and the rest of the Congo a priority. We have seen that regional the DRC’s relations with its neighbors are improving. MONUSCO has an important role to play.
In his first visit outside of Africa, President Tshisekedi visited Washington in April. As a result, the US and DRC launched our Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity
– a Partnership that is working to advance human rights, as we did recently with the visit of Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby and which resulted in a commitment to hold a human rights dialogue later this year
– a Partnership that is working to attract US investment to the DRC
– a Partnership that fights corruption, and we had Deputy Assistant Secretary Heather Merritt visit and discuss how best to make progress as well as commit more resources to this effort
– a Partnership that strengthens our military-to-military ties to assist with the professionalization of the Congolese FARDC, improve human rights, and enhance security. This was advanced just last week with the visit of AFRICOM General Steven deMilliano
– a Partnership that works to improve health, as you are seeing with our support to stop Ebola and the recent visit of our USAID Administrator Mark Green to Goma, Butembo and Katwa.
So, as you can see we have been busy. It required a determined and sustained effort and let me assure you the United States is a determined partner. But, this is an effort that we hope all of you who care so deeply about the Congo will contribute to. Change is difficult everywhere. I see it my own country, so see around our Residence the cut-outs of many individuals who stood up in the face of injustice to make America a more perfect union- Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Mohammad Ali.
You also see some of our great explorers Ameliah Earhart and Neil Armstrong – they represent that no challenge is too tough or frontier too far to be overcome.
So, let me commit to you that in the United States, in our Embassy in Kinshasa you have a friend and partner that wants the best for Congo because what is best for Congo is best for the United States.
A life free of tyranny, free of abuse and corruption. A life if freedom and opportunity – which is what America stands for and what we believe is our common cause with peoples all over the globe but especially here in the Democratic Republic if Congo. Thank you and enjoy – and a special thanks to our organizing committee, volunteers and interns; our sponsors, and entertainers Mohombi, CALI Choir and the Navy trio.