2016 Ambassador Palmer July 4 speech

2016 July 4th Celebration 

  • Our Guest of Honor, Honorable Francis Kasaila, MP,

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,

  • Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
  • Speaker of the National Assembly Right Honorable Richard Msowoya, MP
  • Honorable Lazarus Chakwera, MP,  Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Leaders of other Political Parties here present,
  • Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dr. Dalisto Kabambe and all Senior Government officials here present,
  • Your Excellency Madam Tandiwe Dumbutshena Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe and my diplomatic colleagues
  • Honorable Members of Parliament
  • Friends
  • All protocols observed!  If I’ve failed to protocol you – I apologize sincerely and I will protocol you when I observe you!

I’m delighted to welcome you all home to celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States of America. We’re having a slightly toned down celebration this year  – with a smaller guest list, so you’re special – out of respect for the millions of Malawians who are facing a very tough year this year.

Let me start by sincerely thanking the U.S.-affiliated companies who made generous contributions to today’s festivities:

  • Gestetner
  • FedEx Malawi
  • JCDecaux
  • NICO Holdings
  • Monsanto
  • Central Plastics Manufacturers & UNIFAB Textiles
  • Carlsberg
  • Chemicals & Marketing
  • and LongAGRO

Thank you very much indeed for helping make today’s celebration possible and for representing American business principles in Malawi.

We’ve tried to make this as much like a July 4 celebration in the U.S. as we could:  – we sure wouldn’t be wearing suits, but we’d have a proper picnic (and sincere apologies and Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim guests. I’ve packed something for you to take home to break your fasts with); we’d enjoy being outdoors and listening to some good music and there would be some speechifying. ….

Americans gather on the Fourth of July to think about what it means to be American; to remember the sacrifices our forbearers made; to reflect on what people of all different religions, origins and orientations have done to make America great.  And we commit ourselves anew to doing what must be done to make our country strong and prosperous.

President John F. Kennedy famously told Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”  Perhaps less well known is the line that followed: “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Malawi is already a unique beacon of freedom for the rest of Africa, known for the freedom of its press and speech, for having a professional military that upholds the constitutional order, and for its peaceful transitions of office from one party to another.

In addition to this truly admirable political freedom, I hope all gathered here today — Americans from the Embassy, private sector and NGO world; Malawian political, business and cultural leaders,  and others who love Malawi and are rooting for her success — can work together to achieve freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from sickness, and freedom from corruption.

As Malawians work toward these freedoms, please know that America will stand beside you. As you lead the effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of Malawians in need, we will help with food and provide technical assistance to help make ADMARC and your maize markets work better and more transparently.

As you improve the business climate by sticking to your budgets and controlling inflation, we will encourage trade and investment.

As you strive to improve access to electricity and reform your power sector, the Millennium Challenge Compact will continue to provide assistance and help expand your power grid. And President Obama’s Power Africa initiative will help companies invest in power generation in Malawi.

As you increase your commitment to healthcare and education, we will provide malaria drugs, training and construction in your health sector and new education programs to help youngsters improve their reading and help girls be more successful in both upper primary and secondary school.

As you fight corruption and work to overcome bureaucratic inertia and vested interests, we offer technical assistance and a commitment to ensure that no stolen funds are laundered through our banking system. Here, especially, Malawi needs, in the words of His Excellency President Mutharika, “business unusual.” Business unusual because:

–It cannot be that while Malawi’s farmers starve, her leaders in Parliament debate perquisites and allowances rather than legislation governing land, fertilizer and seed that will make the agricultural sector an engine for growth and ensure that Malawi’s people are not hungry year after year.

–It cannot be that vested interests prevent the full utilization of the Ncala Corridor or adoption of other changes that would stimulate economic growth.

—  It cannot be that officials who steal continue in their jobs and continue to deprive poor Malawians access to essential services.  They need to get fired and they need to be brought to justice.

–It cannot be that officials value chasing allowances over achieving results. Change must come and it must come now.  Accountability must be real, not a slogan. Surely, more than 7 million people facing hunger proves the need for that ”business unusual.”

You know I am not a critic or a cynic. The United States believes wholeheartedly in Malawi.

  • We believe that your policymakers will make bold reforms and that Malawi will be lauded for implementing its New Alliance commitments and unleashing the agriculture sector’s productive potential.
  • We believe that the Minister of Health’s efforts to bring officials guilty of theft or malfeasance to justice will work, and that Malawi will continue be recognized internationally for achieving remarkable results in maternal and child health and combatting HIV with humble resources.
  • We even believe that that wind of accountability will spread to other ministries!  Malawi has made noteworthy progress in Public Financial Management in the last six months and there is similar progress on Public Sector Reform in some areas.

The United States believes in Malawi’s success. That’s why U.S. development assistance to Malawi has nearly tripled in the past seven years to over $300 million in 2015.

We believe that if Public Sector Reform and Public Financial Management Reform are fully implemented, if those who have improperly used funds or commodities meant for the public good are held accountable, and if laws are implemented to protect even the most vulnerable from discrimination or exploitation, Malawi’s development gains will be accelerated and Malawi will be an even more robust and prosperous land.

Indeed, just this morning I received a cable from Washington – because Malawi and the United States share not just a commitment to freedom  — we almost share a birthday!  I’ve sent it via formal channels to his Excellency President Mutharika so I think it’s okay if I share it with you all now:

Dear Mr. President:

I offer my sincere congratulations on behalf of the United States of America to you and the Malawian people on the 52nd anniversary of Malawi’s independence on July 6.

Our nations share a deep commitment to the health, education, and security of all Malawians and we look forward to continuing our partnership to achieve these shared goals for years to come. I wish you and the people of Malawi a joyous celebration and a prosperous year ahead on this most important day.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

So please join me in raising a glass to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, to the U.S.-Malawi partnership, and to Malawi’s future prosperity.