Embassy Celebrates U.S. Independence Day!

July 4, 2018 Lilongwe

  • Guest of Honor, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Bright Msaka,
  • Speaker of the National Assembly Right Honorable Richard Msowoya,
  • His Lordship Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and members of the bench
  • Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe and other Cabinet members here present,
  • Honorable Lazarus Chakwera Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Leaders of other Political Parties here present,
  • The Chief Secretary to the Government Justice Lloyd Muhara and all Senior Government officials here present,
  • His Excellency Marchel Germann, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of European Union and diplomatic colleagues here present
  • Honorable Members of Parliament
  • His Worship Dr. Desmond Bikoko, Mayor of Lilongwe

Thank you for joining us all today as we celebrate America’s 242nd birthday!  I am honored that so many of you have taken time out of your busy schedules to help us mark this occasion.

The theme for today’s celebration is a drive along Route 66, the iconic American highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, along which millions of American migrated west in the early part of the last century.  Memorialized in song, on TV and in literature, including John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 reflected the American belief in a road to a better life.  Decommissioned many years ago, Americans remember Route 66 as a thread that stitched together communities along its path, helping a growing nation mature into a unified whole.

As I begin, I want to make sure to thank the sponsors of today’s event for their generosity.  While you’re enjoying the foods we eat along the route of the iconic Route 66, I hope you’ll join me in thanking

  • Lonagro Malawi Ltd
  • Monsanto Malawi Ltd
  • Ricotec, Gestetner
  • Nico Holdings
  • Castel Malawi/Coca-Cola
  • Charles Stewart Day Old Chicks
  • Unifab Textiles
  • Mike Appel and Gatto Ltd
  • CFAO Malawi Ltd

for their financial and in-kind contributions.  I also want to thank Eleanor Nkosi and Elizabeth Al Sulaimani and a big team from the Embassy Management Section who’ve been working for weeks to bring things together.

Because on the Fourth of July Americans celebrate their heroes, I’d like to say a few words to my fellow Americans here today and around Malawi.  It has been an honor for me to serve as your ambassador for the last three and half years.  From the early part of the last century and continuing today, from Chitipa to Nsanje, I am so proud of the work American citizens have done, side-by-side with their Malawian friends, to build a brighter future for Malawi. Your work in schools, hospitals, churches, companies, and NGOs across the country truly embodies the best of America.  Sadly, just this past weekend we learned of the passing of one such exemplary American citizen, Mr. Dick Day, who spent the last 25 years of his life dedicated to empowering Malawians in and around Zomba to build a brighter future for themselves.  I salute Dick Day and all other American citizens like Dick for their outstanding passion and commitment to Malawi’s development.

I’d also like to call out some great Americans at the Embassy.  As E.J. and Holly Monster, Nick Novak, and Kenn Dupree leave Malawi, I hope you’ll have a chance to thank them for their work to ensure Embassy operations were run with integrity, to protect American citizens, to expand our outreach to Malawi’s dynamic youth, and to broaden U.S.-Malawi trade and investment ties.

I’d also like to celebrate some Malawian heroes like:

  • Governor of the Reserve Bank Dalitso Kabambe and Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, who have captained President Mutharika’s efforts to maintain macro-economic stability, reducing Malawi’s inflation rate and stabilizing the kwacha;
  • Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi, Secretary for Health Dan Namarika and Department of HIV and AIDS Director Rose Nyirenda, whose work, I’m confident, will make Malawi one of the first countries in the world to control the HIV epidemic;
  • Bonface Massah, National Coordinator for Malawi’s Association of People with Albinism, who is currently in the United States on our Young African Leaders Initiative;
  • Traditional Leaders like Paramount Chiefs Kyungu and Gomani and Senior Chiefs Kachindamoto and Kuntaja, who, as gatekeepers of Malawi’s culture, are working to end cultural practices that harm Malawi’s girls and ensure that girls – and boys – get the education they need to make Malawi great;
  • Reynick Matemba, who is courageously leading an independent Anti-Corruption Bureau, fighting to ensure that Malawian taxpayers get the best value for their kwacha; and
  • MEC Chairman Jane Ansah and the MEC Commissioners who, using lessons learned from past elections and new technologies like the National ID card, are leading Malawi to peaceful, well-run elections next year. I hope that Malawi’s political leaders will support these efforts and sign – and enforce – a no violence pledge.   Malawi’s democracy is crucial to its international reputation and future development and Malawian patriots, like their counterparts in America, must work every day to ensure its continuation.

That’s exactly the kind of thing on which Americans reflect on the Fourth of July.  Indeed, Thomas Jefferson wrote on July 4, 1776, “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

This July 4 is particularly poignant for me as it will be my last in Malawi. If you will allow me, I’ll share a few thoughts on the work the United States has done in four key areas since my first Fourth here in 2015, what we’ve helped Malawi accomplish and what still needs work:

  • First, I’m elated that, with help from U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Malawi is poised be one of the first countries in the world to achieve HIV epidemic control. What once seemed impossible is now possible and once again, Malawi stands to be an example to the world for its HIV response.

The work that Malawi will do under its soon (but not soon enough!)-to-be-launched Adolescent Girls and Young Women Strategy, only the second multi-sectoral AGYW Strategy in the world, will be critical to this ultimate goal – and, frankly, to all of Malawi’s other development goals.  I hope to sign an MOU with you, Minister Msaka, and three other of your Cabinet colleagues next week committing the United States to major investments in new secondary school construction and the Government of Malawi to the waiver of secondary school tuition and curriculum improvements to keep students HIV-free.

  • I am proud of our partnership with the Malawi Defense Force and of the outsize role the MDF plays in international peacekeeping and regional security. I salute the MDF’s steadfast allegiance to Malawi’s Constitution and MDF Commander “Spoon” Phiri’s public call for troops to remain apolitical in the execution of their duties – especially as Malawi gears up for elections.
  • I’m proud that my government helped Malawi respond to the El Niño drought and prevent 6.7 million food insecure from going hungry. I commend Parliament’s passage of an amended Control of Goods Act and the government’s new Resiliency Strategy and Agriculture, Irrigation and Seed polices.  But to ensure that Malawi never again faces such hunger, to really break the cycle of food insecurity, Malawi needs to take urgent action to make ADMARC operations more transparent, pass new Seed and Fertilizer Acts to modernize agriculture, and continue to reform of the Farm Input Subsidy Program.  If the government undertakes these reforms, the United States and other development partners stand ready to help and even more importantly, you’ll see additional private investment in this key sector.
  • If I’m honest, I’m sad that I’ve had so few opportunities to preside over contract signings for U.S. trade and investment in Malawi. Some of the agriculture reforms I noted will create better opportunities for this.  That……and power.

I’m very proud that the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Compact with Malawi has increased the number of customers connected to the electricity grid and improved the capacity of Malawi’s transmission lines.  We’re going to be cutting a lot of ribbons on new sub-stations before the Compact ends on September 20.  But Compact investments were meant to spur investment in new generation so I hope Malawi will quickly – and using proper procurement procedures – sign Power Purchase Agreements to get power on line and signal to the world that Malawi is open for business.  It’s also critical that Malawi implement a cost reflective electricity tariff and ensure ESCOM remain creditworthy and free from manipulation.   If, but only if, these things happen, Malawi will be eligible for a new Compact.

  • Finally, I leave wanting to do more to support Public Sector Reform and hoping that it will accelerate. Business as usual – for example, poor policy choices that benefit traders at the expense of small farmers or deals that benefit political insiders rather than providing essential services to Malawi’s poor – will rob Malawi’s children and grandchildren of the brighter future they so deserve.  Only when Malawian citizens demand greater transparency and accountability and leaders take brave actions to expose and prosecute cases of corruption will Malawi truly prosper.

I have encountered so many hard-working and committed Americans and Malawians, particularly the dynamic change-makers participating in the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative, over the last three and a half years.  You give me real hope for the future.  I do believe, now more than ever, that Malawi is a nation of promise.  As President Mutharika likes to say:  “Malawi is a great nation in a small country.”  The United States will stand with Malawi to help it fulfill its great promise.

I’m now a little Malawian, so I will say “With these few remarks, it is my singular honor to raise a glass to His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, to the people of the Republic of Malawi, and to the enduring friendship of the United States and Malawi.”