Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Merritt
Good evening and Happy Independence Day!
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
My fellow Americans,
It is a pleasure to be here with you to commemorate the 238th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. Last May, many of you were here as we commemorated 20 years of diplomatic relations between Angola and the United States.
I must say, so very much has happened during the span of one year and I am proud to say we have taken relations between our two countries to even higher levels.
Already in 2014, we have witnessed some extraordinary growth in our partnership. In particular, our relationship has seen exciting activity in the business, political, and security realms.
In June, the President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States met with President dos Santos in Luanda. During that visit, Fred Hochberg announced one billion dollars in loan guarantees for major projects in two key areas: transportation and energy. The development of locomotives and power production generated by General Electric are two signs of our deepening economic ties. This announcement followed previous successful deals with TAAG Airline to purchase three U.S.-produced Boeing 777s – also with loan guarantees from the Ex-Im Bank. And just two weeks ago the newest Boeing 777, “Ebo,” joined the TAAG fleet of airplane here in Luanda.
This demonstrates that the United States and Angola are partnering for the development and betterment of Angola. In doing so, we are working to further diversify the economy and to expand America’s business interests here beyond the long-established and valuable petroleum industry. The development of jobs in both our countries, the diversification of business relationships, and the creation of durable economic ties are all common interests that we share.
Also during this year the Embassy opened a Foreign Agricultural Service office and announced the opening of a Foreign Commercial Service office later this year. These are two concert signs that the United States is committed to increasing business ties with Angola, and we will continue to support the efforts of the United States Angola Chamber of Commerce to do the same.
In February, the Angolan Air Force hosted an historic week-long U.S. Air Force Africa Partnership Flight with military representatives from Angola, Zambia, South Africa, and the United States. This exchange of technical expertise represented an important turning point in cooperation between our two nations. It also highlights Angola’s capacity to respond to humanitarian crises in the region and Angola’s leading role in promoting regional peace and security.
President dos Santos and Foreign Minister Chikoti, as respected statesmen, are playing vital roles in the delicate peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the entire Great Lakes region. In addition to the Great Lakes region, we count on Angola as an influential partner to help guarantee security on the high seas, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.
We look forward to continuing to work with the government and military of Angola in pursuing a lasting peace in the region so that the people living in southern and central Africa and the Atlantic coast can enjoy the security and prosperity they so richly deserve.
I would be remiss if I did not make mention today of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Angola, in May. I was reminded that his visit was one in a long series of Secretaries of State to visit Angola, going back to William Christopher, and including Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Hilary Clinton. Angola has long been on the minds of top leaders in Washington – and today is no exception. As you know, President Obama has invited President dos Santos and the Heads of State from sub-Saharan Africa to a first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to take place in Washington in August. The summit is designed to stimulate the next generation of African leaders and business people to look to the opportunities for partnering for the future of Africa and the United States. We look forward to Angola’s presence and participation in this historic dialogue.
We are very proud that a group of outstanding young Angolans are currently studying at prominent American universities as part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders (YALI) Washington Fellowship program – along with 500 young leaders from across Africa. They are studying Public Management, Civic Leadership, and Business and Entrepreneurship. These inspirational Angolans include a nuclear physicist, a high-tech guru, a Ministry of Health nurse and educator, a child therapist and volunteer coordinator who works with orphans, an inspiring lawyer committed to combating corruption, and a women’s rights advocate. Adelina, Isabel, Rebecca, Francisco, Akilius, and Dizando represent the powerful potential and possibilities found in the young generation of Angolans.
During the coming year we look forward to continuing our important cooperation with the government of Angola, non-government organizations, and the health sector in combating AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are all here at the Embassy to help Angolans address critical health issues.
Finally, in closing, I want to acknowledge that President Obama’s new Ambassador to the Republic of Angola, Helen La Lime, arrived in country a few weeks ago. We at the Embassy are very excited and happy to have her here with us as she begins her tenure. We are currently awaiting her credentialing ceremony with President dos Santos. Once this takes place, Ambassador La Lime will be able to take her public role and begin her formal work in Angola.
As is customary at national day celebrations, I would like to say a few words in English to the Americans you are with us, if you don’t mind. While I am doing so, you may wish to fill your glass so we can make a toast afterwards.
On this 4th of July, I want to say a few words to the Americans who have joined us tonight. As Americans living and working in Angola I want to remind you that the United States Embassy is YOUR Embassy. We are here to protect the interests and look out for the safety of American citizens living abroad. Our Consular section is here for your passport needs and, heaven forbid, in case of personal emergency. We also have a very active Overseas Advisory Council that meets regularly to share important security information with members and with the Embassy’s Regional Security Office. I also made mention in my remarks that President Obama’s new Ambassador to the Republic of Angola, Helen La Lime, arrived in country a few weeks ago. We at the Embassy are very excited and happy to have her here with us as she begins her tenure. We are currently awaiting her credentialing ceremony with President dos Santos. Once this takes place, Ambassador La Lime will be able to take her public role and begin her formal work in Angola.
And now in the name of the Embassy community, I want to wish you a happy Independence Day. As an American abroad during special days like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving, it is always nice to share the day with other Americans who appreciate the meaning and spirit of the day. So, enjoy tonight’s reception and the great music of our U.S. Navy band, Top Side, stationed in Italy.
Let’s give them a round of applause!
Finally, thank you very much for being here tonight.
Now we will have a toast….
And in closing, if you would please join me, I would like to make a toast. . .
(Champaign flute in hand)
To the United States of America and President Barack Obama
To the Republic of Angola and President Eduardo Jose dos Santos
Happy Independence Day!