Town Hall Meeting
Ambassador Dawn M. Liberi’s Town Hall Remarks
September 3, 2013
Thank you for coming to our first Town Hall meeting of the year. At these meetings we provide you updates on the embassy, American citizen services and the security environment in Burundi. It is also a great way to meet other Americans that are living and working here in Burundi and share other types of information that we know is vital to U.S. Citizens overseas -- like the quality of local schools and hospitals, or where to find the best hamburger. This is my first Town Hall meeting and I look forward to meeting regularly with the American Citizen community and to getting to know you better. If there is something else you’d like to talk about, please let us know during the question period later in the program.
Tonight is for introductions so I let me tell you a little about myself. I was honored when President Obama asked me to represent him and the United States as the Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi. Although this is my first time living to Burundi, it is not my first experience in Africa. I have served in five African posts over twenty years, including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and Niger. I even visited Burundi briefly in the 1990s.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of what we do at the Embassy. The goals of the United States Embassy in Burundi are to increase Burundi’s economic growth, to improve the health status of the population, to improve government accountability and transparency, to build capacity to maintain peace and security at home and abroad and to and to assure the welfare and security of U.S. citizens. We seek to achieve those goals in a number of ways. I’d like to describe some of our programs.
With Burundi’s entrance into the Anglophone East African Community, building English language capacity is one of our top priorities. Opening two American Corners and an International Resource Center Library at our new embassy have greatly increased our ability to bring American views and English resources to more people, particularly youth. Through our International Visitors Program, Burundi sent nine participants to the U.S. in 2012, including representatives to both the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and Young African Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Our Education USA program offers education advising, test-prep resources, and outreach to students considering studying in the U.S. Over the last year, two Burundians were selected to participate in the Humphrey Fellowship program for the first time. The embassy is currently working with the Government of Burundi to create an ethnographic museum in the capital through the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation.
In the security sector, we train and equip Burundian troops to serve in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Each year, we provide some $30 million to the Burundi National Defense Forces. Total support to the Burundi National Defense Forces since 2007 is over $100 million. We also send Burundian military for training in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program is building a military HIV testing and treatment clinic in Bujumbura. We also provide significant training and equipment to the Burundian National Police both in anti-terrorism and crisis management.
We are Burundi’s largest bilateral donor. Most of the $52.7 million we provided in 2012 went to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria. In addition, we are working to reduce malnutrition and to increase economic growth. To increase food production and agribusiness development, USAID provided technical assistance to 627 farmer associations working to improve coffee, dairy, and horticulture production. In the area of democracy and governance, USAID is supporting a local organization helping to get identity cards for the minority Twa ethnic group - a move aimed at facilitating greater participation in Burundian society and reducing discrimination. USAID is also assisting Burundi with changes to the electoral code and preparations for the 2015 elections.
The United States is committed to a strong bilateral relationship, as shown by our programs to improve the health of Burundians, our support of Burundi’s efforts to stimulate economic growth, and our defense cooperation. Our new Embassy building in Kigobi symbolizes that enduring relationship.
Our newly arrived Consular Officer, Ulrika Joyce, will outline some of the key services our Embassy in Bujumbura can provide to American Citizens in their time abroad. Ulrika and her husband, Matt Britton, are originally from California, although they were most recently posted at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador. This is Ulrika’s first consular tour and her fifth experience living overseas. Please join me in welcoming her.