Town Hall Meeting
Ambassador Dawn M. Liberi’s Town Hall Remarks
February 12, 2014
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, hospitals, and restaurants. This is my second 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.
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 in Burundi, I did visit briefly in the 1990s. And this is certainly not my first experience in Africa – I have served in five African posts over twenty years, including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and Niger.
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 assure the welfare and security of U.S. citizens. We seek to achieve those goals in a number of ways and I’d like to describe some of what we have been working on since our last Town Hall meeting.
I am delighted to announce that as of Febuary 4, 2014, I am accredited as the United States Ambassador to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. The ICGLR is an effective regional institution and a good partner for the United States. I have worked with the ICGLR over the past year and have seen firsthand how this regional body can bring groups together and find a road to peace. My hope is that this accreditation will strengthen the institution’s capacity and ability to continue its critical role throughout the region.
Now more than ever, the region needs an intergovernmental body to address issues of regional concern, such as regional elections, conflict minerals, sexual violence, and crisis in the DRC. We have taken an important step to deepen the partnership between the United States and the ICGLR. The accreditation will expand the cooperation between us and ensure high-level engagement for years to come.
The U.S. recently established a Status of Forces Agreement with the government of Burundi. The SOFA is a significant step forward in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Burundi. The designation of Burundi as a priority country for the establishment of a SOFA by both the Department of State and the Department of Defense did not happen by chance. It is because Burundi demonstrated an extraordinary willingness and a rising ability to respond to neighbors in distress.
For the last several years, the U.S. has partnered with the Burundian National Defense Force (FDN), via a robust portfolio of security cooperation, to counter violent extremism in the region. Beginning with Burundi’s engagement in the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) the Department of State has provided training and equipment to support the FDN in its efforts to rid Somalia of the scourge of al Shabaab. The African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program provides peacekeeping training to six battalions per year. We would like to continue this partnership in 2014 with training focused on developing logistics capabilities and this agreement will help us to do that. The U.S. Government’s total investment in the security sector for 2014 is $63 million.
More recently, Burundi responded to calls from the African Union and the international community to provide peacekeepers to stem the violence that threatened to engulf the Central African Republic. The U.S. military provided transportation to deploy the Burundian peacekeeping battalion to CAR. This unprecedented mission demonstrated the power of our partnership to provide a stabilizing force to a country in chaos.
With this level of cooperation, we felt it an opportune moment to formalize the framework of our partnership. It is also an occasion to commemorate what we have accomplished together and to build a foundation upon which we can develop our partnership into the future.
It is with great pleasure that I share with you the renewal and expansion of the United States’ technical assistance to the Central Bank of Burundi (BRB) in 2014. This assistance is made possible and implemented through the United States’ Department of the Treasury Office of Technical Assistance, or OTA.
OTA began its technical assistance program with the BRB in March 2013. For 2014, OTA has approved funding for six technical assistance programs in Burundi, including three continued and three new programs. The three continued programs address Financial Stability, Monetary Policy, and Automated Payment Systems. The new programs will provide assistance in International Financial Reporting Standards, Risk-Based Banking Supervision, and Deposit Insurance. The OTA programs have been structured according to advisor missions assessing the BRB’s needs, as well as BRB special requests for specific technical assistance. The total estimated monetary value for this technical assistance in 2014 is $450,000 U.S. dollars.
This has been a strong and productive partnership, with an impressive central bank staff. The sum and scope of work of these programs illustrates the United States’ commitment to supporting sustained economic growth in Burundi. Our successful partnership with the BRB through these technical assistance programs is a strong example of how the U.S. government can support the government of Burundi in achieving this goal.
The final program that I would like to share with you is our USAID Integrated Health Project. This December, a five year $41 million dollar integrated health project was awarded to FHI 360. The project will be implemented in four provinces: Kayanza, Karusi, Kirundo, and Muyinga. The project will focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment; malaria prevention and treatment; family planning and reproductive health services; comprehensive pregnancy and delivery services; and integrated management of newborn and child illness. An official launch of the project is planned for later this month. The USAID total budget for development assistance programs for 2014 is about $50 million.
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 Kigobe symbolizes that enduring relationship.
U.S. Town Hall Meeting: February 12, 2014
United States Citizens gathered at Ambassador Dawn Liberi's residence on the evening of February 12, 2014 for a U.S. citizens' town hall meeting. Ambassador Liberi made remarks, with a focus on U.S. Embassy programs and priorities. The Regional Security Officer made remarks on the local security environment and shared recommendations for personal security precautions. The Consular Section Chief spoke about the consular services that are available to U.S. Citizens. After the meeting, U.S. Embassy staff registered citizens to vote at the American Citizens Services table.