Partnerships Toward ProsperityKaren P. Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
April 24, 2006
The United States values our growing, dynamic partnership with the nations of Africa . I have just come from one milestone in that partnership, the inauguration of the new democratically elected President of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi. Despite the previous regime's efforts to stall and delay the elections, the People of Benin insisted on their right to vote. They chose an economist and political newcomer who represents a new generation of leaders for Africa, committed to good governance and economic reforms that deliver greater opportunity for the people of Benin.
Just two months ago, the people of Liberia took a similar step, electing economist Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as their president and Africa 's first woman head of state. First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer were honored to attend President Johnson's inauguration to show America 's strong support for the triumph of democracy after years of civil war in Liberia.
Across the continent of Africa, this is a time of new hope and great promise for advancing democracy and fostering opportunity. This is especially evident here in South Africa where citizens have elected President Mbeki and benefited from his strong leadership.
The vibrant partnership between the U.S. and South Africa began long ago during your own struggle against racism and extremism in the form of apartheid. Today, South Africa 's strong democratic government is an inspiration to fellow African states and a force for peace and stability throughout Africa. We have made significant progress since June of 2005 on realizing President Bush and President Mbeki's shared vision to extend the benefits of economic development, political freedom and innovation, and to support advances in health care and quality of life to our own citizens and those in other African partner nations.
We also can do more together internationally, working to end conflicts and nurture seeds of peace in places like Sudan , Somalia, northern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo while working to open political space in repressive societies like Zimbabwe.
Throughout America and Africa, this Palm Sunday weekend Christians will remember Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, and prepare for the sorrow of Good Friday and the joy of Easter. Later this week, Muslims will celebrate Mahlud commemorating the birth of the Prophet Mohamed. Jewish families will gather for Seder dinner as they celebrate and recall their ancestors' liberation from slavery and their formation as a people. South Africa sets an example for embracing people of these three and other faiths. The importance of faith, and respect for religious freedom and tolerance are among the many values that bind our nations, and remind us that despite our differences, we are all part of a common human family.
President Bush believes every life matters and every person counts, which is why he launched the President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: the largest health initiative against a single disease in the world's history. The United States has worked in partnership with the South African government, local officials, and faith and community based organizations to establish the program in South Africa, which has more infected adults than any other nation. The United States is supporting antiretroviral treatment for 93,000 South Africans, and supporting education and prevention programs as well as support care for thousands more. Americans support this program because we are a compassionate nation that believes we have a responsibility to help others. Infectious diseases, like HIV and AIDS, transcend religion, politics, and national boundaries. As Nelson Mandela famously commented, “We all have AIDS.” Combating AIDS is a shared struggle for all the world's people.
President Bush and the people of America are also committed to the safety and empowerment of women. The Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative is intended to protect African women and girls by strengthening the capacity of the legal system to ensure justice for women and punish those who commit crimes against them. In addition, South Africans are leading the way with innovative support programs including the Thuthuzela Centres, whose integrated approach to rape care is one of respect, comfort, and restoring dignity for victims of sexual violence. Americans support this program and hope to work in partnership with South African health workers and policy makers, as you continue to develop home-grown approaches that can have a positive ripple effect throughout Africa.
Americans cherish our nation's friendship with South Africa as we work together to improve the lives of all our citizens. May the bonds between our two countries grow deeper and stronger, and may God bless America and Africa.