Ambassador Stromayer Remarks at U.S. Independence Day Celebration 2019

Ambassador Eric Stromayer delivering his remarks at the 243rd Independence Day reception.

Ambassador Stromayer Remarks
U.S. Independence Day Celebration 2019

Your Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs, representative of the Togolese Government
Your Excellencies the Ministers
Honourable Members of the National Assembly
Eminent representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations
Respectful administrative, religious and traditional authorities
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and thank you for your presence at this celebration of the 243rd anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.
First of all, I would like to thank our sponsors, whose generous financial support made this evening possible. They are:

AGS Moving
Benin Brewery
Deloitte (AAFC)
Diwa International
Ethiopian Airlines
Inter-Con Security
Maersk Line
Mint Hotel
Sarakawa Hotel
Pako Agency Ltd.
Togo Equipment

You can recognize them by the lunar badge they are wearing. Please join me in thanking our sponsors with a round of applause.

Ladies and gentlemen, my first visit to Togo was more than 25 years ago. As a young diplomat I travelled from Ouagadougou to Lomé by car. I was struck by the incredible beauty of the country and the warmth and friendship of the people.

I never thought of becoming the United States ambassador to Togo.  Three months ago, I returned to Togo with my wife Susmita to take up the position. I am happy to tell you that the impressions of my first visit are still valid:

Togo remains one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in Africa.  And today, to mark July 4, I am honoured to be here with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of tonight’s celebration is the moon landing.

Fifty years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon. I was a young boy at the time, and I remember meeting some of the astronauts from NASA, the American space agency, when they returned from their mission to the moon. Tonight, I am pleased to note that among our guests are two NASA researchers working in Togo on a satellite mapping project with a young Togolese inventor, Richard Folly. Let’s give them a round of applause!

Even 50 years later, the moon landing reminds us that anything is possible

through technology and innovation. What is even more remarkable is the way in which technology has become more democratic. The smartphone in my pocket is more powerful than any computer used by NASA to put Neil Armstrong on the moon!

Combining scientific and technological innovations with the private sector must be the foundation of the efforts to be deployed to build the Togo of tomorrow.  And it has already begun.  One of our guests tonight is the young Togolese inventor Ousia Folly-Bebe, who created a 3D printer from electronic waste. We have set up an exhibition where you can observe his printer in action, as well as several other creations by young Togolese inventors.

In order for Togo to unleash its potential, we must find ways to support young people like Ousia.  Togo should then invest in education, enforce the rule of law and promote increased competition in the private sector, particularly in the telecommunications sector. The fruits of the innovators’ work must be protected by a strong legal system that facilitates commercial contracts, protects intellectual property and gives investors confidence.

Over the past few months, I have travelled from Lomé to Dapaong.  I met people from all levels of society in order to better understand the current situation in Togo. In my opinion, Togo has made impressive progress that everyone should be able to recognize and applaud.

Togo is to be congratulated on these gains, which remain fragile. They must continue. Togo faces external and internal threats that could jeopardize the progress achieved. Externally, the country is threatened by the spread of violent extremism in the West African sub-region.  These extremists do not intend to stop at the border.

The United States is proud to stand with Togo in the fight against violent extremism.  The presence here tonight of our Defence Attaché, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Lee and his wife Vanessa, testifies to the growing engagement of the United States with Togo in security cooperation. We believe that the best way to counter this threat in vulnerable areas is an inclusive approach based on listening to the voices and concerns of all members of society, in coordination with the security forces. All Togolese must unite and organize to face this threat.

Last week, in Dapaong, I was with His Excellency the Minister of Security when he announced the creation of committees to fight extremism at the national, prefectoral and communal levels. These bodies will include the active participation of security forces, local authorities, religious leaders, civil society, women’s groups and youth.

The other threat to Togo’s prosperity comes from within. This threat comes from the difficulty of uniting all the citizens of this country around the belief that they have a role to play in the national project to create a more stable, prosperous and democratic Togo, and that they will benefit from the implementation of this project.

Politically, the greatest source of frustration is the idea that the average citizen has no voice in the levels of governance that affect his or her daily life.  The solution to this problem lies in transparent elections and the delegation of some powers to the local level.

In just a few days, Togo will have the opportunity to show the world that it is on the right track towards a strengthened democracy. The local elections scheduled for 30 June will increase the number of elected officials in the country from 92 to over 1500. This is an important step for democracy in Togo.  If the elections are free, fair and transparent, it will send a strong signal to all observers that democracy has taken root in Togo.

On the economic front, I believe that we must do more to support the potential of Togo’s youth by giving them more opportunities to create, innovate and express themselves.  The U.S. government is proud to support Togo’s efforts to create a better future for its youth.

Many of you may know that my first experience on the African continent was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal 36 years ago.  I am proud of the efforts of the Peace Corps in Togo, which has been present in the country for 57 years, to promote development and create economic opportunity for Togolese youth – while renewing friendly ties between our peoples, which very often last a lifetime.

Earlier this year, we officially launched the Millennium Challenge threshold program in Togo. This program will invest $35 million to expand access to the Internet and information and communication technologies, particularly for underserved areas, as well as to clarify land rights.  We hope that by overcoming them, we will contribute to creating an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship.  Our Millennium Challenge team is with us tonight.  Join me in welcoming them to Togo!

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce a new major contribution from the United States government to support Togo’s efforts in the health sector.  USAID has chosen to invest more in AIDS prevention and treatment by allocating more than $18 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program to Togo over the next two years.

Ladies and gentlemen, none of the objectives I have described this evening will be easy to achieve. But to those who doubt that they are possible, I can only quote former President John F. Kennedy, who launched America in its mission to land on the moon by saying, and I quote: “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is difficult, because this objective will allow us to organize and focus the best of our energies and skills, because it is a challenge we are willing to accept, a challenge we do not want to postpone, and a challenge we want to win. »

In the same way that we, the Americans were here in Togo at the time of independence, we are here today, and we will be present alongside our Togolese partners in the future to move forward together towards a more democratic, stable and prosperous Togo.

In closing, I would like to thank all my American and Togolese colleagues at the American Embassy, as well as the staff and management of Hotel Sarakawa, who made this evening possible.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to our Master of Ceremonies, my first advisor Michael DeTar, who will retire in a few weeks after 2 years of service in Togo and 27 years abroad.  Here with all of you, I thank him for his service to the United States and his friendship.

Long live Togo and long live the United States of America!

Thank you for your kind attention.