U.S. Embassy Fourth of July Celebration
July 3, 2023
Ambassador David Reimer
Deputy Foreign Minister
Other Ministers and Representatives of the Government,
Fellow Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Traditional and Religious Leaders,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to the U.S. Embassy in Freetown and to our celebration of the 247th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.
Thank you for joining us the evening, as we celebrate an event
–the signing of the Declaration of Independence– that holds deep significance for all those who cherish freedom and democracy.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence marked the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.
It was also the first formal statement by citizens declaring their right to choose their own government and those who would govern.
A fundamental part of democracy for us in the United States, and in other democracies in the world, is the right of citizens to come together to vote for their government. Elections are the cornerstone of every democracy. Elections make a government responsive and accountable to its citizens.
In an earlier life, I worked for a United States Congressman. I can tell you from personal experience that the fact that the Congressman had to face the voters every two years was always in the forefront of what we did as an office. We thought about it every day; it held us accountable. And that is the way it should be.
No two democracies are the same, nor should they be. All have strengths and weaknesses, including ours.
Sierra Leone just went through its own elections. I am left with a number of impressions. The first is of the strength and resiliency of the Sierra Leonean voter. On election day, I drove around Freetown and visited a number of polling centers. Many of the voters I saw had been standing in line patiently, for hours in the hot son, waiting for their chance to vote. I suspect that voters in my country would not have displayed the same perseverance and determination I saw here on Saturday. I am so impressed by the citizenry of Sierra Leone.
Efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone to increase representation by women in the political process should be commended. I would also like to applaud the work of election observers, both domestic and international, for the critical and difficult work they have done in country the past days and weeks.
However, while we applaud the people of Sierra Leone, I think we have to honestly acknowledge the shortfalls that were on display as well. These include logistical problems on voting day, –the reason those people had to stand in line for hours– and the lack of visibility and transparency during the tabulation process.
We call on the Government of Sierra Leone to address these issues. Transparency lends credibility to outcomes in democratic elections and instills confidence in citizens that their voices have been heard.
In saying this I am not saying that our democracy is perfect; it’s not. In the United States we like to say we continue to strive for a “more perfect union,” a phrase coming from the preamble to our Constitution. The process of striving for a more perfect union can be messy and painful. We need to do no more than to think back to our own history that includes the Civil War, and the women’s suffrage and the civil rights movements. But we are striving to get there.
In that regard, we stand with Sierra Leoneans as they too struggle to form a more perfect union. My government and this Embassy is firmly committed to supporting democracy and the aspirations of the Sierra Leonean people.
And so, it is with a spirit of optimism, and hope for our future, that I ask you all to join me in raising a glass to toast the Government and people of Sierra Leone and the shared values and enduring friendship between our two nations.
Thank you, and happy Independence Day!