To Friends and Colleagues and, most especially, to the People of South Sudan:
Happy Fourth of July – American Independence Day. On behalf of the United States, I hope this occasion finds you and your loved ones healthy and well, and perhaps thinking ahead to South Sudan’s own Independence Day on July 9. During a normal year, I would be preparing to welcome many of you to my residence at the American Embassy for our annual national day celebration. But 2020 is not a normal year. So instead of an invitation to an event with red-white-and-blue decorations, flags, anthems, and hot dogs, I would like to offer you a message of solidarity and partnership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of the globe. No country has been affected more than the United States; but perhaps no country is at risk of the pandemic more than South Sudan. I’ve heard from many South Sudanese who have felt the impact; the pandemic has affected the way we come together, the way we work and worship, the way we celebrate and mourn. Although the United States can’t stop this pandemic, I have reminded them that America has always been a partner to the people of South Sudan, especially during times of difficulty and distress. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have committed U.S. expertise and over $47 million in new funding to assist the COVID response in South Sudan. I want to assure you that the United States remains a committed partner.
Even as we all work to confront the challenges of COVID-19, we remain steadfast in our support for the aspirations of the South Sudanese people for a country at peace, for development, and for a democratic society. These national goals should not be delayed or derailed by COVID. The key to success is strong political will from a reform-minded leadership engaged with an active and unfettered civil society. No virus can stop that kind of peace. I am proud of the work we have done together to advance these goals, even as we recognize the many challenges that remain.
It’s important to me that I also discuss the current movement for racial equality in the United States. As a representative of the U.S. government, you might ask me “how can you advocate for human rights in other countries when videos show American police committing abuses?” I honestly believe that the United States can champion human rights and fundamental freedoms abroad because these are the high standards, the universal standards, to which we all aspire. For Americans, and for friends of the United States, this is a difficult moment, but also an opportunity for reform, for progress, and for open discourse and accountable actions to address the challenges we continue to confront. Our willingness to recognize where we have fallen short of our ideals and our determination to do better are what give me hope for the future.
Finally, as we strive to more fully realize our ideal of racial equality, let me also note that 2020 marks the one hundredth anniversary of another civil rights milestone — universal women’s suffrage in the United States – which marked a leap forward in the ongoing struggle for full gender equality.
Friends, this will be my final Fourth of July with you here in Juba. It has been a great honor representing the world’s oldest republic to the world’s youngest and a great pleasure getting to know so many South Sudanese intent on building peace in your country. On July 4th, while practicing social distancing, I’ll be thinking of the people of the United States, the people of South Sudan, and our continuing partnership to build a better future.