Ambassador’s Remarks on Presidential Elections,
Tchico Té Teachers College, Guinea-Bissau
November 5, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen, Students
Thank you for coming today to engage with us at this critical time in the history of Guinea-Bissau. This is my 12th trip to the country. It is great to be here again.
I want to speak briefly today about democracy and in particular, elections – the bedrock of a democratic system. Elections allow candidates and parties to outline their vision for the future of a country and compete for the support of its citizens.
And while there is still work to be done, we have seen developments that show that the electoral and democratic process in Guinea-Bissau is working.
The legislative elections in March saw two new parties on opposite sides of the political divide win significant support and seats in the National Assembly. This is a clear sign of a healthy system, and to me it signifies two important things:
First, the will of the voters is now being expressed in the functioning government and legislature.
Secondly, the opposing political forces in Guinea-Bissau are using the political process and the appropriate institutions of the state to decide questions of governing.
This is a huge accomplishment, however fragile it might look at times. It should not be taken lightly in a country with a diverse population, significant political differences, and pressing development challenges.
This accomplishment vindicates something I have believed since I first arrived two years ago and that I have stated many times: Bissau-Guineans can and must come together to solve their problems and move the country forward.
Of course, as friends of Guinea-Bissau, the international community is eager to help.
ECOWAS, the United Nations and others have played a crucial role in offering political support and development aid. But ultimately, the success we have seen is because of the efforts of the Bissau-Guinean people.
I congratulate you on your progress. The next several weeks will be critical to ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.
I want to assure you that the United States has no favorite candidate. We do not support to any particular party or faction. I have met and will continue to meet with all political actors.
Our support is focused on the elections as the critical institution of democracy. We oppose any efforts undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process or hindering free, fair, and transparent elections.
I say this because I believe these presidential elections are a critical step in the democratic journey of Guinea-Bissau.
The peaceful transition of power to a new president –whomever you chose– is a watershed moment for any country, and an important precedent to set here in Guinea-Bissau.
A renewed presidency will be added to a reinvigorated legislature to create a fully functioning government. Together, these three institutions are capable of leading this country forward.
That is not to say there will not be disagreements and conflict. Disagreements are nature of politics. We can and should disagree about issues we feel strongly about.
However, those issues must be settled according to law and by the proper institutions. This will happen in Guinea-Bissau if the arc of progress continues.
And this entire phenomenon of political rebirth will come at a critical time because Guinea-Bissau has many challenges ahead.
I salute the forces of law and order. Law enforcement, empowered by the new government, has many successes this year in the fight against transnational organized crime and narcotics trafficking. That battle must continue.
The Armed Forces have shown an increased level of professionalism and have kept their promise to remain out of politics. I commend them for this critical achievement.
The world is watching Guinea-Bissau, and I can assure you, that your many partners are hoping to engage with a stable government and peaceful country. It is in our mutual interest that Guinea-Bissau succeed.
The United States has never given up on Guinea-Bissau. During the past several years of crisis, we have supported programs in public health, education, security, entrepreneurship, leadership, civic engagement, law enforcement and other areas.
So many good things can be achieved if these elections are held in a free, fair and peaceful manner, accepted by all political forces in the country.
In closing, I appeal to you to please accept this historic opportunity to participate in the upcoming elections. Vote. Let your voice be heard.
Then join together with the next president to move Guinea-Bissau forward. As Ambassador, I assure you the United States will remain your partner in building a bright future for Guinea-Bissau.