Tuesday, July 5, 2016

OP-ED BY U.S. AMBASSADOR TO TANZANIA MARK B. CHILDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF U.S. INDEPENDENCE DAY

 As the United States celebrates the 240th anniversary of our Independence, I am reminded that America, like Tanzania, strives for peace, stability and economic growth for all its citizens. On the 4th of July, we celebrate our Constitution, a cherished document that guarantees individual rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press. We are proud of our representative democracy, which has for centuries developed the necessary checks and balances to safeguard peace and prosperity for all our nation’s citizens.

There is a spirited campaign underway to elect the next President of the United States of America. The next U.S. President will have significant power to set policy, but he or she will also be working within a system of checks and balances. These include a strong judiciary, an active two-party legislative branch, and an open press that brings information and ideas to the American people. In this context, I am mindful when Tanzanian voices raise concerns about the closing of democratic space, whether that be the banning of political rallies or restrictions to televising the sessions of Parliament. I believe the fight against corruption – an admirable goal of great importance to both our nations – need not be waged at the peril of debate, dissent, or free speech. In fact, it is this very creative tension between competing ideas that makes democracies stable, prosperous, and representative of the people.

Like my predecessors before me, I support Tanzania’s quest for peace and prosperity. The American people are proud of our long and enduring friendship with the people of Tanzania and, as the largest bilateral development partner, of our continued investment in many areas, including health, education, agriculture, and economic growth. Our shared goals and friendship underscore the similarities in our two nations’ current public discussions about appropriate checks and balances among the three branches of government, and the vital importance of a free press that can accurately report the actions of government to the citizenry. Indeed, open debate over the government’s ability to faithfully represent the needs of its citizens and safeguard their peace and prosperity led my country to declare its independence 240 years ago. Americans struggled then, and we continue to struggle today, through this often fiery dialogue in society and politics. I believe, for the United States and all healthy democracies, we are all the stronger for it.

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