Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Farewell to the People of Zimbabwe

The following op-ed, with a summary of my July 4th reception remarks, was run in the government's state-run newspaper today:  Read more . . .

This isn’t goodbye, even as I leave PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 July 2012 11:52

Yesterday, we celebrated American Independence Day — the most important, uniquely American holiday on our calendar. Americans are very patriotic. Whether we are newly-minted Americans who immigrated last year or our forebears arrived on the Mayflower or the Amistad, all of us have a strong belief in the concept and best values of the United States.

Through our long and sometimes turbulent history as the world’s first modern constitutional democracy, Americans as a people have continuously pushed — internally and externally — for what we believe to be the best of human society: justice, fairness, education, innovation and well-being for all.
It has not always been a clear or easy path, and we don’t always meet our own or others’ expectations and hopes – but we don’t give up.
On July 4, we celebrate these two very American traits: aspiring for the best lives for all people, and never giving up in the face of adversity. 
I am proud to say that I believe the average Zimbabwean shares these characteristics with Americans. 
During my time here, I have seen some strong partnerships develop between our peoples, based on the desire to create better, more stable lives in the face of great adversity.
In addition to this, I have witnessed and tried to encourage productive, more respectful engagement between our governments. These are a few key examples of US-Zimbabwean partnership during my time here:
  • In the area of health, we have built strong ties.
Through the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief or PEPFAR, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to support 80 000 HIV+ Zimbabweans on anti-retroviral treatment.
I am very proud to say that this number will increase in 2012 to a total of 140 000 patients on ARVs.
Our plan is to add another 40 000 new patients in 2013.
In addition to this, we are working closely on the fight against malaria and other communicable diseases, as well as building the management skills of health professionals.
  • With rapid growth in Zimbabwe’s economy for the last three years, my embassy has seen an accelerated pace of inquiries from US businesses interested in exploring new opportunities here.
At the October 2011 “Doing Business in Zimbabwe” forum in Washington, DC, I made a point of saying, “Zimbabwe is open for business,” and I encouraged US companies to take a closer look.
Many businesspeople there believed that US sanctions prevented trade with Zimbabwe. This is not the case, and my team here has been proactive in reaching out to
US firms to clarify misperceptions about our policies.
Frequently these simple clarifications — an e-mail to the US firm or a new webpage dispelling the myths about our sanctions — are all that is needed to make the sale happen.
  • Finally, in the area of democratic reforms and the protection of human rights, I am proud to have spoken loudly and strongly against violence and intimidation.
I am equally committed to trumpeting the critical need for credible, transparent institutions. A stable, democratic nation is based on institutions, not individuals. 
With a strong, rights-focused constitution and legal structure, government representatives — both elected and civil servants — have a duty to promote the public good in a manner that benefits all of the people.
On June 14, President Obama signed a Presidential Policy Directive committing the United States to a forward-looking strategy of working closely with our African partners to advance prosperity, security, and dignity on the continent.
Developed with input from Africans and Americans in government and civil society, the new “US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa” sets forth four strategic objectives for US engagement in Africa, namely; strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development.
These four pillars are mutual areas of interest and concern for the US and Zimbabwe.
I feel confident today that we will continue to advance them by working in partnership in the years to come.
This was my last official July 4th celebration in Zimbabwe. My regular diplomatic assignment is coming to an end and my wife Myung and I are preparing to leave.
I will be leaving not only Zimbabwe, but also my career as a servant of the American people. After 30 years as a diplomat, preceded by 20 years as a soldier, it is time for me to retire and to devote most of my energy to the great intellectual love of my life: writing.
I have to note for the record: Retirement is not an entirely accurate description of our plans, because it implies inactivity.
I plan to remain actively involved in international affairs, as well as domestic affairs in the US, but now I will do this as a private citizen for the first time in 50 years.
So it may be accurate to say, as a friend of mine who recently retired as CEO of a company in Zimbabwe said, “I’m not really retiring — I’m just moving to new mountains to climb.”

  • Charles Ray is US Ambassador to Zimbabwe

Ambassador Charles Ray
Charles Ray is a writer of a number of works of fiction, including the popular Al Pennyback mystery series, and is a featured travel writer for Yahoo! Voices. He is also Diplomatic Editor for Asnycnow Radio.