Remarks at Embassy Addis Ababa and the U.S. Mission to the African Union

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Patricia M. Haslach
   Ambassador to Ethiopia
Embassy Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
May 1, 2014

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Salam’no. I’d like to welcome you all today. Thanks for coming in.

We’d like to welcome Secretary Kerry back to our Embassy here. Secretary, about a week ago we had an awards ceremony here for all of our employees and that we were all honored by all the great work that everyone here does and now we’re doubly honored to have you here with us today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Wow. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you very much Ambassador Haslach. Thank you for all that you do.

I remember very well presenting the award to the marathon winner, Desisa, when I was here last time and he, rather remarkably, gave his marathon medal to me to take back to Boston, and it was really an enormous gesture of friendship and very, very well received. Everybody back in Boston was very excited.

This year, nothing negative to anybody in Ethiopia, but an American won the Boston Marathon. (Applause.) So, anyway. Pretty remarkable, though I might add of Kenyan descent. So I don’t know what it is. We’ve got to, I think, somehow get people running more or something like that.

Anyway, it’s great to be here with everybody. I just had the privilege of meeting two people – Ms. Mezegebua Tadesse – where is she? Here somewhere. She’s FSN – Foreign Service National award winner of the year. And with her also, Ephrem Girma, who has been the transportation division and helps to arrange the movement of all the vehicles. So why doesn’t everybody say “thank you” to our two Foreign Service nationals again? Well, probably – (Applause.)

You already did that, right, when they were awarded? But anyway. But I’m the Secretary of State and I get to come here and do that at least once anyway. And pleasure to do so.

I’m delighted to be here with your terrific ambassador. Patricia is a pro and she’s been in many, many spots and earned her spurs, and I think you have great leadership here. And the all-star DCM Molly Phee to support the efforts. And I’m honored to be here with all of you again. This is like old home week for me here now. Start doing this regularly, in Addis Ababa.

But I just came from a good meeting at the AU. I want to pay tribute to Reuben Brigety and the AU team here. This is sort of one team/two missions, and I appreciate that slogan and I appreciate all that it imparts in terms of what goes on here.

This is a critical time and I mentioned that just now in my comments as we open the dialogue – the High-Level Dialogue between us and the AU. Africa is on the move, but there’s also a lot of challenge. Eight of the ten fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa, and at the same time, some very persistent, dangerous conflicts – one right next door – are threatening to pull at least some countries back into an era that we really had hoped we had left behind.

So we have some serious challenges right now to try to mobilize a sufficient international sanctioned force of African Union, principally, countries that are able to go in and try to make peace and keep people from engaging in this unbelievably dangerous downward ethnic, sectarian spiral that winds up with literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people paying a price. Here is Addis Ababa, you all are on the cutting edge of that because this is the home of the AU, and also because Ethiopia plays such an essential role – a key role, a leadership role – and we’re very, very grateful for that.

I knew former Prime Minister Meles when I first became involved with the issue of Sudan a number of years ago, met with him here and talked with him frequently. And now I talk to Prime Minister Hailemariam likewise, and the – Foreign Minister Tedros as we try to navigate our way to try to help resolve that issue. But in every respect, this post where you have some two hundred-plus direct hire members of the Embassy team and the various teams that come with it – Defense Department, Justice Department, Agriculture Department, USAID, and so forth – also with our thousand or so foreign nationals who help us here, and I want to particularly say thank you to you. We’ll all – the foreign nationals who are here – I know this is a holiday even. So I’m – I don’t know if you’re crazy or I’m particularly grateful – (laughter) – but I want to thank you for being here today. (Applause.) Thank you.

It means a lot to me that you came in here today, I really mean that, so that I have an opportunity to say thank you to you. But I’ve also got something special for you. Since it’s a holiday, I’m going to make you feel really good. All of the Foreign Service nationals are about to get a 45[1] percent pay increase. (Cheers and applause.) And I want you to know – (applause) – it’s long overdue. You deserve it, and I want to note that the biggest applause of the day was for you getting your money, I don’t know. (Laughter.) Go figure. (Laughter.)

Everybody else, you will get a much smaller pay increase. (Laughter.) I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. But at least it’s moving in a better direction than it has been in the last years, and I’m happy for all of you for that, that – it’s very important.

So look, very, very short message to everybody here. We are unbelievably grateful to you for what you’re doing. I personally as Secretary can’t thank you enough for the time you put in to carry the message of our country, but I’m happy to say I think it’s a universal message about the rights of people to be free, about democracy, about the ability for people to be able to choose their government and not be oppressed when they speak out or say something.

We still have some work to do here with respect to political inclusivity and liberty and freedom, and we’ll work at it steadily. We will never stop working at that. But all of you who are Americans are the face of America, and those of you who are foreign nationals – not just of here, but maybe of somewhere else – you have freely chosen to help us carry this message about health care, about education, about job opportunities, about the ability to be free from oppression, and to speak out and speak your mind. This is not an easy task, and so I just want to say a profound thank you to all of you for being willing to undertake that. It is always – got its challenges, as we all know.

This is a time here in Africa where there are a number of different cross-currents of modernity that are coming together to make things even more challenging. Some people believe that people ought to be able to only do what they say they ought to do, or to believe what they say they ought to believe, or live by their interpretation of something that was written down a thousand plus, two thousand years ago. That’s not the way I think most people want to live.

And so we’re engaged in a long-term challenge, a long-term investment. There is a saying in Africa that if you want to go somewhere quickly, go alone, but if you want to go somewhere far, go together. That’s what we’re trying to do here. That’s what we will work to do with AU, with partner countries, with our friends around the planet, all of whom have a vision for a world that can be more stable, and for a place that can welcome everybody with a sense of tolerance and understanding, that we have learned too many ways through horrible circumstances, when we don’t honor that, bad things happen.

So thank you to every single one of you for being part of this incredible embassy effort. Thank you, ambassador, for your leadership. And I look forward – I’m sure I’ll see you again when I come through here sometime in the future. Can’t guarantee you there’ll be a 45[2] percent pay increase that time, but please be nice to me anyway. Thank you. (Applause.)

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[1] 42 percent

[2] 42 percent