I want to thank the chairperson and all of the members of parliament who have joined us this afternoon and provided both information and insight into the challenges facing Angola. And of course, I want to thank you for helping to build America.
It is a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to meet with leaders of the parliament and especially representatives of the different parties. Such a meeting could not have taken place just a few years ago. I have listened very carefully and taken many notes from each of you. And I want to make just a few comments.
I am here to deepen and strengthen the relationship between the United States and Angola. And I want also to encourage the continuation of the path that Angola is currently taking. After 27 years of war, there is a lot of work to do. Several of you mentioned the need for the reconstruction and reconciliation of the Angolan society. And the United States wants to be your partner, your friend, and your ally as you strengthen your democratic institutions, build a vibrant civil society, create a good climate for business and investment from the United States and elsewhere, and most importantly, deliver the results of democracy to the people of your country.
The role of your parliament is absolutely crucial in defining Angola’s future. The Angolan people have vested you with the responsibility of crafting a new constitution. This new constitution must be more than words on paper. It must be a living expression of the values and attitudes of your nation and the enshrinement of principles of good governance and human rights.
As you may know, I served as a senator elected from the state of New York for eight years. For six of those years, I was in the minority party. For two of those years, I was in the majority party. What is important is the role of both the majority and minority parties to serve as a check and balance on the executive branch of government. Even when I was in the majority party, we asked very hard questions of the executive, and today President Obama has a very big majority of our Democratic Party but the Democrats are also continuing to ask hard questions about the exercise of presidential power.
In a democracy such as yours, the parliament must demand accountability and transparency, and stand against financial corruption and abuse of power. Indeed, I believe no democracy can thrive and bring benefits to its people over the long term without an elected body like a parliament that represents the will of the people and holds leaders accountable.
Now, of course, I must commend you, because in some respects you’ve already made more progress than we have: You have 40 percent women in your parliament.
We understand what a tremendous responsibility all of you have assumed, both in the majority party and in the minority parties. And among the work we hope to do with Angola is to work with the parliament as well as with the government.
And let me add one other issue that is very important to your future. Consolidating democracy does not depend just on holding elections. You have shown with the legislative election last year that you can move forward on elections, and I hope that you will be able to schedule a presidential election in the near future.
But democracy also requires strong institutions like an independent judiciary, an independent and free press, the protection of minority rights. And we believe that given the progress Angola has made since the end of your long war, this country is positioned to be a leader on the economic front, the social and political fronts, the security front, in every way. And we want to work with you to help you realize Angola’s full potential.
We agreed today in my meeting with the minister of foreign affairs and other members of the government to set up a strategic dialogue between our two countries. And if the parliament so wishes, that dialogue can include a discussion between members of our Congress and their staffs, and members of your parliament and your staff. If we have anything to offer, we stand ready to do so.
And let me end by saying I have a unique perspective on American democracy. When my husband was president and I lived in the White House, we spent a lot of time wondering what the Congress was doing. Then I was in the Congress, and I spent a lot of time wondering what the President was doing. And now I’m back working for and with President Obama, wondering what the Congress is doing.
But we have learned over 230 years of our democracy that that tension is important to keep everybody focused, honest, vigilant, and effective in serving the people. So we look forward to working with you for the betterment of our relations between our countries and for the better future for the people of Angola and the United States. (Applause.)