America’s Founding Fathers’ ideal of democracy and rights when they drafted the Declaration of Independence was focused on a “narrow set of Americans - primarily white, male landowners”.

This is the frank admission by the Charge d’ Affaires of the United States of America, Amanda Jacobsen speaking Tuesday on the occasion of the 246th Independence Day of the United States of America in Gaborone.

While she hails the Declaration of Independence that was signed on the 4th of July 1776 as a “revolutionary document” that not only heralded the establishment of the United States but also “redefined democracy ”- Jacobsen is alive to the limitations in its application.

The Declaration of Independence promised unalienable rights, a government that governs only with the consent of its citizens, and an affirmation that all people are created equal.

Jacobsen says that in the USA they see the Declaration of Independence as a starting point, a foundation to be built upon. But she admits that the 246 years that followed have been a “long journey” to make this definition broader, one that encompasses all citizens of the United States equally, and reflects a changing nation.

“This struggle has not been easy or without strife, and the struggle continues to this day,” she told a gathering which included Botswana’s Third President, Festus Gontebanye Mogae at the Ambassador’s residence in the plush Ext. 11 suburbs.

“We do not claim to be perfect. And the United States, as all countries, must reckon with its past. As we strive to ‘form a more perfect union', we move toward a more tolerant, inclusive, and equitable future,” Jacobsen says.

And indeed the U.S. has had its fair share of wrath for the ills of the world. It is accused of playing the world’s policeman, and of engineering wars and conflicts to sustain its military-industrial complex.

Lately, the Southern African Development Community has resolved to enlist the Chairperson of the African Union to condemn the “unilateral punitive measures” targeted against Africa through a piece of law that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives called ‘Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa’.

The thrust of this law is to essentially compel African states to align with Ukraine in the protracted Russia/Ukraine war, but according to Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, this will not happen since Africa has always abided by the principle of non-alignment.

But this notwithstanding, the US is proud of the role it has played in advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe.

“We do it out of our deep conviction that every person is born free and equal in dignity and rights," she says adding that these ideals are the “guiding force for our work at home and abroad”.

Jacobsen says they constantly seek out partners who share these values, with whom they can work to promote these common ideals, and have found in Botswana, “such a partner”.

Even though at the time of the Declaration’s signing in 1776, the concepts of democracy and human rights were rare, Jacobsen is proud that they have gone on to inspire democratic states around the world.

“This includes Botswana, with its deep respect for democracy, human rights, and good governance that embodies the spirit on which our own nation was founded”.

She says that in many ways, the Declaration of Independence adopts the guiding values of botho, including its respect for fellow citizens, the collective responsibility of society, and the importance of being a good human being.

“I can’t think of a concept that better captures the fundamental goals of democracy – life, liberty, and happiness”. Jacobsen emphasises the importance of always reflecting on these ideals in the face of growing authoritarianism worldwide.

This sentiment was echoed by Botswana’s foreign secretary Dr. Gladys Mokhawa when she singled out for mention the Summit for Democracy that was hosted by President Joe Biden in December 2020, to bolster democracy worldwide, defend against authoritarianism, fight corruption, and promote respect for human rights both at home and abroad.

Dr. Mokhawa seized the opportunity to appreciate U.S. support during the two days high-level Summit, which was held in Gaborone from 06 to 08 July 2022 under the theme Constitutionalism and Democratic Consolidation in Africa in partnership with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).

Jacobsen says that hosting the summit in Gaborone was one of the commitments that Botswana made at President Biden’s first Summit for Democracy, and it embodies the spirit of the event, to reinforce and reinvigorate democracy during a time of great change in the world.

The second stage of the Summit for Democracy will be hosted in early 2023 by President Biden in Washington, Jacobsen announced, adding that Botswana will participate in this Summit, whose focus will be on the democratic themes of human rights, inclusion, and democratic development.

Jacobsen adds that strengthening democracy at home is a critical part of Biden’s foreign policy vision because “we cannot be a credible advocate for democracy and human rights abroad if we are not demonstrating our commitment to these principles at home”.

Turning to the support that Botswana has received from the USA, Dr. Mokhawa mentions U.S. bipartisan programmes such as President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), including cooperation in military exchanges; law enforcement; and conservation.

She mentions the “deeper engagements” that are continuing through the Power Africa initiative, which aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

On the multilateral front, Dr. Mokhawa commends the USA’s rejoining of the World Health Organisation in January 2021, as an “enormously significant” development since the U.S. is a key player on the global health stage, the largest funder of WHO, providing between $400 million to $500 million each year.

The Permanent Secretary also mentioned that Peace Corps volunteers will return to Botswana in September 2022 after being evacuated due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, to continue supporting the nation as it works towards an HIV-free generation.