Category Archives: Africa

US Embassy Conakry Issues Security Message on Ebola Outbreak in Guinea

– Domani Spero

On March 24, the US Embassy in Conakry, Guinea issued the following message to U.S. citizens in the country:

The Government of Guinea has confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus in the Nzérékoré  (Guinee Forestiere) region, mostly in the administrative district of Gueckedou and in the town of Macenta.  Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, a high fever and heavy bleeding.  To date over 80 cases have been recorded with 59 recorded fatalities.
The U.S. mission in Conakry strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid contact with individuals exhibiting the symptoms described above until further information becomes available.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (HF) is a deadly disease but is preventable.  It can be spread through DIRECT, unprotected contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person; or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.  The viruses that cause Ebola HF are often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons.  Ebola HF has a high mortality rate and early evidence suggests that the Guinea strain of Ebola is related to the Zaire Ebola strain that carries a mortality rate of 90%. Some who become sick with Ebola HF are able to recover, while others do not.  The reasons behind this are not yet fully understood. However, it is known that patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.
During outbreaks of Ebola HF, the disease can spread quickly within health care settings (such as a clinic or hospital).  Exposure to Ebola viruses can occur in health care settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus though 8-10 days is most common.  A person suffering from Ebola presents with a sudden onset of high fever with any of the following: headache, vomits blood, has joint or muscle pains, bleeds through the body openings (eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus) and has reduced urine.

Since the virus spreads through direct contact with blood and other body secretions of an infected person those at highest risk include health care workers and the family and friends of an infected individual.

For more information on Ebola hemorrhagic fever, please visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola

CDC map

CDC map

On 25 March 2014, the World Health Organization provided a status update of the outbreak:

The Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea has notified WHO of a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in forested areas south eastern Guinea. The cases have been reported in Guekedou, Macenta, and Kissidougou districts. As of 25 March 2014, a total of 86 suspected cases including 60 deaths (case fatality ratio: 69.7%) had been reported. Four health care workers are among the victims. Reports of suspected cases in border areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone are being investigated.

Thirteen of the cases have tested positive for Ebola virus by PCR (six at the Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie (CIRI) in Lyon, France, and seven at the Institut Pasteur Dakar, Senegal), confirming the first Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreak in Guinea. Results from sequencing done by CIRI Lyon showed strongest homology of 98% with Zaire Ebolavirus last reported in 2009 in Kasai-Occidental Province of DR Congo. This Ebolavirus species has been associated with high mortality rates during previous outbreaks.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has worked in Guinea since 2001. Its March 25 update indicates that the group is reinforcing its teams in Guéckédou and Macenta, two towns in the south of the country where the virus has spread. Thirty staff members are reportedly on the ground and more doctors, nurses, and sanitation specialists will be joining them in the coming days. According to DWB/MSF, thirteen samples to-date have tested positive for the Ebola virus, an extremely deadly viral hemorrhagic fever. Other samples are currently being analyzed. Suspected cases have been identified in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, but none of these have yet been confirmed by laboratory tests.

The CDC has updated its outbreak page with information from WHO and says that it is in regular communication with its international partners WHO and MSF regarding the outbreak, to identify areas where CDC subject matter experts can contribute to the response.

As of March 25, 2014, WHO has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions to Guinea in connection with this outbreak.

U.S. Embassy Conakry is an extreme hardship post receiving 25% COLA and 30% post hardship differential. Post is headed by Ambassador Alexander Laskaris who was sworn in as the 20th U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea on September 10, 2012.

* * *

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Foreign Service, MED, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

A Blast From the Past: How to Purge a Bureau? Quickly.

|| >We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 to February 15, 2014. If you want to keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub <||

 

– Domani Spero

Via the National Security Archive (NSA):

“Reflecting a perpetual annoyance with unauthorized disclosures, Kissinger purged several senior staffers from the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs in December 1975, after U.S. aid to opposition groups in Angola leaked to the press. Kissinger told Scowcroft that “It will be at least a new cast of characters that leaks on Angola” [See document 7].

Below is the telcon between Scowcroft and Kissinger recently released by the Archive. For additional background on how these docs are able to get out of the lockbox, see here.

Via National Security Archive

Via National Security Archive
(click image for larger view)

Here Kissinger and Scowcroft discuss the purge of the State Department’s Africa Bureau.  At a departmental meeting that day Kissinger said that the leaking of information about Angola policy was a “disgrace” and that he wanted people who had worked on Angola “transferred out within two months.”  Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Nathaniel Davis, whom Kissinger associated with the leaks, had already resigned under protest (Davis was slated to be ambassador to Switzerland).[4]  The reference to the man who is a “hog” is obscure.

That meeting on Angola occurred on December 18, 1975 attended by Henry Kissinger, then the Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary Ingersoll, Under Secretary Maw, Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger, Ambassador Schaufele, Mr. Saunders, INR, General Scowcroft, NSC, Mr. Hyland, NSC, Mr. Strand, AF and Mr. Bremer, Notetaker.  The 56th Secretary of State who purged the Bureau of African Affairs had some memorable quotes:

The Secretary: The Department’s behavior on Angola is a disgrace. The Department is leaking and showing a stupidity unfit for the Foreign Service. No one can think that our interest there is because of the Soviet base or the “untold riches” of Angola. This is not a whorehouse; we are conducting national policy.

[...]

The Secretary: I want people transferred out within two months who have worked on Angola. Did I cut off cables at that time?

Bremer: They were restricted.

The Secretary: Even more repulsive is the fact that AF was quiet until Davis was confirmed and then it all leaked. If I were a Foreign Service Officer I’d ask myself what kind of an organization I was in. I’ll be gone eventually but you are people whose loyalty is only to the promotion system and not to the US interest.

[...]

The Secretary: The DOD guy then says it’s between Henry and his Moscow friends.

First I want discipline. Someone has to get the FSO’s under control. If they don’t like it, let them resign.

Eagleburger: I have some ideas on that, Bill.

The Secretary: I want action today. I am not terrified by junior officers. I want to discuss Angola. I’ve got papers on the UN and on the Security Council. I had a foretaste from Moynihan who had been brought into the discussions.

[...]

The Secretary: Who will shape up the Department? I’m serious. It must be a disciplined organization.

Eagleburger: The focus now must be on AF.

Schaufele: I’m bringing the new director of AF/C back soon.

The Secretary: Good.

Schaufele: Yes, he’s good and tough. He’s due out at the end of the month.

The Secretary: Well get him back sooner and get Nat Davis’ heroes out fast.

Schaufele: As soon as we can find replacements.

The Secretary: No, I’d rather have no one. I want some of them moved by the end of the week. I want to see a list. I want progressive movement. Should I swear you in?

The exchange above is from the Memorandum of Conversation (memcon) of that meeting, published by history.state.gov. Imagine if you can read these memcons a year or so after the top honcho’s departure from office and not after four decades?

Below is the Wikipedia entry on Ambassador Nathaniel Davis’ resignation:

Operation IA Feature, a covert Central Intelligence Agency operation, authorized U.S. government support for Jonas Savimbi‘s UNITA and Holden Roberto‘s National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) militants in AngolaPresident Gerald Ford approved the program on July 18, 1975 despite strong opposition from officials in the State Department, most notably Davis, and the CIA. Two days prior to the program’s approval Davis told Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, that he believed maintaining the secrecy of IA Feature would be impossible. Davis correctly predicted the Soviet Union would respond by increasing its involvement in Angola, leading to more violence and negative publicity for the United States. When Ford approved the program Davis resigned.[4] John Stockwell, the CIA’s station chief in Angola, echoed Davis’ criticism saying the program needed to be expanded to be successful, but the program was already too large to be kept out of the public eye. Davis’ deputy and former U.S. ambassador to ChileEdward Mulcahy, also opposed direct involvement. Mulcahy presented three options for U.S. policy towards Angola on May 13, 1975. Mulcahy believed the Ford administration could use diplomacy to campaign against foreign aid to the Communist MPLA, refuse to take sides in factional fighting, or increase support for the FNLA and UNITA. He warned however that supporting UNITA would not sit well with Mobutu Sese Seko, the ruler of Zaire.[5][6][7]

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Assistant Secretary, Diplomatic History, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Realities of the FS, Regional Bureaus, Secretary of State, State Department

US Embassy Juba Minimizes South Sudan Presence Due to Deteriorating Security (Photos)

– Domani Spero

On January 3,  the Department of State ordered the departure of most remaining U.S. government personnel from South Sudan due to “deteriorating security situation.”  The new travel advisory notes that the U.S. Embassy is “only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan.”  @USMissionJuba tweeted Ambassador Susan D. Page saying that “We are not suspending operations, we are just minimizing our presence.” 

Below are some photos posted by USMC:

“A squad-size element of U.S. Marines from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response successfully evacuated more than 20 personnel from the U.S. Embassy in coordination with the East Africa Response Force, and under the command and control of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The Marines from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response are specifically trained for scenarios in which they provide support to a U.S. Embassy in the form of fixed-site security, Embassy reinforcement, support to non-combatant evacuation, and other missions as directed.”

Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

A procession of vehicles arrives at an airfield in South Sudan during an evacuation of personnel by Marines from the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 3, 3014.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Sgt. Andrew Rodriguez, a team leader with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, leads the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan, the Honorable Susan D. Page, down the flight line in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.

Sgt. Andrew Rodriguez, a team leader with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, leads the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan, Susan D. Page, down the flight line in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Juba_USMC5

U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan, Susan D. Page, shakes hands with a local delegate on the flight line in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.

Saying goodbye. During an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy Juba on Jan. 3, 2014.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.

Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Related posts:

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Ambassadors, Americans Abroad, Defense Department, Diplomatic Security, Evacuations, Foreign Service, FSOs, Photo of the Day, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

State/OIG Semi-Annual Report to Congress (Apri 1-September 30, 2013)

– Domani Spero

State/OIG submitted its last semi-annual report to Congress signed by Harold Geisel in September. Steve A. Linick took charge of the OIG on September 30, 2013.  The report was not published online until late December.

Via State/OIG

Via State/OIG

Under Oversight Review, State/OIG tells Congress it is conducting an in-depth review of Diplomatic Security’s investigative process.  This is in connection with last year’s allegations that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal):

The Office of Investigations (INV) is conducting an independent oversight review of certain investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence, Special Investigations Division (DS/ICI/SID). This is an in-depth review of the DS/ICI/SID investigations to assess the adequacy of the investigative process.

State/OIG also informs Congress that it audited seven posts under the purview of AF that had threat levels ranging from medium to critical. The audit was conducted “to determine to what extent the selected embassies in Africa complied with current physical security standards, and whether management officials at these posts used available authorities to effectively implement the posts’ security programs.” The audit identified physical security deficiencies at Embassy N’Djamena, Chad; Embassy Monrovia, Liberia; Embassy Nouakchott, Mauritania and Embassy Dakar, Senegal.  A brief summary of the audit is posted here but the reports are not publicly available.

The semi-annual report includes an item about the non-compliance of the local guard contractor for Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi, who was required to pay local guards $100 per month supplemental pay in addition to the guards’ regular wages and benefits, based on a provision in the contract. OIG estimated that the amount invoiced by the contractor and not paid to the local guards as of June 2013 could be as much as $1,489,200.

Other items of note:

  • OIG conducted an investigation after receiving allegations of improper activities being committed by a major contractor that provides survey services to the Department and other agencies. The investigation determined that the contractor provided false pricing information to the Department during negotiations for a 5-year, sole source contract worth $25,000,000. OIG led a multi-agency investigation which resulted in the contractor agreeing to pay a $10.5-million civil settlement for improperly inflating Department and U.S. Mint contract prices and engaging in prohibited employment negotiations with a Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
  • OIG conducted a joint investigation with the OIG for USAID into allegations that two foreign real estate companies paid bribes to two LE staff members at the local embassy in order secure U.S. Embassy lease agreements. During the investigation, the company presidents admitted to paying the bribes and both employees were terminated from employment at the embassy. On May 9, 2013, the Office of the Procurement Executive issued six contracting debarments for a period of 3 years in connection with the case, two for each former employee, two for the two firms, and two for the presidents of each firm.
  • OIG conducted an investigation of an assistant regional security officer who submitted a false reimbursement voucher in connection with an extended hotel stay. The investigation determined that the officer knowingly submitted two fraudulent vouchers for reimbursement to the Department and received $14,630.83 to which he was not entitled. On March 11, 2012, The Department of Justice declined criminal prosecution of the officer. On March 28, 2012, the Bureau of Resource Management initiated a collection action against the officer for the full amount of the false claims, and on April 23, 2013, the Bureau of Human Resources issued a 10 day suspension to the officer.

See more Semiannual Report to the Congress April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013  [1990 Kb]  | Posted on December 30, 2013.

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Congress, Contractors, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

U.S. Embassy Juba: 4 US Troops Wounded in South Sudan Evacuation

– Domani Spero

Following an outbreak of violence in South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy in Juba closed on December 16 and temporarily suspended routine American Citizen Services.  Within 24 hours, the State Department suspended normal operations at Embassy Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non-emergency staff. On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the world’s newest country.

On December 18,  DOD announced that at the request of the State Department, the Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate 120 personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. According to the DOD spokesman, the department also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint quick-response team formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation
Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

Later that day, the State Department confirmed the successful evacuation of three groups of U.S. citizens from South Sudan. “Two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft and a private charter flight departed Juba at 0530, 0535, and 0940 EST, respectively, carrying non-emergency Chief of Mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and third country nationals.”

Ambassador Susan D. Page said that “On the ground the violence appears to be taking on a very clear ethnic dimension.” On December 20, Secretary Kerry called for the violence to stop and sent U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth to travel to the region and “support regional efforts already underway.”

The US Embassy in Juba subsequently organized the evacuation flights of U.S. citizens from Juba in the last several days. As of today, the embassy has evacuated  at least 450 American citizens and other foreign nationals from the capital city.  It said that it had hoped to start evacuation from Bor, a town located some 200km north of the capital.  However, the evac flight came under fire, preventing the evacuation attempt. Four U.S. Service members were injured during the attack.

CIA Map

CIA Map
For an alternative map of Jonglei state in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, click here.

 

AFRICOM released the following statement:

Dec 21, 2013 — At the request of the Department of State, the United States Africa Command, utilizing forces from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), attempted to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town of Bor, South Sudan, today.  As the aircraft, three CV-22 Ospreys, were approaching the town they were fired on by small arms fire by unknown forces.  All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement.  Four service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.

The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment.

All four service members were treated and are in stable condition.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Army defectors had taken control of Bor earlier this week but that the spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA) reportedly said today that they had regained control of the town.

Evacuation on Social Media

This is the first embassy evacuation of Amcits that has fully utilized Facebook and Twitter, both in reaching out to Americans at post, and in providing as timely an information as possible.  When @modernemeid20 Dec  complained that “The U.S. embassy has been incredibly unhelpful. My cousin’s passport expired, they’re just leaving her hanging” @USMissionJuba was quick to respond. “@modernemeid please call us at 0912157323 for assistance.” When somebody tweeted “all evacuation planes diverted” following a plane crash on the Juba airport runway, @USMissionJuba responded swiftly, “not quite true. At least two evac flights departed after the runway cleared.”  We later asked for the number of evacuees, and the number shortly became available; tweeted, of course.  In addition to answering questions about evac flights procedures, @USMissionJuba also organize a texting campaign to alert American citizen friends and family about the emergency evac flights.

Here’s a shoutout to @USMissionJuba’s Twitter and evac ninjas for being timely and responsive and for their tireless work under very difficult circumstances.  Don’t ignore the fatigue factor and stay safe, folks!

* * *

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, Ambassadors, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Digital Diplomacy, Diplomatic Security, Facebook, Foreign Service, FSOs, Realities of the FS, Security, Social Media, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions, Uncategorized

State Dept Regional Psychiatrist William Callahan, 53, Dies in Cape Town

– Domani Spero

We previously posted about the December 12 death of a U.S. Embassy Accra employee while visiting Cape Town, South Africa. (See US Embassy Accra Employee Falls to Death on South Africa’s Table Mountain). We subsequently learned the identity of the employee but decided not to publish his name as we could not confirm independently that the family back in California has been notified.  His hometown newspaper had since identified him in a news article as William E. Callahan Jr., 53, a prominent psychiatrist in Aliso Viejo, California.  He was the State Department’s Regional Psychiatrist covering West Africa. Below is an excerpt from OCRegister:

Callahan had left his private psychiatry practice in California last year to join the U.S. State Department as a Regional Medical Officer and Psychiatrist based out of the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, said Kenneth Dekleva, Director of Mental Health Services at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

Dekleva said the news came as a shock to him and his department last Friday when he found out Callahan’s body had been recovered by South African authorities near the Table Mountain Range.

“His death has touched many people: my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Friday…we lost one of our own,” Dekleva said. “It’s a huge loss for our organization. He represented the best in psychiatry in my opinion. We’re very proud to have known him and to have had him as part of our team.”

Dekleva said that the investigation surrounding the circumstances of Callahan’s death is ongoing in South Africa.

Memorial services are planned in Accra on Wednesday. Services in Greenfield, Mass. and Laguna Beach will occur in early 2014, the State Department said.

 

Dr. Callahan joined the State Department in July 2012.  Our source told us that “he was an avid outdoorsman and in great shape.  He was well-liked in Accra and at the other embassies he covered in West Africa.”

According to his online bio, he was a Special Forces flight surgeon turned psychiatrist.  “With the constant deployments in my military unit on clandestine missions, I observed how stress in a family member can jump from person to person and lead to physical illness as well.  After 5 years of active duty and 9 of total service, I left the military to get the training to become a board certified psychiatrist.”

He was previously the president of the Orange County Psychiatric Society.  For 15 years prior to joining the State Department, he  provided a two hour a week, free, open-to-the-public group for families dealing with a mental illness called Interactive Solutions.

Dr. Callahan’s service in the military included a general surgery internship at David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB, CA followed by assignment to the 8th Special Operations Squadron as a flight surgeon, at Hurlburt Field, FL.  He served in both the First Gulf War and Panama Wars,  and received two Meritorious Service Medals. He was the 1988 Flight Surgeon of the Year within the First Special Operations Wing.

He graduated from Deerfield Academy (1978), Tufts University (1982), Tufts Medical School (1986) and did General Surgery Internship at Travis AFB, CA (1987), and his Residency in Psychiatry at UC Irvine (1994).

R.I.P.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Foreign Service, MED, Mental Health, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

U.S. Embassy Juba Evacuates U.S. Citizens From South Sudan

–Domani Spero

On December 17, the State Department suspended normal operations at the U.S. Embassy in Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non emergency staff from post.  It also issued a new Travel Warning for South Sudan. (See U.S. Embassy Juba Suspends Operations, Now on Ordered Departure for Non-Emergency Staff).

On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the country.  The airport is reportedly open, with incoming sporadic flights.   Kenya Airways will resume flights to and from Juba’s airport on Thursday according to reports.

The embassy tweeted that its evac flight today was full but did not release the numbers of U.S. citizens who departed in the USG-chartered flight.  The embassy is now calling U.S. citizens in South Sudan to update them of evacuation options.  No announcement as yet on whether there will be another evacuation flight later.

U.S. Embassy Juba released the following information:

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens:  Assisting the Departure of U.S. Citizens | December 18, 2013

On December 17, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel from Juba, Republic of South Sudan. The U.S. Embassy will be assisting U.S. citizens who wish to depart Juba. U.S. citizens should review their personal security situation and consider taking advantage of planned flights arranged by the Department of State, as the embassy is able to provide only limited emergency consular services. Citizens who wish to take advantage of flights arranged by the Department of State should arrive at the Juba Airport no later than 10:30 this morning, December 18. Private U.S. citizens will need to arrange their own transport to the airport and should consider personal safety of that travel in doing so. Assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible U.S. citizens. Please note that the U.S. Department of State will arrange for additional transportation as necessary to accommodate demand, and taking into account security conditions. Please be aware that each traveler is limited to one suitcase, and pets cannot be accommodated. All travelers must have travel documentation. Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.

Departure assistance is provided on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable. This means that you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option, and you will be required to sign a promissory note for this amount and to pay this fare at a later date. You will be taken to a safe haven country, from which the traveler will need to make his or her own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance. Please also be aware that there is a limit of one suitcase per person.

During a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. You should not expect to bring friends or relatives who are not U.S. citizens on U.S. government chartered or non-commercial transportation. Exceptions may be made to accommodate special family circumstances, such as when the spouse of a U.S. citizen is a legal permanent resident, or “green card” holder; however, it is the non-U.S. citizen’s responsibility to be sure he or she has appropriate travel documentation for the destination location. Any services provided to non-U.S. citizens are on a space-available basis after U.S. citizens are accommodated.

If you are able, please print and complete a form for each adult traveler, found at this link: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/211837.pdf.

Read in full here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Evacuations, Foreign Service, Security, Social Media, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Juba Closes, Issues Warden Message on Curfew Imposed “Until Further Notice”

–  Domani Spero

The US Embassy in Juba issued a Warden Message for U.S. Citizens in South Sudan about “continuing security concerns in Juba” as well as the new curfew imposed from 6pm to 6am starting December 16th, 2013.  In a televised address reported by CNN, President Salva Kiir announced that South Sudan’s military has quashed an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to Riek Machar, the vice president who was fired in July.

4pm, December 16, 2013 | Continuing Security Concerns in Juba; Curfew Imposed

The U.S. Embassy recognizes that there is a lull in violence in Juba; however, we continue to receive reports of sporadic gunfire in parts of the city, particularly near Juba University. We continue to urge American citizens to exercise caution at this time. If you are in a safe location, the Embassy recommends you remain where you are as travel in Juba is not currently safe. The U.S. Embassy will continue to closely monitor the security environment in South sudan, with particular attention to Juba city and its immediate surroundings, and will advise U.S. citizens further if the security situation changes. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our earlier message that no political or military figures have taken refuge within the U.S. Embassy.

Additionally, all citizens should take note that in response to the violence from this morning and yesterday evening, the government of the Republic of South Sudan has implemented a curfew from 6pm to 6am starting December 16th, 2013 “until further notice.” The airport in Juba is also currently not operational and we continue to receive reports that the Nimule border is closed.  You can stay in touch and get Embassy updates by checking the website of the U.S. Embassy in Juba.

A previous announcement, also on December 16 says that  there will be no movement of Embassy personnel until further notice. The U.S. Embassy was also closed, and it temporarily suspended routine American Citizen Services.

US Embassy Juba is on Twitter at @USMissionJuba and on Facebook.  In the last hour, the embassy tweeted that cell phones are down in Juba and that “Vivacell, Zain, and MTN are all offline in #Juba. If you need to reach the Embassy, we are monitoring this Twitter feed 24/7.”  It is responding to inquiries on Twitter.

@MelynMcKay1h@USMissionJuba tips for US citizens in Juba? We have people on the ground in Tong Ping & reports of raiding parties approaching.
@USMissionJuba1h@MelynMcKay shelter in place if possible. If absolutely needed, check with #UNMISS near the airport. Many have found shelter there.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) posted photos of civilians arriving at UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge from fighting that broke out in the South Sudanese capital on the evening of 15 December.

The embassy is a small post operating from a USAID office compound with the chancery made of cinder block construction.  It also operates under waivers for a number of security standards and according to State/OIG report dated May 2013, the “current facility puts embassy employees at risk.”

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Diplomatic Security, Facebook, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Realities of the FS, Security, Social Media, State Department, U.S. Missions

Peace Corps Volunteer Karen Phillips’ Gabonese Killer Sentenced to Life for 1998 Murder

– By Domani Spero

On December 16, 1998, a Peace Corps volunteer attended a swearing-in ceremony at a small city in Gabon, some 200 miles from the capital city of Libreville.  Reports said she went with three friends to a small bar near her house to celebrate, left the bar around midnight and never made it back to her house.  The next day, a young girl on her way to school found Karen Phillips  body.

This December will the 15th death anniversary of Karen Phillips, the Peace Corps volunteer murdered in the African county of Gabon. She was there to help farmers to better market their produce and teach English at a local school.

On November 19, 2013,  the Peace Corps announced that Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison. One individual was previously charged with murder and two others, including this “Rambo” were charged in connection with the killing.  Below is the full text of the announcement:

Libreville, Gabon, Nov. 19, 2013 – Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted Tuesday for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison.

Phillips served in Oyem, an agricultural city of about 40,000 in the coastal African nation of Gabon. She worked as an agro-forestry volunteer, helping local farmers market their agricultural products.

“She just loved helping people,” said Richard Phillips, Karen’s father. “That’s the type of person she was. Karen was a doer and a giver.”

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Phillips worked in Atlanta as a fundraiser for the international development organization, CARE. A native of Delaware County, Pa., Karen received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Villanova University in 1982, and a master’s degree in business administration from Fordham University in 1989.

“There is nothing harder for this agency than losing a volunteer, and after many years, I wholeheartedly hope the Phillips family can now find a sense of comfort and closure,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “I am extremely grateful to those who have relentlessly sought justice for Karen Phillips and her family for more than a decade.”

Phillips was found stabbed to death on December 17, 1998. Since her death, an investigative team led by the Gabonese judicial police, with the assistance of the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville have worked to pursue justice for Phillips. In late 2012, the government of Gabon formally requested, through the international police organization INTERPOL, that U.S. federal law enforcement assist in the investigation of the murder. The team revisited all aspects of the crime. Subsequently, Ntoutoume Nuze was identified, brought to trial, and convicted by Gabonese authorities.

“Everyone who has worked on Karen’s case over the years has been deeply moved by both her life of commitment to service and her tragic death,” Peace Corps Inspector General Kathy A. Buller said. “I hope this verdict will bring a degree of peace to her family and friends.”

According to news reports, Karen Phillips had been a PCV for less than a year when she was killed.

“Karen and volunteers Stacy Jupiter and Lynne Kraskouskas had just been to the swearing-in party on Dec. 16 when they stopped at a small bar near Phillips’ house.

As the three sipped beer and ate Chips Ahoy! cookies, a drunken man approached the women saying he was Phillips’ neighbor. Phillips brushed off his advances, Kraskouskas and Jupiter later told police.

The volunteers left the bar and parted ways at a nearby corner about midnight. Jupiter planned to walk Kraskouskas, a new volunteer, back to a training center in town. Phillips assured the two that she would be fine going home alone.”

The initial investigation focused on a former rock star/son of a diplomat who had lived in Germany, Israel, Denmark and the U.S., his cousin, and one other individual:

“A man named Ndoutoume Nzue Thierry, nicknamed “Rambo,” told police that Ondo and his cousin, Jean ClŽment Mintsa, forced Phillips into a car. Police identified Thierry as the drunk man who approached Phillips and her friends in the bar the night she died.

But Thierry abruptly changed his story after demonstrators converged on the Oyem jail where Ondo and Mintsa were being questioned. On Dec. 24, two days after implicating Ondo in Phillips’ murder, Thierry said Phillips fell on a rock while they had consensual sex. On Dec. 30, Thierry told police he attacked and stabbed her with a nail clipper. In February 1999, Thierry accused Ondo again.”

In July 2000, the three men charged were acquitted in the Phillips murder.  In 2003, Dayton Daily News did a lengthy piece on Phillips murder and her father’s pursuit for justice.

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Court Cases, Diplomatic Security, Federal Agencies, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Mission Kenya: USAID FSN’s Wife Ruhila Adatia-Sood Killed at Westgate Mall Attack

–By Domani Spero

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah released a statement on the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi that killed a member of US Mission Kenya’s extended family.  USAID FSN Ketan Sood’s wife, Ruhila Adatia-Sood, a presenter for East FM as well as an entertainment host for Kiss TV, was one of the 68 people killed in the attack at Nairobi’s Westgate mall.  The couple married in 2012 and she was pregnant with their first child.

According to local news, Ruhila was at the parking lot of the upscale mall for Sungold Sunrice Superchef, a cooking competition sponsored by the rice brand and East FM, which she was hosting at the mall. Read more here.

Below is Dr. Shah’s statement:

Via USAID | Sunday, September 22, 2013

Washington, DC: Dozens of people died yesterday at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in a terrorist attack that was shocking in its brutality and brazenness.  Among those killed was a member of our own extended family: Ruhila Adatia-Sood, wife of Ketan Sood, a Foreign Service National at our Mission in Nairobi. Ruhila was several months pregnant with their child.

The thoughts and prayers of our entire Agency are with Ketan, his family, and his fellow citizens in these profoundly difficult days. Ketan has worked for nearly four years as a Senior Acquisition and Assistance Specialist with our Mission. In 2013, he was Embassy Nairobi’s Foreign Service National of the Year in a reflection of his unfailing efforts to support his colleagues and the communities we serve in Kenya and across East Africa. His wife, Ruhila, was a popular radio and TV personality, who was known throughout Kenya for her passion, vibrancy, and gift for making people smile.

Our entire community has been shaken by this loss and an abhorrent act of violence in a city where so many of us have lived and in a country that so many of us love. Every day, our Agency’s development professionals come to work in some of the most challenging and dangerous circumstances in the world. Although days like this shake us to the core, they do not change our steadfast commitment to mission or our determination to work for a more peaceful and just future. We continue to keep the people of Kenya in our thoughts and prayers. Now more than ever, we are committed to stand with our own colleagues and the Kenyan people as they mourn and support them as they recover.

(;_;)

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Locally Employed Staff, Security, Terrorism, U.S. Missions, USAID