After reopening in 2005, U.S. Embassy Bangui suspends operations. Again.

It’s one of those things that roll like thunder during the holidays, and one absolutely has no control over the universe. Our sympathies to the embassy folks at US Embassy Bangui.

On December 22, 2012 it sent the following emergency message:

Despite a Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) summit held yesterday in Chad which called for a cessation of hostilities, rebels of the Séléka alliance have reportedly advanced towards the central city of Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR).
[…]
The Embassy has no plans to evacuate at this time.  However, for the purposes of contingency planning only, the Embassy would like to inform U.S. citizens that should an evacuation become necessary, the designated assembly point for U.S. citizens will be the residence of the U.S. Ambassador, located near the Tennis Club of Bangui.   Only U.S. citizens would be permitted to gain access to this site, and should bring their U.S. passport for identification purposes.  U.S. citizen children would be allowed one non-U.S. citizen escort for evacuation purposes.   In the event of an evacuation, the Embassy will contact U.S. citizens via e-mail, telephone, and/or radio to inform them to meet at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence.   Should communication networks not function, U.S. citizens can meet at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence without waiting for notification.  However, in no circumstance should U.S. citizens attempt to travel to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence if the security situation within Bangui is not permissive.   In this case, sheltering-in-place is advised.

Two days later, the embassy was on authorized departure for non-emergency staff:

December 24, 2012 | As a result of increased rebel activity in the Central African Republic, on December 24, 2012, the Department of State authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. embassy personnel from Bangui, Central African Republic. U.S. citizens should review their personal security situation and consider taking advantage of commercial flights. Embassy Bangui is able to provide only limited emergency consular services.

On Christmas Day, the embassy authorized the departure of additional personnel and suspended operations until further notice.

December 25, 2012 | As a result of increasing insecurity in the Central African Republic, on December 25, 2012, the U.S. Embassy authorized the departure of additional U.S. embassy personnel from Bangui, Central African Republic.   The Embassy is also suspending normal operations until further notice.   The Embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens to take advantage of commercial flights to depart the Central African Republic until the security situation improves.  Embassy Bangui is able to provide only limited emergency consular services.

Two days later, the State Department announced the Temporary Suspension of U.S. Embassy Bangui Operations

Press Statement | Office of the Spokesperson | Washington, DC | December 27, 2012
The U.S. Embassy in Bangui temporarily suspended its operations on December 28 as a result of the present security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). We have not suspended diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic.

Ambassador Wohlers and his diplomatic team left Bangui today along with several private U.S. citizens. As a result of this suspension of operations, the embassy will not be able to provide routine consular services to American citizens in the Central African Republic until further notice.

This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR.

On December 28, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for the Central African Republic

December 28, 2012 | The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Central African Republic at this time.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended its operations on December 28, 2012, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in the Central African Republic.  U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR should review their personal security situation and seriously consider departing, taking advantage of commercial flights.  This replaces the Travel Warning of December 23, 2012, to reflect the deterioration of the security situation.

The U.S. Embassy staff in Bangui cannot provide services to U.S. citizens at this time.  U.S. citizens in CAR who seek consular assistance should contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at CARemergencyUSC@state.gov.

WaPo reported that at the State Department’s request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had directed U.S. Africa Command to evacuate U.S. citizens and designated foreign nationals from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui “to safe havens in the region.”  Unnamed U.S. officials told WaPo that about 40 people were evacuated on an U.S. Air Force plane bound for Kenya. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the details of the operation.

An unnamed US official also told AFP that  Ambassador (Lawrence) Wohlers and his diplomatic team flew out of Bangui at 0000 GMT Friday (Dec 28).

This is not the first time that the U.S. military has been called to evacuate US Embassy Bangui.  On May 23, 1996 then President Clinton ordered the deployment of U.S. military personnel to Bangui, Central African Republic, to conduct the evacuation from that country of “private U.S. citizens and certain U.S. Government employees,” and to provide “enhanced security for the American Embassy in Bangui.”  The embassy reopened in 1998 with limited staff.

The embassy was similarly evacuated of all staff in 2002 and resumed operations in January 2005. Who knows how long this one will last.

domani spero sig

 

 

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US Embassy Haiti: Staff on Travel Restrictions and Under Embassy-Imposed Curfew

The State Department released a new Travel Warning for Haiti dated December 28, 2012 where it announced the travel restrictions on embassy personnel as well as an embassy-imposed curfew between 1:00 -5:00 a.m. on its staff.

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Haiti about the current security situation. This replaces the Travel Warning dated June 18, 2012, updating information regarding the level of crime, the presence of cholera, lack of adequate infrastructure – particularly in medical facilities – seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection. The United Nations’ Stabilization Force for Haiti (MINUSTAH) remains in Haiti.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when visiting Haiti. Thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Haiti each year, but the poor state of Haiti’s emergency response network should be carefully considered when planning travel. Travelers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support options in place. (Please see the Country Specific Information page for Haiti.)

U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In recent months, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents in 2012. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators.

The ability of local authorities to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent. Should you find yourself in an emergency, local health, police, judicial, and physical infrastructure limitations mean there are few local resources available to help resolve the problem. For this reason, the Embassy limits its staff’s travel in areas outside of Port-au-Prince. This in turn constrains our ability to provide emergency services to U.S. Citizens outside of Port-au-Prince.

U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and must remain at home or at another safe facility during curfew hours. Additionally, there are restrictions on travel by Embassy staff in other areas or times. This, too, may constrain the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside Port-au-Prince.

Read in full here.

State Dept Image / Jul 05, 2007 / Port-au-Prince, Haiti

State Dept Image / Jul 05, 2007 / Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The 2012 Crime and Safety Report filed by the Regional Security Officer of US Embassy Haiti has the following notes on kidnapping:

“While total instances of kidnappings dropped substantially since their high in 2005 and 2006, the patterns are less predictable, and areas of victimization are more widespread. A short-term decrease in reported incidents, falling from 266 in 2008 to 73 in 2009 was offset by a rise again in 2010, with a total of 121 kidnappings, or approximately one every three days. The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section reports that 12 Americans were kidnapped in Haiti in 2011.”

As of December 30, 2012, Haiti is a 20% COLA, 30% hardship and 5% danger pay post; at 5% danger pay, Haiti is designated as dangerous as Burundi and Kosovo.

domani spero sig