US Embassy Nigeria Reduces Public Operations as a Security Precaution

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. DS

 

On July 16, the US Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria announced the reduction of its public operations through this week as a security precaution:

Location:  Abuja, Nigeria
Date:  July 16, 2021
Event:  Limit Non-essential Movement

The U.S. Embassy in Abuja has reduced public operations effective Friday, July 16 through next week as a security precaution.  The U.S. Embassy has strongly encouraged U.S. staff to limit non-essential personal travel in the Federal Capital Territory and private U.S. citizens are advised to do the same.

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US Mission South Africa to Amcits: Avoid All Non-Essential Movement #CivilUnrest

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On July 13, US Mission South Africa issued a Security Alert recommending that U.S. citizens avoid all non-essential travel within areas affected by blockages, increased violence, vandalism and criminal activity

Event:  Civil unrest and protests continue throughout KwaZulu-Natal Province and Johannesburg and Pretoria in Gauteng Province.  Following reports of blockages on many provincial and municipal transit routes, increased violence, vandalism, and criminal activity at commercial centers, and calls for calm by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the U.S. Mission to South Africa recommends avoiding all non-essential movement within affected areas.  Exercise heightened caution in commercial areas where looting and violence can and has occurred suddenly.  The situation throughout many areas of these provinces is unstable and authorities are not able to respond to all events.   

The U.S. Consulate General Durban is available for emergency services only.  The U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg and Cape Town are operating as normal.

There is currently a “Level 4-Do Not Travel” Advisory for South Africa due to COVID-19 and related restrictions and conditions. The advisory also advised U.S. citizens to “Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest. “
The advisory dated July 6, 2021 was “Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information and “If you decide to Travel.”
US Mission South Africa is currently headed by Chargé d’Affaires Todd P. Haskell who joined Mission South Africa as the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in March 2021. Ambassador Haskell previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Congo from July 2017 until January 2021. He is a 35-year career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor.
Ambassador Haskell’s second in command is Heather Merritt who was “chosen by the Department of State to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Mission to South Africa, effective April 16, 2021.”  According to her official bio, she arrived in South Africa on August 28, 2020 as the U.S. Consul General in Johannesburg.

 

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Ambassador Eric Paul Whitaker Dedicates New U.S. Embassy Niamey in Niger

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Thanks — DS

 

Last month, OBO announced the dedication of the new US Embassy in Niger:

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) celebrates today’s dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger by Ambassador Eric Paul Whitaker.

Situated on the existing 11-acre Embassy campus, this multi-building project embodies OBO’s goals for safe, secure, functional, and resilient facilities that provide a platform for U.S. diplomacy abroad.

Over the past 50 years, the campus has evolved to meet the needs of the diplomatic mission. The campus’s new buildings are integrated into the existing site and represent the best of American architecture, engineering, and construction execution. A concrete, lasting symbol of the United States’ commitment to Niger, the Embassy is on track to become the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum project in West Africa.

The Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle, Washington is the design architect and B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama is the construction contractor with Page as Architect of Record. Approximately 1,700 American, local, and third-country national employees have been involved in project construction, including 1,500 Nigeriens. The construction team contributed more than 6 million work hours to this innovative project, which has generated $53 million to the local economy.

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US Embassy Eswatini Confirms Shots Fired at Embassy Vehicle, @USMC Augments Internal Security

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The US Embassy in Mbabane, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) issued a Security Alert, the sixth alert since late June following the continuing civil unrest in the country. The Embassy has also confirmed that shots were fired at a U.S. Embassy vehicle on July 1st and that U.S. Marines have augmented its internal security. @USMC has released a statement that a team of 13 Marines deployed on short notice to the embassy to support on-ground embassy security personnel along with the Diplomatic Security Service Mobile Security Deployments team.

Event:  The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini announced a nationwide curfew from 1800 – 0500 hours.   Communication disruptions, including internet and cell phone service, are occurring.  Security forces are actively patrolling the streets during curfew hours.

The international airport, KMIII, is now operational.  U.S. citizens wishing to depart Eswatini should take advantage of commercial options available.

The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Eswatini.

Citizens are urged to respect the government curfew and exercise caution.

US citizens who require assistance should contact +268 2417 9000 and then PRESS TWO.

The South African land borders are currently open and antigen tests are available at the border at a cost of 300 Rand, payable in Rand only.  For citizens flying out of OR Tambo, PCR testing labs are available.  Citizens are required to have a negative PCR test in order to travel to the United States.

The U.S. Embassy is operating with reduced services. U.S. citizens needing emergency services should call the Consular Section using the contact information below.

Actions to Take: 

    • Monitor local media for updates on changing conditions.
    • Expect communication disruptions; contact family and friends to let them know you are safe.
    • If safe, stock up on groceries and water and then stay home.

 

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How a Small Post in Africa Gets Lost in the Shuffle

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This is a story about a small post in Africa forgotten by the time lords of Foggy Bottom. Not too long ago, this post quietly lost its top two officials at the same time. The State Department made no official announcement of their  departures from post. A retired ambassador was eventually sent down to take care of the far away shop.  Embassy life continued. The retired ambassador’s temporary assignment eventually ended.
An Acting Chargé d´Affaires (A/CDA) soon assumed charge, we were told. Shortly after the death of RBG in September 2020, the A/CDA complained that the flag at the official residence was not flown at half staff in her memory.  It turned out the domestic help who would have been tasked to do this had been fired and there was no replacement hired.
Dangit!
The newly designated Acting Charge d’affaires did not remember that he previously fired the live-in house manager of the ambassador’s official residence? The employee who had been in that residence for almost three decades was given a two-weeks warning. The local employee reportedly claimed no reason was given for his/her dismissal nor did said employee received any counseling.
There was also reportedly no financial settlement after the firing but this small post did have a small farewell ceremony.
“It’s not every day the head of an ancient African tribe comes to the Embassy to rebuke the acting Chargé d ́Affaires,” we learned.

The house manager’s pastor spoke, echoing the same themes, then praying for everyone present to get their hearts’ desire. Then, turning to the official responsible for the house managers’ predicament, the pastor prayed that the A/CDA would receive extra wisdom.

The chief of the ancient African tribe to which the embassy house manager belonged to, also came to gave a speech. He said it was unusual for him to speak at an event like this, but he had to come to stand with his brother, such a good and well-respected man who has been so unfairly treated.  

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the A/CDA was reportedly pleased with the ceremony not recognizing the rebuke from the visitors.
We understand that the top two senior officials at the embassy then subsequently went on R&R at the same time for a month plus two weeks of quarantine. Post was left with no trained management official except for the embassy’s computer support specialists working at the Management section. The incoming Regional Security Officer’s residence could not be  ready for occupancy and MED was reportedly acting as part Facilities Manager!
Then there were the vacant positions:
  • HRO/FMO — vacant. Incumbent transferred in summer, no replacement identified
  • GSO — vacant. Incumbent transferred summer, replacement due fall + 2 weeks quarantine
  • FMO — vacant Incumbent transferred summer, replacement due fall + 2 weeks quarantine
  • IMO — dual-hatted as Acting Management Officer
  • IMO Deputy — dual-hatted as Acting GSO
  • MED — partially acting as Facilities Manager
  • CONS — vacant. No replacement identified.
One of two consular officers transferred from post in 2020. The identified successor was discouraged by post from coming because of likely issues with accreditation with the host country. Consular Affairs reportedly had no officer identified to fill the vacant Consular officer position at post.
Second consular position was previously removed from post staffing in 2019. The incumbent officer did not only leave post but also left the Foreign Service.
The howler we heard says “There are other elements to this shit show, but mainly this Embassy is perhaps the worst managed place I have ever worked.”
How many more posts like this get lost in the shuffle?

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Charges Unsealed Against Former Chadian Ambassador and DCM to U.S. For Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

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On May 24, the Justice Department unsealed charges against two diplomats from Chad who were previously assigned to WashDC and Canada for international bribery and money laundering scheme.
Excerpt from DOJ’s announcement:

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. was unsealed on May 20, 2021, charging the Republic of Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and Chad’s former Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States and Canada with soliciting and accepting a $2 million bribe from a Canadian start-up energy company, and conspiring to launder the bribe payment in order to conceal its true nature.

According to court documents, Mahamoud Adam Bechir and Youssouf Hamid Takane engaged in this scheme between August 2009 and July 2014, while serving as diplomats based out of the Embassy of Chad located in Washington, D.C. According to the indictment, Bechir and Takane demanded the bribe from the Canadian start-up energy company in exchange for a promise to misuse their official positions and their influence with the government of Chad to assist the start-up energy company in obtaining oil rights in Chad. Naeem Tyab, a citizen of Canada and founding shareholder of the start-up energy company, who served as a director of the company from 2009 through 2011, is also charged in the indictment for allegedly arranging for the bribe to be paid to Bechir’s wife, co-defendant Nouracham Bechir Niam, via a sham contract for consulting services that she never actually provided. In addition to the $2 million bribe payment, the start-up energy company also issued shares in the company to Niam, to Takane’s wife, and to a third Chadian individual, as part of the bribe, according to the indictment.
[…]
All four defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and Bechir, Takane, and Niam are also charged with money laundering, each of which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Niam and Tyab are also charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, which carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The indictment in this case was returned by the grand jury in February 2019. Tyab was arrested in the Southern District of New York on Feb. 9, 2019, and subsequently, on April 30, 2019, he entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. As part of his guilty plea, Tyab agreed to forfeit criminal proceeds of approximately $27 million. The Honorable Richard J. Leon will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The remaining three defendants remain at large.
[…]
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Read here in full.

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Snapshot: Diplomatic Spouses Employment by Regional Bureau (2017-2020)

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Via state.gov/FLO

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Another ‘Coup’ in Mali, US Embassy Bamako Provides Routine Services

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Snapshot: State Department’s Remote Missions – YAU, VAU, @US2SOMALIA

The life of a blog has no certainty. In most cases, a blog has a lifespan better than that of a mayfly. A day. But most blogs do not make it longer than winter bees (six months). We have to-date survived through 26 winter bee seasons! So that’s amazing! Whatever is in the horizon, we are thankful to all of you who made these seasons possible. We are on the last few days of our eight-week annual fundraising. We are grateful to over 400 readers who pitched in since we launched a few weeks ago. If you care what we do here, and you are able to help, please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27.  We could use your support.  ❤️❤️❤️ D!

Via State/OIG AUD-MERO-21-16/March 2021:

(U) In the event of a natural disaster, political instability, or other security threats, the Department of State (Department) may decide to evacuate an embassy and establish operations in a separate location known as a “remote mission,” often in another country, for an indefinite period of time. Remote missions include the Yemen Affairs Unit (YAU), which is operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU), which is operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia; and Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia, which began operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, but now mostly operates from the Mogadishu International Airport in Somalia.
[…]
To ensure the safety of mission personnel during natural disasters, political instability, or other security threats, the Department may evacuate an embassy or consulate and establish operations in a separate location. Often the new location is in another country, where missionessential functions continue, and the embassy effectively operates as a “remote mission.” Missions that have operated remotely include the Yemen Affairs Unit, the Venezuela Affairs Unit, and Embassy Mogadishu.1

(U) Yemen Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) – In February 2015, the Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, due to deteriorating security conditions resulting from the Houthis’ takeover of the government.2 One month later, the Department established the YAU remote mission at the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.3 On October 24, 2018, the YAU relocated from Jeddah to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

(U) Venezuela Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia) – In March 2019, the Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, due to security concerns and the deteriorating political situation in the country. On August 5, 2019, the Department established the VAU remote mission atthe U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, under the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

(U) U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya) – On September 8, 2015, after years of turmoil following the collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991, the Department formally established the U.S. Mission to Somalia, based at Embassy Nairobi, Kenya. In December 2018, the Department designated a facility at the Mogadishu International Airport as a U.S. diplomatic facility under the Bureau of African Affairs, though some support staff continue to be based at Embassy Nairobi.

(U) Personnel at embassies and consulates usually include a combination of direct hires— that is, U.S. citizens who are Civil Service or Foreign Service employees—and LE staff. LE staff are typically citizens of the host country and are employed under the authority of the Chief of Mission. Following an evacuation or suspension of operations, LE staff may remain in the host country and continue to work, depending on the mission’s needs.4 For example, since 2015, LE staff based in Yemen have worked to support the YAU now located at U.S Embassy Riyadh. Similarly, since 2019, LE staff based in Venezuela have worked to support the VAU located at U.S. Embassy Bogota. Moreover, in some instances, after an embassy’s closure, LE staff may perform their duties while working remotely or teleworking from their homes in the host country. For both the YAU and VAU, some of the LE staff have been either working remotely or teleworking from their homes due to the closure of the U.S. embassies in both Yemen and Venezuela.

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U.S. Embassy Chad Now on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency USG Employees and Family Members

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On April 16, the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad issued a Security Alert notifying U.S. citizens of  “continuing reports of the presence of armed non-governmental groups in the North of Chad.” The Alert notes that U.S. Government employees have been temporarily restricted from traveling outside the city of N’Djamena.
On April 17, the U.S. Embassy N’Djamena, Chad issued another Security Alert  noting that the previously reported armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N’Djamena.  “Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena, there is the possibility for violence in the city.”
Also on April 17, Embassy Chad announced the ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees from U.S. Embassy N’Djamena due to civil unrest and armed violence:

Armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N’Djamena. Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena, and the possibility for violence in the city, non-essential U.S. Government employees have been ordered to leave Chad by commercial airline. U.S. citizens in Chad wishing to depart should take advantage of commercial flights.

The government of Chad may impose travel restrictions without notice, which may affect travel plans. The government of Chad may block communications channels, including telephone service, social media, and internet.

The U.S. Government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Chad as U.S. Government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside of the capital, including the Lake Chad Basin.

On April 17, the State Department also issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel to Chad Advisory “due to civil unrest and armed violence. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and minefields.”
US Embassy Chad currently does not have a Senate-confirmed ambassador. Steven Christopher Koutsis a career member of the Senior Foreign Service was nominated in 2019 to be U.S. Ambassador to Chad. It was not acted by the U.S. Senate and the nomination was returned to the President on January 3, 2021.
Ambassador David Gilmour has been Charge d’Affaires, a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena since December 2020.  He previously served as United States Ambassador to Togo from 2015 to 2019.  Also in December 2020, Seth Vaughn assumed the position of Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Chad.  He arrived in N’Djamena in October 2020 as the Political and Economic Section Chief.

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