GAO Cites Gaps in @StateDept’s Crisis and Evacuation Preparedness for Overseas Posts

Posted: 3:11 am ET
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The GAO recently released its review of the State Department policies and procedures for evacuating overseas posts. The report notes that from October 2012 to September 2016, the State Department evacuated overseas post staff and family members from 23 overseas posts.  The evacuation was in response to various threats, such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Overseas posts undergoing evacuations generally have three types of movement: authorized departure (voluntary), ordered departure (mandatory) of specific post staff or family members, and suspended operations (closure).

The report also note that in fiscal years 2010 through 2016, State’s reported costs associated with evacuating from posts on 53 occasions were roughly $25.5 million.

“According to State officials, costs associated with evacuations varied due to several factors, including the number of post staff and family members evacuated. In fiscal year 2014, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Maseru in Lesotho were roughly $20,000, while in the same year, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Sana’a in Yemen were roughly $1.9 million.”

Certainly, a big chunk of that cost has to come from security and transportation. Below are the significant gaps cited by the GAO in the State Department’s crisis and evac preparedness:

U.S. personnel working at overseas posts, along with the family members who accompany them, face a range of threats to their safety and security—such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. To help protect them, State has established processes to prepare overseas posts for crises and to conduct evacuations. However, State has significant gaps in implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations at overseas posts.

➥Overseas posts are not completing required annual Emergency Action Plans (EAP) updates

➥ Diplomatic Security is not identifying incomplete updates in its Emergency Action Plan (EAP) reviews

➥ The EAPs themselves are not readily usable during emergency situations

➥ Although regular drilling is a critical crisis preparedness task, very few overseas posts have completed all required annual drills

➥ Because overseas posts are not submitting required after-action reports containing lessons learned following evacuations, the State Department is missing important opportunities to identify challenges and best practices and to make changes to prepare for future evacuations from overseas posts.

The report concludes that “while State has taken initial actions— including some actions in response to our ongoing work—to improve implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations, significant shortcomings exist.” It also says that “while each of these gaps is of concern, taken together, they increase the risk that post staff are not sufficiently prepared to handle crisis and emergency situations.”

 Other details excerpted from the report:

Late Annual Updates:

In fiscal year 2016, about 1 in 12 overseas posts were late in completing required annual updates. On average, these posts were about 6 months late in completing their EAP updates. For fiscal year 2016, the list of posts that were late in completing their annual EAP updates included 7 posts rated high or critical in political violence or terrorism.

DS Does Not Fully Review Key Sections of EAPs Submitted by Overseas Posts

The FAH directs DS to review each EAP submitted by an overseas post during the annual EAP review cycle to ensure that EAPs include updated information needed by State headquarters and other agencies to monitor or assist in responding to emergency situations at posts.22 To conduct these annual reviews, DS Emergency Plans Review Officers in Washington use a list of 27 key EAP sections that the Emergency Plans Review Office has determined should be updated each year.23 According to DS officials, Emergency Plans Review Officers spot check these 27 key EAP sections to review and approve each EAP. In addition, DS officials told us that Review Officers consider forms included in key EAP sections that they spot check to meet the annual update requirement if the forms were updated up to 3 years prior to the check.24

DS does not document its annual EAP review process. We requested the results of the Emergency Plans Review Officer reviews, including data on who conducted them and what deficiencies, if any, were found. Federal internal control standards call for agency management to evaluate performance and hold individuals accountable for their internal control responsibilities.25 However, DS was unable to provide copies of the reviews completed because the Emergency Plans Review Officers do not document these results.

Emergency Action Plans Are Viewed As Lengthy and Cumbersome Documents That Are Not Readily Usable in Emergency Situations

While officials from State headquarters and all six posts we met with told us that EAPs are not readily usable in emergency situations, officials at five of the six posts we met with also said there is value for post staff to participate in the process of updating EAPs to prepare for emergencies. The process of updating the EAP, they noted, includes reviewing applicable checklists and contact lists before an emergency occurs, which can help post staff be better prepared in the event of an emergency. Officials at two of the six posts we met with also observed that EAPs contain large amounts of guidance because it is easier for responsible staff at post to complete required updates to their specific sections if all the guidance they need is directly written into each EAP.

The GAO reviewers were told that EAPs are often more than 800 pages long. “Our review of a nongeneralizable sample of 20 EAPs confirmed this; the 20 EAPs in our sample ranged from 913 to 1,356 pages long,” the report said.

One other footnote says that “while each major section, annex, and appendix of an EAP had its own table of contents, the full EAP lacked a single, comprehensive table of contents or index.”

A new system sometime this year?

The State Department is reportedly in the process of developing a new electronic system for overseas posts to draft and update their EAPs to address issues with the current system, according to State headquarters officials. According to the report, the State Department plans to launch the new system in the second half of 2017.

Absent a functioning lessons learned process …

The GAO reviewers talk about lessons not learned:

We learned of several challenges that posts faced in different evacuations in discussions with officials from the six posts with whom we met. Different posts mentioned various challenges, including disorganized evacuation logistics and transportation, unclear communication with local staff, confusion surrounding the policy for evacuating pets, problems with shipment and delivery of personal effects, difficulty tracking the destination of staff who were relocated, poor communication with senior State leadership regarding the post’s evacuation status, difficulties getting reimbursement for lodging or personal expenses related to the evacuation, and other similar challenges.

Absent a functioning lessons learned process, State’s ability to identify lessons learned and to share best practices from staff that have experienced evacuations may be constrained.

Back in 2009, Rep Howard Berman sponsored H.R. 2410 during the 111th Congress to provide for the establishment of a Lessons Learned Center for the State Department and USAID under the Under Secretary for Management.  That bill made no specific provision as to staff composition of the Center or its funding, and it also died in committee (H.R. 2410: Lessons Learned Center, Coming Soon?).

In 2016, the State Department and the Foreign Service Institute marked the opening (reportedly after two years of preparation) of its Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy. Then D/Secretary Tony Blinken said that the Center ensures “that we apply the lessons of the past to our conduct and actions in the future.” Some media outlet called it a ‘lessons learned’ center but its aim is on the study and analysis of diplomatic best practices to study how to effectively apply policy.

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US Embassy Kinshasa Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Family Members of USG Employees

Posted: 1:20 am ET
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On September 29, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It also announced the evacuation of family members of U.S. Government employees assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. Below is an excerpt:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of continued instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The potential for civil unrest is high in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, family members of U.S. government personnel have been ordered to leave the country beginning September 29.  Most official U.S. government travel to the DRC has been halted.  The U.S. Embassy is able to provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the DRC.  This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2016.

On September 19 and 20, violent clashes around the election process erupted between security forces and demonstrators, resulting in the loss of life and the destruction of property. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. 

Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces continue to operate in:

  • North Kivu
  • South Kivu
  • Bas-Uele
  • Haut-Uele
  • Ituri
  • Tanganyika
  • Haut-Lomami

These groups kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, steal vehicles, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians can be indiscriminately targeted. Kidnapping for ransom is common, particularly in areas north and west of Goma, North Kivu. Congolese military and United Nations forces operate throughout North and South Kivu and near the DRC’s borders with the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park. Travelers in the region may encounter troop movements, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly trained security forces at official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country, especially near government buildings and installations in Kinshasa. Be cautious if you are stopped by security forces. Requests for bribes are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refuse to pay. In the past year, several U.S. citizens have been illegally detained by government forces or robbed of their valuables while being searched.

Read in full here.

Plus this:

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U.S. Embassy Libreville Cancels Routine Services For Sept2 Following Gabon Demonstrations

Posted: 3:24 am ET
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On September 1, the US Embassy in Gabon released a security message concerning the protests and demonstrations roiling the country. It announced that it will be open for limited operations only on Friday, September 2.

The U.S. Embassy in Libreville informs U.S. citizens that widespread, violent demonstrations, rioting and looting have taken place in Libreville, particularly in the area of Cite de la Democratie-Voie Express-Boulevard Triomphal, and extending through many of the city’s central and southern neighborhoods following the announcement of presidential election results.  Further protests and demonstrations are expected in the coming days.

Security forces have responded to the situation with tear gas and have placed roadblocks at major arterial roads, cutting off transportation across the city. There is also debris and burned cars blocking the roads in some areas.

There are reports of violence in the cities of Oyem, Bitam, Port Gentil and Lambarene.

At this time the airport is open and operational and commercial flights are available.  The Embassy recommends U.S. citizens remain in a safe location and avoid non-essential movement. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation and will update you as appropriate.

Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.  Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

The U.S. Embassy in Libreville will be open with limited operations on Friday, September 2.  Routine consular services have been cancelled, but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens continue to be available.

 

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U.S. Embassy Juba: 47 Troops Ordered to South Sudan, 130 Pre-Positioned in Djibouti

Posted: 2:19 am PT
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On July 13, President Obama informed Congress of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.

In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba. The first of these additional personnel, approximately 47 individuals, arrived in South Sudan on July 12, 2016, supported by military aircraft. Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed. Additional U.S. Armed Forces, including approximately 130 military personnel currently pre-positioned in Djibouti, are prepared to provide support, as necessary, for the security of U.S. citizens and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

On July 13, Embassy Juba also announced two charter flights that will depart Juba for Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday, July 14. Passengers are expected to make onward travel plans themselves. A security message issued previously notes that “seating is very limited”  and that the mission “cannot guarantee availability.”  Passengers are limited to one piece of luggage (20 kg/45 lbs) each.  Pets are not included in the charter flights.  Passengers who are not documented with a valid U.S. passport “will likely not be considered for boarding.”

 

Germany and the EU have completed the evacuation of its citizens on July 13.  The UK and India are in the process of also evacuating their citizens from South Sudan.

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US Embassy Juba: Two Charter Flights For U.S. Citizens to Depart on July 14

Posted: 1:11 pm ET
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The U.S. Embassy in Juba sent an emergency message to U.S. citizens in South Sudan informing them on two charter flights departing from Juba to Entebbe (Uganda) on Thursday, July 14.

Evacuation Flights from Juba Beginning | July 13, 2016

The U.S. Embassy in Juba informs resident American citizens that two charter flights will be departing Juba to Entebbe on July 14. U.S. citizens wishing to depart on the first flight should arrive to the airport at 8:30 a.m. to be processed. U.S citizens wishing to depart on the second flight should arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. to be processed.

The U.S. Embassy will not collect money for this flight; however, all passengers will be required to complete and sign a DS-5528 promissory letter for the fare. The amount of the loan will be the cost of a full fare ticket from Juba to Entebbe (approximately USD250). You must arrange your own transportation to the airport and onward from Juba. Due to ongoing security concerns, please remain vigilant when moving about the city.

Notice to all passengers: (1) Bring a valid travel document (passport); (2) you are restricted to one small carryon; and (3) no pets will be allowed. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation and will update you as appropriate.

Read What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.

 

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State Dept Suspends US Embassy Yemen Operations, Relocates Staff Until Further Notice

Posted: 00:46 EST
Updated 2/14/15 11:47 PST

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The State Department suspended embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country according to the February 11, 2015  Travel Warning released late tonight. Embassy Sanaa had previously announced the suspension of all consular services until further notice on February 8.

On February 11, 2015, due to the deteriorating security situation in Sanaa, the Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff were relocated out of the country. All consular services, routine and/or emergency, have been suspended until further notice. The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on September 25, 2014.

The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain extremely concerning, and there are no plans for a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage U.S. citizens wishing to depart to do so via commercial transportation options. If you wish to depart Yemen, you should make plans to depart as soon as possible. Airports may experience unexpected closures with little to no warning and access to the airport also may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates. All U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country. For U.S. citizen inquiries, you may send an email to YEMENEMERGENCYUSC@state.gov.

The announcement followed a whirl of rumors surrounding the suspension of operations at Embassy Sana’a in less than 24 hours.

 

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Apparently, the Houthi leader was not happy about this possible closure (technically a suspension of operations since the US has not terminated diplomatic relations with Yemen):

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It’s just a slogan, really?

 

The British ambassador to Yemen:

 

Whoa, a practice siege?

 

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And just like the suspension of operations at US Embassy Tripoli, this, too, unfolded on social media:

 

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Around dinner time EST, the AP confirmed the suspension of operations in Sanaa and the evacuation of staff due to security concerns:

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Update:

Burkina Faso’s Revolution. Or the day mama jumped in the pool fully clothed.

— Domani Spero
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One of our readers pointed us to this MamaCongo blogpost (thanks A!).  We’ve requested and was granted permission by the author to excerpt it here. She is the country representative of the Mennonite Central Committee,  a nongovernment organization operating in Burkina Faso, and a marvelous storyteller. In the post below, she tells us a slice of life amidst a crisis in a foreign land. Reminds us of Four Globetrotters’ blogpost about what an FSO and her colleagues went through during the attack of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis in 2012 (see Attack here).

The following post from MamaCongo is a first person account of an American expat during the recent  revolution in Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in the center of West Africa with one of the highest poverty rates in the world.  According to Diplomatic Security’s Crime and Safety Report, Burkina Faso was also rocked by several months of protests, civil unrest, and lawlessness in 2011. In the event of lawlessness or protests by armed groups, including such incidents perpetrated by soldiers and police, the official advice is to seek a safe location, remain indoors, and shelter in place.  The shelter in place advice, of course, that does not work, if the house you’re in is a target for burning, and looting,, as was the case here.

 

There is a shoutout in the blogpost for Kristin, an FSO at our embassy in Ouagadougou.  For all the consular officers and duty officers out there who seldom get a mention for their work, this one’s for you. And those French, by heavens, they remain cool and collected with smokes and drinks even in a crisis?

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Burkina Faso’s Revolution. Or the day mama jumped in the pool fully clothed.

by Sarah Sensamaust
excerpted
from MamaCongo

It’s taken us a bit of time to process Burkina Faso’s recent uprising, or revolution, or coup, or junta, or whatever you want to call it. Granted we’re not Burkinabé nor were we anywhere near the front lines, but our expat lives were a bit shaken up. I mean, we’re not in Congo anymore so life should be easy peasy for goodness sake.

In short, Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso’s longtime president of 27 years, decided he wanted to change the constitution to extend term limits. But folks had another idea. As in, on the day of the vote thousands of people mobilized to stop it.

On that morning, we planned to introduce the director of our organization (who was visiting from the States – perfect timing) to participants we work with at the prison. No big deal, Adam would take him in the morning before the vote results were announced. I’d stay back in the office and hold down the fort. Of course no one else was dumb enough to come to work that day. So there I sat alone while they headed off to the prison.

About the time they arrived at the prison, the city exploded. Tens of thousands of people protested and then attacked the parliament building setting it on fire. There was gunfire, then helicopters dropped tear gas. I spent the morning pacing up and down the office hallway. Convincing myself my eyes were burning from really intense dust and not tear gas. I also sent messages to Jill because how can this be happening and I have no one to talk to?!

I won’t mention how many paces it took me to remember my children playing outside a few blocks away. But I did eventually call Anastasie and ask her to take the girls inside and close the windows. Clearly she had already done this. Because tear gas.

Meanwhile at the prison, a mob had gathered outside and began banging on the doors, so needless to say, Adam and our director were stuck inside. I’ll keep this exciting part about Adam short due to his issue with reading long posts and all: Prison guards quickly change into military uniforms. Everyone running. Adam stuck inside. Me thinking it’s slightly funny he’s got himself and our director trapped in a prison during a coup. Me waiting a long time, not thinking it’s so funny anymore. Crowds getting bigger. Me making lots of phone calls and driving back and forth through protestors to attempt to free them from prison. They eventually escape with zero help from me. 30 minutes later factory across from the prison is looted and burned. Revolt later that day in the prison and 3 people killed. Us breathing sigh of relief.

The stuck in prison situation is the kind of experience I’m happy to have had when it’s over. It was equal parts tense and exciting and it makes for a good story. All’s well that ends well. We are safe and sound at home. Boy was that crazy! So glad this whole revolution thing is over. I put up a semi-clever post on Facebook with a synopsis of the day. We’re proud of ourselves for distracting our children from the gunfire. They didn’t even notice! We’re so cool. Goodnight.

Compaoré resigned the next morning and left the country in a heavily armored motorcade. A general in the military was then named interim leader. Turns out this guy was not so popular and the city erupted once again. Oh wait, this revolution thing isn’t over yet?

A tactic that proved quite effective the day before was the burning and looting of former Compaoré government official’s houses along with those of his relatives and friends. A house a few blocks in front of our’s was burned as well as another house behind us. We got word that our next door neighbor’s house, with whom we share a wall, was next on the loot and burn list. A mob was on its way. Our neighbor on the other side yelled for us to quick get out of our house.

It’s safe to say this was not my calmest moment in motherhood. I went into full panic mode and ushered my children next door – to the safe neighbor’s house. We’ve been down this leave-the-house-and-all-of-your-belongings road before in Congo, so I grabbed their growth chart off the wall, the baby quilt and the princess dresses. Because I can hide from our children the fact that our house has been burned to the ground, but they’re definitely going to notice if their princess dresses are missing.

We took shelter next door. And again the pacing sets in. At this point we crossed a line we had never crossed before. Our children were scared and crying and asking what was going on. Guards were gathered in the road. And everyone was just waiting for the inevitable to happen. It didn’t ease our minds that a document had been looted from the president’s brother’s house, photocopied in mass and distributed throughout the city listing the addresses of houses that the president had bought for his friends. Our neighbor’s house number was #2 on the list.

I kind of just wanted the looters and burners to show up so it could just happen and be over. Someone suggested I call the embassy. After 6 years in Congo, I have their emergency number on speed dial. I don’t know how many times in Kinshasa I had to call an annoyed 18-year-old Marine and explain how we got our car booted in the middle of the road again.

Here in Ouagadougou it’s a kind woman named Kristin, who bless her heart, must have been a 911 operator or worked at a suicide prevention hotline in a previous life. She was so sweet and encouraging and for the first time since this whole ordeal began, I was talking with someone to whom I didn’t need to show a brave face. I started to tear up, so I took myself into my neighbor’s garage and had a good cry with dear, sweet Kristin. (Kristin, I hope you never read this. I would like to remain the anonymous, unstable expat caller.)

For whatever reason the mob had yet to come and it’s clear that pacing at our neighbor’s house all day was not a good plan for anyone. So we scurried across the street to distract our children and let them swim at the pool of our neighborhood French compound.

And folks, I kid you not. Those Frenchies were smoking and drinking and having a grand old time behind their wall, not 20 feet away from our panic attack across the street.

Our girls soon forgot their trauma and swam and joined in the carefree French time. Meanwhile, Adam and I were poolside sending emails and making hurried phone calls to our organization’s headquarters in the States, all the while keeping an ear out for approaching angry mobs.

At this point, as if our world had not stopped already, I glanced in the pool and Ani was bobbing and gasping for air in the deep end. So naturally, I jump in the pool, in front of all those relaxed French folk – fully clothed, leather clogs and all – to pull that poor girl out.

I swear to you, at this moment another military plane buzzed overhead and after the near-burning of our house and the near-drowning of my child, I took a moment to tread water and have a mini breakdown right there in the pool. I’ll never forget Adam and our director looking down at me, offering hands to help me out. But I just stayed. And treaded water. And cried.

And then my loving husband said, “That was crazy. It was kind of embarrassing that you had to jump in the pool like that to save her, but none of these French people even noticed. No one turned their heads. How are they so cool about everything?!”

I spent the rest of the day sitting by the pool. Sopping wet. You know, because of no spare clothes due to being evacuated from my house and all. Then after the curfew set in (which is announced in the curious way of police going through the streets and shooting in the air) our house was still standing and it was deemed safe to go home.

Our neighbors in question had rallied their burliest male relatives to set up camp outside their house to protect it. We managed to fall asleep that night, but it’s practically impossible to distinguish between the noises of a mob of men guarding a house and a mob of men attacking a house.

We debriefed with the girls and asked them how they felt when we had to leave our house and run next door. Because afterall, they were upset and scared and I don’t want that coming back at us in adolescence.

They didn’t really seem to remember it, so we didn’t press it. They were too distracted and confused about why mama jumped and cried in the pool. “No really, why were you crying in the pool?” they asked, “And why didn’t you put on your bathing suit first?” A full month later, they are still talking about this. “Hey! Remember that time mama jumped in the pool with her clothes on?!”

Thank the lord they’re not asking, “Remember that time we ran screaming from our house because we thought it was going to burn down?”

There’s more.  Read the entire blogpost here via MamaCongo.

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Related posts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place

— Domani Spero
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The US Embassy in Burkina Faso has made several security messages this past week, warning U.S. citizens of a planned day of protest that started out as a “civil disobedience campaign” on Tuesday, October 28 and followed by a demonstration and an  expected sit-down strike the last two days:

On Wednesday, October 29 it is expected that a demonstration (which was originally planned before the referendum announcement) organized by the Coalition Contre la Vie Chère(Coalition Against a High Cost of Living) will be used by the political opposition as an opportunity to hold a march and gathering in downtown Ouagadougou.

On Thursday, October 30 the National Assembly will reportedly vote on the proposed constitutional change.  The opposition has called for a sit-down strike surrounding the National Assembly building to block voting members from casting their vote.

Earlier today, Embassy Ouagadougou sent out an emergency message that at 9:30 am the U.S. Embassy received reports of demonstrators breaking through police barricades at the National Assembly and that warning shots and teargas have been fired.  Embassy staff was instructed to shelter in place until further notice.

via Google

via Google

Later on October 30, the embassy released the following statement on the enactment of martial law in Burkina Faso:

On Thursday, October 30, President Compaore declared that he is dissolving the government, declaring a state of emergency and enacting martial law.  Embassy staff has been instructed to continue to shelter in place until further notice.  We urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to do the same.

There have been widespread reports of looting throughout Ouagadougou and other parts of the country.

The Ouagadougou International Airport is closed and all flights in and out have been canceled until further notice.

U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment.  Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings.  Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in 1960, following its independence from France.  Blaise Compaoré has been President of Burkina Faso since 1987. CBS describes President Compaoré as a graduate of Muammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center (a.k.a. Harvard for tyrants).  His country has an unemployment rate of 77 percent (ranked 197th in the world.) See Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

According to the State Department’s Fact Sheet, U.S. interests in the country are as follows:

U.S. interests in Burkina Faso are to promote continued democratization and greater respect for human rights and to encourage sustainable economic development. Countering terrorism and strengthening border security are of growing importance in Burkina Faso. The United States and Burkina Faso engage in a number of military training and exchange programs, including in counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance. The country is contributing to the support of U.S. efforts in the Sahel. Burkina Faso is a partner in the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program for peacekeeping and is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

This is a fast moving event that the Consular Bureau’s Travel Alert or Travel Warning is possibly running wildly down the corridors to get cleared so it can get posted online.  We’ll try to keep tabs on that.  The airport is also closed so any evacuation will have that to tackle.   The U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso is Tulinabo Mushingi, a career diplomat with extensive Africa experience.

Some clips via Twitter:

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U.S. Embassy Islamabad Issues Security Message on Ongoing Violent Protests in Pakistan

— Domani Spero
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We were happy to say goodbye to Awful August but here we are in September and our unsettled times continue its march. On September 1, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan issued a Security Message to U.S. citizens urging caution due to continuing protests in the country . People have been reported killed and injured in the unrest that turned violent over the weekend. The Consular Section at Embassy Islamabad had been previously closed to the public on Aug 15 – 18 and August 20-21 due to the protests in the capital city.

 

 

Below is an excerpt from the September 1 message:

The U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. citizens in Islamabad to avoid the Red Zone due to continuing protests in the area which have become violent. Hundreds of people have been reported injured and at least three people reportedly killed since protests turned violent on Saturday, August 30th.  Additional demonstrations have been called for throughout Pakistan.  Furthermore, there have been reports of opportunistic criminal activity in the city, to which American Citizens should be alert.  The Embassy has advised its employees to limit their movements, and we recommend that U.S. citizens observe the same precaution. All U.S. citizens are advised to monitor the situation via local media, stay clear of all known demonstration routes and areas, keep a low profile, exercise caution, and avoid large gatherings.  Currently, the Embassy is scheduled to be open on Tuesday, September 2 for normal services.  U.S. citizens who are in Pakistan or who may be contemplating a visit to Pakistan are reminded to review the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014.

We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.  U.S. citizens should follow media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.  Scheduled or unscheduled protests may result in road closures, high volumes of road traffic, or other movement restrictions.

The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan urges U.S. citizens to vary their times and routes when traveling anywhere in Pakistan, and to avoid travel patterns to such locations that would allow other persons to predict when and where they will be.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, and as part of routine operational security measures, the U.S. Mission occasionally places areas such as hotels, markets, airports, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel.

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U.S. Embassy Lesotho Now on Ordered Departure for Non-Employed Family Members

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

On August 30, following a reported coup in Lesotho, the U.S. Embassy in Maseru issued a message to U.S. citizens urging them to “take proper precautions when traveling, such as avoiding areas of potential intimidation, routes of marches, and ongoing demonstrations.” It also advised U.S. citizens who choose to move around the capital city to return to their residences by 5:30 pm and remain there overnight.

CIA map

CIA map

Today, the Embassy Maseru informed the U.S. citizen community in Lesotho that the Department of State has ordered the departure of non-employed family members of U.S. Mission personnel due to concerns over a possible deterioration of the security situation in Lesotho. An “ordered departure” means that family members who are not employed at the U.S. mission, do not have an option to stay in country and must depart.  The Security Message includes the following information:

The Embassy is prepared to assist U.S. citizens who wish to depart from Lesotho and recommends those interested in Embassy assistance to contact us at +266 5888 4035.

The U.S. Embassy in Lesotho will be open September 2-3 for emergency American Citizens Services only. Citizens should be aware that depending on the security situation, the Embassy may be forced to suspend operations without advance notice. The international airport in Maseru is currently operating normally, however, flights may be suspended if the current security situation worsens. Land borders are also open at this time, but may close without warning. U.S. citizens who remain in Lesotho despite this Travel Warning are urged to stay in their homes until the security situation returns to normal, to closely monitor media reports, and to follow all official instructions. U.S. citizens who must leave their homes for any reason are urged to exercise extreme caution, be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.

U.S. citizens in Lesotho should carry their travel documents (i.e., passport, birth certificate, picture ID’s, etc.) with them at all times. Additionally, U.S. citizens in the area are reminded to stay in contact with friends and family in the United States to keep them apprised of their current welfare and whereabouts.

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Troops have reportedly mounted raids on police headquarters and police stations in the capital, Maseru, on Saturday and there is confusion over who is in control of the country. To understand political parties and democratization in Lesotho, read this (pdf) publication by the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.

 

 

Embassy Masesu is a small post with about a couple dozen American employees and about 80 local staff according to a 2010 OIG report. According to a State Department listing, as of August 27, 2014, U.S. Embassy Lesotho is currently headed by DCM/CHG Charge John McNamara. President Obama announced Matthew Harrington as his nominee for Ambassador to Lesotho on August 1, 2013.  Mr. Harrington, a career diplomat, has now been stuck in confirmation purgatory for 395 days.

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