U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure

Posted: 11:51 pm EDT
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On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff during a military coup that occurred less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power (see US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt).

On September 21, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Burkina Faso recommending that U.S. citizens in the country depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” It also notified the public that the State Department has authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burkina Faso depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This Travel Warning is being issued to notify U.S. citizens that on September 21, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.  U.S. citizens are urged to carefully consider the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and, if already in Burkina Faso, encouraged to review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members, should depart.  U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.  Citizens who decide to remain in Burkina Faso despite this travel warning should maintain situational awareness at all times and register their presence within Burkina Faso with the Embassy by enrolling in STEP.  This Travel Warning supersedes and replaces the Travel Alert issued on September 4, 2015.

Embassy staff remaining in Burkina Faso continues to shelter in place.  The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou will operate at reduced staffing levels and will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) took control of the presidential palace during the weekly council of ministers meeting the afternoon of September 16, detaining President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two additional members of the cabinet of ministers.  President Kafando and others have since been released, but Kafando remains under house arrest.  Prime Minister Zida remains in detention.  Former special chief of staff responsible for the RSP General Gilbert Diendere was declared to be in charge of Burkina Faso following the establishment of a “Conseil national pour la democratie” (CND, the National Council for Democracy).

The security environment in Ouagadougou remains fluid.  Gunfire continues to be reported in locations throughout Ouagadougou.  Elements of the RSP have set road blocks and have engaged in crowd control measures. Civilians have also established roadblocks around the city.  The level of activity on the street has diminished, and many businesses providing essential services—including food, gasoline and cooking fuel—remain closed.  Local electricity and water utility providers have declared a strike, which could further decrease the level of services provided to residents.  A nationwide curfew remains in place from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Outside of Ouagadougou, the security situation varies, but remains dynamic and susceptible to change at any moment.  There have been reports of demonstrations in Bobo-Dioulasso, Gaoua, Fada N’Gourma, and Ouahigouya.  Due to reports that roadways between major cities may be impassable, U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

Read in full here.

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US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt

Posted: 2:06 am EDT
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A Travel Alert was issued for Burkina Faso in early September (see Travel Alert Burkina Faso (September 3, 2015). On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff amidst what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power.

On Wednesday, September 16 the U.S. Embassy received reports that military elements are holding the President, Prime Minister, and other Cabinet Members hostage.  Civil society organizations are calling for demonstrators to gather at the Place de la Nation (also known as the Place de la Revolution) and at the Presidential Palace.  Road blocks near the Presidential Palace have been established.  Gunshots have been fired in various locations in Ouagadougou. Embassy employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice.  

Likewise, we urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to shelter in place.  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 Embassy also released the following statement:

Recent Actions By Elements of the Presidential Guard in Burkina Faso

“The United States is deeply concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso. We call for the immediate release of President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and all other officials being held.

The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force.

We call for an immediate end to violence, urge the military personnel involved to return to their primary mission, and reaffirm our steadfast support for the civilian transitional government to continue its work of preparing for free, fair, and credible elections on October 11.”

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Related posts:

New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure

Posted: 9:46 pm  PDT
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We posted this earlier today: US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice. Sometime in the last 24 hours, the State Department must have decided to place the US Embassy in Bujumbura on “ordered departure.” A new Travel Warning was released today. Non-emegency personnel and family members are also ordered to depart the country.   Ordered Departure is initiated in extraordinary circumstances when the embassy is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families. Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).

The State Department also recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.”   Meanwhile, the game of continues, and there are still conflicting reports on social media regarding the operating status of the Bujumbura airport.

by-map bujumbura

Below is an excerpt from the new Travel Warning dated May 14:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on May 14.  The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2015.

The security situation remains fluid and volatile because of military and security forces activity in Bujumbura.  There have been increased political tensions and civil disturbances related to these actions.  Airport and land borders are reportedly closed.  U.S. citizens should shelter in place until it is safe to move about, ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date, and confirm that air and land borders are open before attempting to depart the country.

The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi.  It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi.  Political violence persists throughout Burundi, a carryover of the Burundian civil war. Armed groups operate in Burundi.  Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence.  Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors.  Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners.  If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows.  Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies.  U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time.  Local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.

Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning.  For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.

Travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall.  Note the U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi.  All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited.  Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn.  Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.  Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.

Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected.  Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services.  Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks throughout the country.  Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate with impunity.

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US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice

Posted: 10:36 am PDT
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On May 14, the US Embassy in Burundi released the following Emergency Message to American citizens in the country:

In response to increasing violence in multiple locations across Bujumbura, there will be no movement of Embassy personnel until further notice. The Embassy recommends that all U.S. citizens exercise extreme caution at all times. If you are in a safe location, the Embassy recommends you remain where you are as travel in Bujumbura is not currently safe. The U.S. Embassy has received reports that the airport continues to be closed and land borders may also be closed at this time. The U.S. Embassy will continue to closely monitor the security environment in Burundi and will advise U.S. citizens further if the security situation changes.

The embassy had a town hall meeting on May 11th.  At that time, the embassy brought up the potential for an evacuation and why amcits should consider plans to leave temporarily:

We are not currently sending any of our Embassy staff or family members home. However, it is important for you to make plans and consider your options for departing Burundi if you choose to do so. It is never a wise plan to rely on the U.S. Embassy for evacuation. It is always better to leave a country while you are able to do so safely and easily. If you or your family members do not feel safe, you should consider making plans to leave, at least temporarily. This is always a personal and individual decision for private U.S. citizens. Our consular officer Kate Kigudde will speak more about consular support during a crisis, but it is important to remember that if you stay in country and the U.S. Embassy organizes an evacuation, you will not be able to bring many of your belongings or any of your family pets. We understand that these can be difficult decisions for people and we strive to give you all the information and tools you need to make the right decision for you and your family.

More updates via Twitter:

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State Dept Issues Burkina Faso Travel Alert (Expires on January 29, 2015)

— Domani Spero
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We’ve previously blogged about Burkina Faso here (see Burkina Faso Says Bye Bye Blaise: Martial Law Lifted, Nationwide Curfew, Shelter in Place Still OnUS Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place; Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

Yesterday, after three days of chaos, the State Department issued a Travel Alert informing U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Burkina Faso following the fall of the government of  President Compaore:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to or residing in Burkina Faso and recommends U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel.  This Travel Alert will expire on January 29, 2015.

On October 31, Burkina Faso’s President Compaore resigned.  The status of a transitional government remains unclear.  There are incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country.

The situation is dynamic and closures or openings of border and airports are likely to change and remain unpredictable for some time.  Currently, land and air borders have been closed.  U.S. citizens should stay informed and abreast of local media reports for land border and airport updates.

U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

U.S. citizens residing in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices.  Avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; be alert and remain aware of your surroundings; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets.

Read in full here.

Meanwhile —

 

 

 

Yesterday, the State Department expressed concern over the transfer of power in Burkina Faso:

The United States is concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso.  We regret the violence and the loss of life in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence.  We reiterate our call for all parties to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power and holding of democratic elections following the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore.  We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people’s support for the democratic process.

According to Vice News, Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, who assumed power has been a member of the military for more than 20 years, and served as the second in command of the ex-president’s security regiment. This is apparently, the seventh time a military officer has seized power since Burkina Faso won its independence from France more than 50 years ago. If history is any indication, he may still be around in 2022 in the “land of upright people.”

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Burkina Faso Says Bye Bye Blaise: Martial Law Lifted, Nationwide Curfew, Shelter in Place Still On

— Domani Spero
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The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued the following emergency message to U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso. The messages are dated but typically do not carry a timestamp:

On Thursday, October 30, President Compaore announced in a televised address that he will continue dialogue to form a transitional government after which he will transfer power to a democratically elected president.  He reiterated the message that the government is dissolved and announced that the state of martial law is lifted in all of Burkina Faso.

However, there is currently a 7:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew nationwide.

The city of Ouagadougou currently appears to be calm, however protesters continue to gather at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, and at the Place Tiefo Amoro (Station Square) in Bobo-Dioulasso. Crowds and spontaneous protests may also form elsewhere.

Embassy staff continues to shelter in place until further notice.  We urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to do the same and to make movements for essential purposes only.

At this time we do not know if civilians have access to the Ouagadougou International Airport. We are monitoring the situation but it is unclear whether flights continue to operate.

 

Meanwhile, today, Burkina Faso said bye-bye Blaise:

 

Enter armed forces chief General Honore Traore:

 

The people celebrates:

 

Former-Prez to Ghana?

 

Meet the new boss:

 

Consequences?

 

Except for the Emergency Message from Embassy Ouagadougou, there is no Travel Warning or Alert issued on Burkina Faso as of this writing. The latest State Department statement is dated October 30, and obviously had been overtaken by events.

The United States welcomes President Compaore’s decision to withdraw a National Assembly bill which would have amended the constitution and allowed him to run for an additional term of office. We also welcome his decision to form a government of national unity to prepare for national elections and to transfer power to a democratically elected successor. We look forward to that transition taking place in 2015. We regret the violence and the loss of life today in Burkina Faso, and call on all parties to avoid further violence. We underscore our commitment to peaceful transitions of power through democratic elections and emphasize neither side should attempt to change the situation through extra-constitutional means.

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

— Domani Spero
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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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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.”

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US Embassy Mali Goes on Authorized Departure for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

On April 3, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Mali warning US citizens against travel to Mali and announced the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. It also advised U.S. citizens currently living in Mali to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Excerpt below:

April 3, 2012
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali at this time because of current political instability in the country, an active rebellion in the north, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country. The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. Malian mutineers have refused to return to their barracks, and rival rebel factions are battling each other for control in areas they have seized in the north. The situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Mali to consider their own personal security and contingency plans, including the option of temporarily departing Mali.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated March 26, 2012, to update information on current events in Mali.
[…]
Senou International Airport in Bamako is currently open for business; however, the availability of flights in the future is unpredictable and depends on the overall security situation. U.S. citizens currently living in Mali are advised to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Persons wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport’s operational status and flight and seat availability before traveling to the airport.

U.S. citizens should note that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated northern regions of Mali as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents. Prior to traveling to these areas, U.S. government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. This designation is based on an active Tuareg rebellion, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Maghreb (AQIM), as well as banditry in the region. These restrictions are in effect for the regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, where separatist rebels now appear to have control.

Read the full Travel Warning here.

Crystal, FS blogger of Traveling at the Speed of Life writes her goodbye to Bamako as she heads back to the U.S. with five kids, minus FS dad who is left in Bamako.

Chelsea, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali blogs about her evacuation in Good Golly Miss Mali: Peace Corps and More:

It’s muggy and hot and we’re exhausted—we’re tired of being frustrated, we’re tired of crying, tired of saying goodbye. And this is only the beginning. We haven’t even met up with our fellow PCVs yet.  Last night we had the talk that we never thought we’d have. After forty years of uninterrupted service to the people of Mali, Peace Corps is evacuating. It’s surreal. We keep saying, “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” as if it were some freak accident or Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse or something.
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The worst part about all of this is that I have to leave Scout behind (Peace Corps does not allow PCVs to evacuate pets.). Honestly, leaving her has been the largest source of my tears over the past week. […] I left her with my old site mate’s homologue, an amazing man named Abdoullaye whom I know will take care of her.  I really hope I get to see her again someday, if anything just to rub her belly one more time and let her know that I didn’t forget about her.

Map of Mali
(Source: FCO)

On April 6, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the temporary suspension of all in country services in Mali, including consular services and the withdrawal of its staff from its Embassy in Bamako. A Foreign Office spokesperson said:

“Given the unstable and unpredictable situation in Mali and the continuing lack of constitutional rule, the UK has decided to temporarily withdraw its staff from its Embassy in Bamako and temporarily suspend all in country services immediately, including consular assistance. Consular assistance will continue to be provided to British nationals from our Embassy in Dakar but the UK’s ability to help British nationals who chose to remain in Mali may become limited. We have recommended since 4 April that British nationals should leave Mali as soon as possible by commercial means.”

Meanwhile, Ansar Dine, an Islamist group which also joined the fight against Malian government forces has reportedly kidnapped seven Algerian Consulate staff in the city of Gao, according to Al Jazeera citing witnesses and the Algerian foreign ministry.

On April 6, Al Jazeera reported that following a coup by army officers in the capital Bamako and advances by Tuareg fighters in the northern towns, the Tuareg rebels have proclaimed the “independence of Azawad.” They have declared the city of Gao as the capital of their new country.

The law of unintended consequences now at play.

Domani Spero