— Domani Spero
Following an outbreak of violence in South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy in Juba closed on December 16 and temporarily suspended routine American Citizen Services. Within 24 hours, the State Department suspended normal operations at Embassy Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non-emergency staff. On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the world’s newest country.
On December 18, DOD announced that at the request of the State Department, the Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate 120 personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. According to the DOD spokesman, the department also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint quick-response team formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation
Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)
Later that day, the State Department confirmed the successful evacuation of three groups of U.S. citizens from South Sudan. “Two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft and a private charter flight departed Juba at 0530, 0535, and 0940 EST, respectively, carrying non-emergency Chief of Mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and third country nationals.”
Ambassador Susan D. Page said that “On the ground the violence appears to be taking on a very clear ethnic dimension.” On December 20, Secretary Kerry called for the violence to stop and sent U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth to travel to the region and “support regional efforts already underway.”
The US Embassy in Juba subsequently organized the evacuation flights of U.S. citizens from Juba in the last several days. As of today, the embassy has evacuated at least 450 American citizens and other foreign nationals from the capital city. It said that it had hoped to start evacuation from Bor, a town located some 200km north of the capital. However, the evac flight came under fire, preventing the evacuation attempt. Four U.S. Service members were injured during the attack.
For an alternative map of Jonglei state in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, click here.
AFRICOM released the following statement:
Dec 21, 2013 — At the request of the Department of State, the United States Africa Command, utilizing forces from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), attempted to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town of Bor, South Sudan, today. As the aircraft, three CV-22 Ospreys, were approaching the town they were fired on by small arms fire by unknown forces. All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement. Four service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.
The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment.
All four service members were treated and are in stable condition.
The Sudan Tribune reported that Army defectors had taken control of Bor earlier this week but that the spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA) reportedly said today that they had regained control of the town.
Evacuation on Social Media
This is the first embassy evacuation of Amcits that has fully utilized Facebook and Twitter, both in reaching out to Americans at post, and in providing as timely an information as possible. When @modernemeid20 Dec complained that “The U.S. embassy has been incredibly unhelpful. My cousin’s passport expired, they’re just leaving her hanging” @USMissionJuba was quick to respond. “@modernemeid please call us at 0912157323 for assistance.” When somebody tweeted “all evacuation planes diverted” following a plane crash on the Juba airport runway, @USMissionJuba responded swiftly, “not quite true. At least two evac flights departed after the runway cleared.” We later asked for the number of evacuees, and the number shortly became available; tweeted, of course. In addition to answering questions about evac flights procedures, @USMissionJuba also organize a texting campaign to alert American citizen friends and family about the emergency evac flights.
Here’s a shoutout to @USMissionJuba’s Twitter and evac ninjas for being timely and responsive and for their tireless work under very difficult circumstances. Don’t ignore the fatigue factor and stay safe, folks!
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