US Embassy Conakry Issues Shelter in Place Alert, USG Condemns Military Seizure of Power in Guinea

 

 

On September 5, the US Embassy in Conakry issued a security alert warning U.S. citizens of “ongoing potential for disruption, demonstrations, gunfire”:

The events of September 5, 2021 continue to evolve in Guinea. U.S. citizens are reminded to continue to monitor local media, to remain at home or to shelter in place, to avoid demonstrations and large crowds, and to plan safety measures that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.

Meanwhile, Foggy Bottom condemned the military seizure of power in the country:

Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity. These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.

We urge all parties to forego violence and any efforts not supported by the Constitution and stand by the rule of law. We reiterate our encouragement of a process of national dialogue to address concerns sustainably and transparently to enable a peaceful and democratic way forward for Guinea to realize its full potential.

Security Alert – U. S. Embassy Conakry, Guinea (5 September, 2021)
Senior FSO Steven Koutsis assumed office as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at US Embassy Conakry in September 2020. Mr. Koutsis most recently served as CDA in Khartoum, Sudan from November 2016 to September 2019. Prior to that, Mr. Koutsis was Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.
Audu Besmer, a career FSO since 1999 arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Conakry in August 2019. His prior overseas assignments include Management Officer in Togo, a detail to the Treasury Department as Deputy Financial Attaché in Japan, and postings at the U.S. Embassies in Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic.

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Troy Damian Fitrell to be U.S.Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

On June 15, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Troy Damian Fitrell to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Guinea. The WH released the following brief bio:

Troy Damian Fitrell, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Guinea
Troy Fitrell, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, is the Director of the Office of West African Affairs at the Department of State. He has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in Ethiopia and Mauritius, as Deputy Director of the Department’s Office of Southern African Affairs, and as Deputy Director of the Office of International Security Cooperation in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He was Senior Advisor to the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes of Africa, coordinating U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region. Fitrell served as a Pearson Fellow on the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was a Watch Officer in the Department’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. He also served overseas at the U.S. embassies in Portugal, Guatemala, Zambia, Ghana and Denmark. Fitrell earned a B.A. at the University of Maryland and an M.S. at the National War College. He speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish and Danish.

If confirmed, Mr. Fitrell would succeed Ambassador Simon Henshaw who served from March 4, 2019 until June 9, 2020 when Ambassador Henshaw passed away at post (see US Embassy Conakry Announces the Passing of Ambassador Simon Henshaw in Guinea).
Guinea is one of those places where political appointees are not breaking the doors to get to. Since 1960, only three (14.3%) noncareer appointees served at the US Embassy in Conakry; all their tenures occurred between 1959 to 1965. Of the 21 appointees since 1960, 18 have been career diplomats.

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US Embassy Conakry Announces the Passing of Ambassador Simon Henshaw in Guinea

 

Via US Embassy Conakry:
Simon Henshaw, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1985.  He was nominated as Ambassador to Guinea on August 10, 2018 and confirmed by the Senate on January 2, 2019.  Most recently, he served as a senior advisor to the Health Initiatives Task Force at the Department of State, coordinating efforts to respond to a series of health and security incidents affecting United States diplomats in Cuba and China.   Previously, Mr. Henshaw served in senior leadership positions at the Department of State, including as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration from 2013 to 2018.  Additionally, from 2011 to 2013, he served as Director of the Office of Andean Affairs, and, from 2008 to 2011, as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Mr. Henshaw served at five other overseas diplomatic posts and in a number of domestic assignments.  Mr. Henshaw earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a M.S. from the National War College.  He is married with two adult children.

Related post:

@StateDept Announces the Passing of U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Matthew J. Matthews

US Embassy Conakry Issues Security Message on Ebola Outbreak in Guinea

— Domani Spero

On March 24, the US Embassy in Conakry, Guinea issued the following message to U.S. citizens in the country:

The Government of Guinea has confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus in the Nzérékoré  (Guinee Forestiere) region, mostly in the administrative district of Gueckedou and in the town of Macenta.  Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, a high fever and heavy bleeding.  To date over 80 cases have been recorded with 59 recorded fatalities.
The U.S. mission in Conakry strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid contact with individuals exhibiting the symptoms described above until further information becomes available.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (HF) is a deadly disease but is preventable.  It can be spread through DIRECT, unprotected contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person; or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.  The viruses that cause Ebola HF are often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons.  Ebola HF has a high mortality rate and early evidence suggests that the Guinea strain of Ebola is related to the Zaire Ebola strain that carries a mortality rate of 90%. Some who become sick with Ebola HF are able to recover, while others do not.  The reasons behind this are not yet fully understood. However, it is known that patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.
During outbreaks of Ebola HF, the disease can spread quickly within health care settings (such as a clinic or hospital).  Exposure to Ebola viruses can occur in health care settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus though 8-10 days is most common.  A person suffering from Ebola presents with a sudden onset of high fever with any of the following: headache, vomits blood, has joint or muscle pains, bleeds through the body openings (eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus) and has reduced urine.

Since the virus spreads through direct contact with blood and other body secretions of an infected person those at highest risk include health care workers and the family and friends of an infected individual.

For more information on Ebola hemorrhagic fever, please visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola

CDC map

CDC map

On 25 March 2014, the World Health Organization provided a status update of the outbreak:

The Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea has notified WHO of a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in forested areas south eastern Guinea. The cases have been reported in Guekedou, Macenta, and Kissidougou districts. As of 25 March 2014, a total of 86 suspected cases including 60 deaths (case fatality ratio: 69.7%) had been reported. Four health care workers are among the victims. Reports of suspected cases in border areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone are being investigated.

Thirteen of the cases have tested positive for Ebola virus by PCR (six at the Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie (CIRI) in Lyon, France, and seven at the Institut Pasteur Dakar, Senegal), confirming the first Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreak in Guinea. Results from sequencing done by CIRI Lyon showed strongest homology of 98% with Zaire Ebolavirus last reported in 2009 in Kasai-Occidental Province of DR Congo. This Ebolavirus species has been associated with high mortality rates during previous outbreaks.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has worked in Guinea since 2001. Its March 25 update indicates that the group is reinforcing its teams in Guéckédou and Macenta, two towns in the south of the country where the virus has spread. Thirty staff members are reportedly on the ground and more doctors, nurses, and sanitation specialists will be joining them in the coming days. According to DWB/MSF, thirteen samples to-date have tested positive for the Ebola virus, an extremely deadly viral hemorrhagic fever. Other samples are currently being analyzed. Suspected cases have been identified in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, but none of these have yet been confirmed by laboratory tests.

The CDC has updated its outbreak page with information from WHO and says that it is in regular communication with its international partners WHO and MSF regarding the outbreak, to identify areas where CDC subject matter experts can contribute to the response.

As of March 25, 2014, WHO has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions to Guinea in connection with this outbreak.

U.S. Embassy Conakry is an extreme hardship post receiving 25% COLA and 30% post hardship differential. Post is headed by Ambassador Alexander Laskaris who was sworn in as the 20th U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea on September 10, 2012.

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Protests Spread, Embassy Warnings and Temporary Suspension of Public Services

The Atlantic Wire’s John Hudson mapped on Google the protests breaking out across the globe due to a 14-minute YouTube clip of an anti-Muslim movie.   The protests are directed primarily against U.S. embassies, but also against institutions and businesses like the American International School in Tunis (burned and looted, also photos here of the US Embassy Tunis from an Arabic website), and the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hardee’s in Lebanon (burned and ransacked).

The British and German Embassies in Khartoum, Sudan were attacked, and there were reported protests as far away as Kashmir and Kut and also against the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, the United States protecting power in Iran.

Over the weekend, there were also protests in Adana and Istanbul in Turkey,  in Chisinau, Moldova and in Sydney, Australia.  It looks like the protesters range in number from as small as 30 individuals to as much as 2,000.

Map of Muslim Protests via The Atlantic Wire
(click on map to view the large interactive map)

Several posts overseas have announced temporary closure and suspension of services.

The US Embassy in Yemen sent an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens in Sana’a informing them of continuing demonstrations in the vicinity of the embassy, and consular services closure through Saturday, September 29.

US Mission Pakistan issued an Emergency Message for U.S Citizens in the country announcing the temporary suspension of consular services in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi on September 17  due to the potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Embassy. A second message informs U.S. citizens living in Pakistan that the U.S. government has instituted travel restrictions for its employees throughout the country. U.S. government employees can now undertake essential travel only, including within the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar, due to possible demonstrations moving along major routes.

US Embassy Tunisia announced that the embassy, including the Consular Section and American Citizen Services (ACS), will be closed to public access on September 17, 2012.

US Mission India announced that due to planned demonstrations in New Delhi and Kolkata on September 18, 2012, the American Center including the library and USIEF in the two cities will be closed.

Other posts have issued warning messages of possible protests:

In Azerbaijan, the U.S. Embassy Baku informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy at 3:00 pm on Monday, September 17.  The demonstration is assumed to be connected to other anti-American demonstrations ongoing worldwide.

US Embassy Lebanon issued an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens on “the reaction to the controversial film and internet event and says that “The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is concerned about the continued threat of demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. interests in Lebanon.” The AP’s Matt Lee reports that “A State Department status report obtained Monday by The Associated Press said the Beirut embassy had “reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings.”

Here is part of the Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens from the US Embassy Jakarta on 9/17/2012:

“The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has been informed of planned demonstrations in Jakarta and Medan. Today, Monday, September 17 there will be a demonstration in Jakarta starting at 12:00pm. Approximately 1,000 people are expected to march from the Hotel Indonesia Circle outside of Grand Indonesia to the U.S. Embassy. A demonstration also started in Medan today at around 9:00am. Another protest is planned in Medan for tomorrow, Tuesday September 18. The U.S. Embassy has been informed by the Indonesian National Police that approximately 150 police will be present in Medan and approximately 1,500 police will be present in Jakarta during the demonstrations. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent.”

US Embassy Conakry informs U.S. Citizens of anti-American demonstration at the U.S. Embassy on Monday, September 17. Embassy staff have been told to remain at home Monday morning. U.S. citizens are urged not to attempt to come to the Embassy. The American International School was also closed on Monday.

In Afghanistan, the US Embassy in Kabul restricted travel for Chief of Mission personnel across Afghanistan until further notice.

Officially In: Alexander M. Laskaris – from Erbil, Iraq to the Republic of Guinea

On May 24, President Obama announced his intent to nominate  Alexander M. Laskaris as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea. The WH released the following brief bio:

Alexander M. Laskaris, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, is Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Iraq, a position he has held since June 2010. Previously, he was the Team Leader for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq from 2008 to 2009.  Prior to serving in Iraq, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo (2006-2009) and Burundi (2003-2005).  Previously, Mr. Laskaris was a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff (2001-2003) and Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (1999-2001).  Other overseas assignments have included Political Officer in Luanda, Angola; Political and Economic Officer in Gaborone, Botswana; and Vice Consul in Monrovia, Liberia.  From 1996 to 1997, he served as Desk Officer for Rwanda and Burundi at the Department of State.

He received a B.S. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from the U.S. Army War College.

In addition to Kurdish, Mr. Laskaris speaks Albanian, Greek, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  He was born in Monterey, California and lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.  If confirmed, Mr. Laskaris would succeed career diplomat Patricia Newton Moller who was appointed chief of mission to Conakry in 2009.

We have often been struck by the prior assignments of some our diplomats nominated for ambassadorial posts. Some have been able to skirt the war zone posts, or able to get stuck in Foggy Bottom longer than most or move through inter-agency assignments within the beltway.  Mr. Laskaris on the other hand is on his second tour in Iraq, his third year in that war torn country. His list of previous assignments is a run down of places high on hardship and low on cushy-factor.  Conakry will not be altogether different from his prior assignments; post is a 55% differential post (25% COLA + 30% hardship).

Domani Spero

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 24, 2012