U.S. Embassy Uganda Warns of Possible Terrorist Threats to Western Interests

Posted: 9:15 pm PDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]


Via U.S. Embassy Kampala, March 25, 2015

The U.S Embassy has received information of possible terrorist threats to locations where Westerners, including U.S. citizens, congregate in Kampala, and that an attack may take place soon.  Out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Mission has cancelled some non-essential events scheduled at local hotels in the coming days.  U.S. citizens staying or visiting hotels should expect increased security sweeps and delays when entering or exiting hotel areas.


State Department OIG Published Reports — July 2014

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


In case you missed these, here are the reports made publicly available by the State Department Office of Inspector General in the month of July.  All reports are in PDF format.

-07/31/14   Review of Remote Voucher Processing (ISP-I-14-21)  [304 Kb]  Posted on July 30, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of Embassy Bujumbura, Burundi (ISP-I-14-20A)  [301 Kb]  Posted on July 30, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISP-I-14-19)  [330 Kb]  Posted on July 23, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of Embassy Kampala, Uganda (ISP-I-14-18A)  [569 Kb]  Posted on July 23, 2014
-07/31/14   Review of Gifts to Embassy Employees (ISP-I-14-17)  [571 Kb]  Posted on July 23, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of Embassy La Paz, Bolivia (ISP-I-14-16A)  [595 Kb]  Posted on July 17, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (ISP-I-14-14A)  [555 Kb]  Posted on July 7, 2014
-07/31/14   Inspection of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (ISP-IB-14-15)  [598 Kb]  Posted on July 7, 2014


* * *





From U.S. Embassies in Warsaw, Bangkok, Dublin, Kampala, Oslo, Sofia – A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

— Domani Spero

U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Poland

Employees from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow along with their families with their “Jingle Bell Rock”cover recorded by American diplomats in Poland with the support of musician Stan Breckenridge, U.S. Distinguished Chair Fulbright Scholar to Poland from California State University, who is currently in Poland on the Fulbright Scholarship at Jagiellonian University. The video was created on the streets of Warsaw and Krakow. The clip includes Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, see the 00:12 mark.  Last year, they did All I Want For Christmas Is You.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The U.S. Embassy Bangkok and U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai wishing  their  Thai friends a happy new year.  The clip below includes Ambassador Kristie Kenney on a motorbike at the 00:20 mark. In 2012, they did this video to the tune of Ruen Rerng Ta-lerng Sok by Soontaraporn.

U.S. Embassy Dublin, Ireland

With some cute little munchkins in the “town of the hurdled ford.”

U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria

U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

U.S Mission Uganda wishing the Ugandan people a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Americans at the embassy do their best to send holiday greetings in a few Ugandan languages: Luganda, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Luo and Runyankore.  Is that Ambassador Scott DeLisi at the 00:09 mark?

U.S Embassy Oslo, Norway

American diplomats tried to pronounce Norwegian words and phrases that relate to Christmas — Kålrabistappe – mashed rutabaga, Dorullnisse – “toilet roll santa,” Marsepangris – “marzipan pig,” Pepperkakemann – gingerbreadman, God Jul – Merry Christmas and more.

* * *

US Embassy Uganda Issues Security Message of Possible Westgate-Style Attack in Kampala

— By Domani Spero

On October 15, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda issued a security message concerning a “possible Westgate-style attack” in the capital city of Kampala.  The mission says it is assessing “reports” that such an attack “may soon occur” in Kampala but also says there is “no further information” on timing or location of this attack.

Below is an excerpt from the security message:

Possible Westgate-style Attack in Kampala

October 15, 2013 | U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala continues to assess reports that a Westgate-style attack may soon occur in Kampala. Embassy officials are sharing all information with the Ugandan authorities. At this time, there is no further information on timing and/or location of this attack.

The Embassy will continue to alert U.S. citizens to any credible, specific information about this and any other potential threats. We again take this opportunity to remind the community to exercise vigilance and to avoid public venues that attract large crowds.

Following the deadly attack in Kenya, Uganda Police have reportedly taken over security at key public places, especially shopping malls in  Kampala.  Presumably, Somalia’s alShabab responsible for the Westgate attack also read the news.  In early October, local news reported that Police has received “credible information indicating that wanted terrorist Andreas Martin Mueller alias Ahmed Khaled,” of German origin and reportedly connected with Al-Shabab have entered the country.  Uganda has a large expatriate population so there are potentially other soft targets in the country besides shopping malls.

This made the Daily Press Briefing, of course:

QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to be particularly well-written; at least, it leads one to the conclusion that – the last sentence is something like, “There is no further information about the time or venue of the attack.” Does the United States actually have credible and specific information that some group is plotting a Westgate Mall-style attack in Kampala? Or is this just kind of you’re aware of that there is a general buzz about the possibility that it could happen?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to spell out the specifics of it and its meaning. Obviously, we put out the statement because —


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: We put out the statement because of our concern and because of information available, but in terms of the specificity of that, I’m not going to outline that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the last line of – the last line of before it gets into the —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the basically the B matter about registering and stuff, do you have it there?

MS. PSAKI: I thought I did. I don’t think – I can’t find it right now, but I thought I had it.

QUESTION: All right. Well, it —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: — speaks of not a threat, but it speaks of an actual attack. And I’m just curious as to – was that poorly written, or is it just a – is this is a threat that you’re aware of, or is there an attack that you know is going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s more we can provide. These things are written very specifically for reasons, so —

QUESTION: Yeah. Except that since there wasn’t – hasn’t been an attack yet, it seems to be not written well.

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, when there’s a concern we provide information to American citizens.

QUESTION: But I’m not even sure that there is a concern. It doesn’t say that you are concerned by information. It just talks about the possibility, as if it erupted from thin air – as if it erupted from thin air. So I’m just wondering if there is more to it; and if there is, could you tell us what it is?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

The full DPB is here.


US Embassy Uganda: Emergency Msg to US Citizens on Ebola Outbreak, Oops, Scratch Dat — One Confirmed Case of Ebola Virus

On  July 28, the US Embassy in Kampala released the following Emergency Message to U.S. citizens:

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens | Confirmed Case of Ebola Virus in Uganda

This Emergency Message is to alert U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Uganda of an outbreak of Ebola virus.  On July 27, 2012, local Ugandan press reported 12 deaths due to a “strange illness.”  Laboratory tests conducted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed, to date, that at least one victim was infected with the Ebola virus (Sudan strain).  The Ugandan Ministry of Health, U.S. CDC, and international partners are investigating the case to determine the extent of the outbreak and if additional cases are present.  At this time, the cases appear to be centered in Nyamarunda Sub County, Kibaale district, although one suspected victim is reported to have traveled to Kampala for treatment at Mulago Hospital where he subsequently died on July 22, 2012.

Ebola is a deadly but preventable disease.  The virus has the potential to spread from person to person, especially among health-care staff and family members who care for patients with Ebola Viral Hemorrhagic Fever. A person suffering from Ebola usually presents with sudden fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.  A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients. Symptoms become increasingly severe and may include jaundice, severe weight loss, mental confusion, shock, and multi-organ failure. There is no standard treatment for Ebola HF.  Patients receive supportive therapy.

The likelihood of contracting Ebola is considered extremely low unless there has been a direct contact with body fluids like saliva, urine, or blood of an infected person or animal or the body of someone who has died from the disease.  Since the virus spreads through direct contact with blood and other body secretions of an infected person, people living with and caring for Ebola patients are at a higher risk of becoming infected.

The U.S. Mission in Kampala and the CDC office in Uganda recommend that U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Uganda avoid contact with people exhibiting the symptoms described above.  To minimize the risk of contracting Ebola, avoid direct contact with body fluids (blood, saliva, vomit, urine, and stool).  Practice good hygiene, such as washing hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand cleanser if soap and water are unavailable.  Avoid communal washing of hands during funerals or other public gatherings.  Avoid contact with dead animals, especially primates, and refrain from eating “bushmeat.”

Read the whole message here.

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: resear...

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: researcher is working with the Ebola virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is what the CDC posted about the ebola outbreak on the same date:

2012: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak in Uganda

On July 28th, 2012, the Uganda Ministry of Health reported an outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic fever in the Kibaale District of Uganda. A total of 20 probable human cases, including 14 fatalities, have been reported since the beginning of July. Laboratory tests of blood samples, conducted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), confirmed Ebola virus in five patients, two of whom have died. All reported illnesses and contacts are being investigated.

A team of experts from CDC is traveling Uganda, to work with Ministry of Health and international partners in determining the extent of the outbreak and locating, testing, and treating any additional cases. A laboratory team will also assist in diagnostic testing.

Here is the statement that the Ministry of Health released in Kampala, Uganda:

KAMPALA – 07/03/2012 – The Ministry of Health Wishes to inform the public that the number of suspected Ebola cases registered at Kagadi Government Hospital in Kibaale district has since yesterday increased from seven to 18 patients. Currently there are three confirmed cases and 15 suspects admitted at the isolation facility. The patients are receiving the appropriate treatment from the medical team dispatched from the National Task force jointly with local hospital staff. Most of them are responding positively to the treatment administered to them.

The increased number follows the quick response given to suspected alerts from various parts ofthe district. The patients are currently admitted at the hospital isolation facility after they presented with Ebola signs.

There have been no more deaths recorded since the announcement of the outbreak on July 28th, The death toll still remains at 14.

A total of 16 samples have since the outbreak been collected from the suspect cases for investigation at the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The Ministry of Health Surveillance team in Kibaale district is actively and closely following up to 40 people who are suspected to have got into Contact with the dead. These contacts have not shown any signs of the disease but will be monitored for 21 days. After 21 days, they will be declared Ebola-free meaning that they did not contract the disease.

At Mulago National Referral Hospital, a total of eight health workers who attended to the suspect case are closely being monitored. An isolation policy arrangement to last 21 days has been put in place as active monitoring continues.

The Ministry of Health further informs the public that plans are underway to set up Isolation Facility at Mulago National Referral Hospital in readiness for any alerts and suspected cases from Kampala and neighbouring districts.

The public is therefore requested to stay calm as everything is being done to manage the outbreak. The Ministry of Health advises the public to ensure that the recommended safety measures are adhered to and to refer any suspected cases to a nearby health facility for check up. Ebola presents with fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, and sometimes with bleeding from body openings.

The original statement is online here.

The US Embassy in Kampala cites local press reports which calls the death the result of “strange illness.”  As the Examiner points out, our own CDC has had a long term presence in Uganda and operates a VHF lab in cooperation with the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

So here is what we don’t get —

Why would the embassy emergency message cites press reports about “strange illness” instead of using the information from the CDC?

The embassy emergency message of July 28 cites only one confirmed case infected with the Ebola virus.

The CDC information dated July 28  calls it an outbreak and cites 20 probable human cases, including 14 fatalities, plus, confirmed Ebola virus in five patients, two of whom have died.

The one emergency message with no follow-up message to-date did not mention that the Kibaale district cases have increased from seven to 18 patients. Nor did it mention the three confirmed cases and 15 suspects admitted at the isolation facility. Nor did it mention that the Ministry of Health Surveillance team in Kibaale district is actively and closely following up to 40 people who are suspected to have contact with the dead. Nor did it mention that a total of eight health workers who attended to the suspect case are also closely being monitored under the government’s isolation policy which last for 21 days (the incubation period for Ebola HF ranges from 2 to 21 days).

Although July 28 emergency message is prominently displayed on the embassy’s website, there is no mention of that message on the embassy’s Facebook or Twitter pages. US Embassy Kampala/FB talks about the London Olympics, and the most effective approach Uganda can take to stop terrorists.  Here is what US Embassy Kampala has on Twitter in a 5-day span, not one mention of e-bola:

And so — one more example of just how integrated is the embassy’s social media outreach with its primary consular function.

The Examiner notes the USG presence in the country and the absence of travel restrictions:

Several other U.S. government agencies are active in Uganda and have personnel there. The Peace Corps has about 122 volunteers in the country. U.S. military personnel regularly exercise with their Ugandan counterparts and Special Operations forces have been deployed there since October 2010. The U.S. Agency for International Development participates in 154 projects in that nation.

There is no traveler’s warning from the CDC for Uganda concerning the Ebola outbreak. The U.S. Embassy in Uganda issues a warning message to U.S. citizens in Uganda but has not suggested any travel restrictions.

Just two days before the ebola outbreak, forty-five Peace Corps Volunteers started their service in Uganda.

This is not the first reported instance of ebola outbreak in Uganda in recent history. In 2000/2001, there were 425 reported cases with 53% deaths; in 2007/2008, 131 reported cases with 37% deaths; and a single case in May 2011 which resulted in death.

Domani Spero

Photo of the Day: Because a U.S Flag Pin is Just What This Girl Needs?

Via US Embassy Uganda/Flickr (reader submitted):

US Embassy Uganda: “The DCM places a U.S Flag pin on a Karamajong girl”

Here’s our imagined conversation on this one:

U.S. official in white shirt: I’m going to pin this U.S. Flag on you.

Karamajong girl: Why?

U.S. official in white shirt: Because it’ll look good on you.

Karamajong girl: Okay, if you must. Is this something my sister and I can eat later?

U.S. official in white shirt: Um, no, this is an American flag pin, a decoration for your dress.

Karamajong girl: A decoration for my dress, yipee… but I have no shoes…

We really hate/hate this photo of a tiny barefoot girl carrying a baby on her back, tolerating a U.S. official pinning a U.S. flag on her. Is this supposed to be an example of our people to people diplomacy in Africa? What are we doing pinning American flags on kids?

We have seen tons of photos posted by our embassies on Flickr and FB but this is one of the few that makes us really want to puke.

Domani Spero