Thursday, March 03, 2011

Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire

From Hotspots:

Côte d’Ivoire (Security threat level - 4): On 2 March 2011 the U.S Department of State issued an updated Travel Warning for Cote d'Ivoire, which reads in part as follows: "The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against traveling to Cote d'Ivoire. In addition to the unstable political situation following the contested November 28, 2010 presidential elections, a rapidly declining economy and a banking crisis may result in a scarcity of fuel, food and other vital commodities. We urge U.S. citizens living in Cote d'Ivoire to consider their own personal security and contingency plans, including temporary departure from Cote d'Ivoire. The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan remains in evacuation status following the ordered departure of all non-emergency personnel on December 20, 2010. This replaces the Travel Warning of December 19, 2010 to update U.S. citizens on the deteriorating political and economic situation and to remind citizens of the Department of State's recommendation to avoid travel to Cote d'Ivoire until further notice.

"Following the contested results of presidential elections in November 2010, many demonstrations turned violent, resulting in death and injury. As pressure on the Gbagbo regime by the international community continues, hostility against westerners, including U.S. citizens, appears to be increasing.

"Clashes between military and militia continue to escalate, as do increased and spontaneous road blocks, many by youth extremists loyal to Gbagbo, who have in recent days perpetrated violence and aggression against vehicles and drivers, with some indication that they may be targeting Westerners. Curfews have been imposed by the Gbagbo regime sporadically and then lifted. These may happen at any time. The U.S. Embassy has imposed a curfew on its U.S. employees and may do so from time to time without notice when deemed necessary. For safety and security reasons it is best for U.S. citizens to comply and adhere to curfews and to consider carefully limiting unnecessary movement during periods of heightened tension.

"All non-governmental financial institutions, representing approximately 93 percent of the country's bank accounts, have suspended operations as of February 18, 2011. The banking system and money-wire services in Cote d'Ivoire are no longer operational. U.S. citizens in Cote d'Ivoire may be unable to receive funds. Additionally, European Union sanctions against the Port of Abidjan have had a severe impact on the arrival of imported goods. The State Department anticipates a general economic downturn, serious shortages of fuel, food, and other commodities as well as price increases, which could result in severe hardship and a simultaneous upswing in civil disturbances and crime.

"Communication blockage and imposition of curfews are common. Bulk SMS messaging, frequently used for emergency messages to citizens about demonstrations or security developments, is generally blocked, and communication through individual SMS messaging is disrupted with little notice. Regular cell phone communications also have experienced difficulties from time to time due to infrastructure problems and network call saturation. Road blocks and the searching of vehicles continue throughout the country.

"U.S. citizens in Cote d'Ivoire should remain extremely vigilant and monitor their personal situation as the security environment worsens. Embassy personnel may be asked on a moment's notice to limit non-emergency movement, especially after dark, and to avoid congested areas, including demonstrations and traffic choke points. U.S. citizens should consider similar security practices.

"The U.S. Embassy's Consular Section in Abidjan may need to curtail non-emergency services without notice. Please check the Embassy web site for the latest information. Due to drawdown of consular staff, the Embassy has diminishing ability to assist U.S. citizens wishing to depart the country. The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens who are concerned about their safety take advantage of commercial means of transportation while they are available and while borders remain open."

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