Global Security Forecast • Week 2 • 12 – 19 January 2019

Global Security Forecast • Week 2 • 12 – 19 January 2019

United States: Countrywide – Security fears grow at public transport hubs following government shutdown.

A spokesperson for the Transport Security Administration (TSA) announced on 9 January that an increasing number of TSA agents have resigned from their jobs and many others are considering quitting following the partial government shutdown and the subsequent loss of federal employee earnings. The TSA is a department of Homeland Security that was established following the 9/11 terror attacks to provide security at airports and other transport hubs.  The TSA is responsible for all screening measures at airports, putting Federal Air Marshalls on planes as well as providing teams of dog handlers and explosive specialists.  The TSA President announced that the loss of staff has put additional stress on the security infrastructure at major airports and transports hubs.

While many agents continue to work for no pay, as their roles are deemed essential, the length of the shutdown has raised fears that government-led security agencies will be unable to quickly recover if increasing levels of staff seek alternative employment.  Aviation experts have already highlighted that wait times at security screening is increasing.

ADVICE: While travel to the US can continue, travellers should exercise increased caution at major airports and other transport hubs. Travellers should attempt to arrive at the airport earlier than usual due to the increased waiting times that are anticipated at airport security.  While airport officials have stated there will not be a reduction in the security measures at airports, travellers should remain vigilant.

DRC: Kinshasa; urban centres – Protests and associated violence to cause widespread disruption following the release of election results.

In the early hours of Monday 10 January, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi winner of the 30 December Presidential Election 38.5% of the vote.  Current incumbent Joseph Kabila will step down after 18 years in office. Even though this will be the first time that a candidate from an opposition party has been elected to the office of President since DRC gained independence in 1960, controversy remains over the legitimacy of the results. A week ago, foreign diplomats were briefed by the biggest election monitoring body in the country – the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) – that their tallies indicated that another opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, leader of the Lamuka coalition, had won the election.

The losing candidates will now have ten days to contest the election results in the country’s constitutional court before Tshisekedi is sworn in.  International condemnation may follow if the Catholic Church can provide evidence that their tallies are contradictory to the election result announced by CENI. It is likely that Fayulu will contest the results in the coming days and protest will occur as Fayulu seeks to build momentum behind the challenge. Any unrest is likely to be met by a forceful response by security forces. At least six people were killed, and multiple others were injured, as protests broke out in Kwilu and Tshopo provinces on 10 January.  Celebratory rallies are also causing severe disruption in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Matadi and Bukavu.  For more information please see our latest Travel Advisory.

ADVICE: Defer all inbound travel to the DRC till until after 20 January. Travellers currently in the DRC should minimise all movement and remain in secure accommodation over the coming days due to the risk posed by widespread unrest and associated violence. There is intermittent disruption being reported to both internet and text messaging services and personnel should ensure they have access to a means of communication.  Continue to monitor local and international media, in-country contacts and Solace Global Alerts for details of any planned or ongoing demonstrations in your area.

TUNISIA: Countrywide – Government decision to extend the state of emergency highlights continued threat from militant actors.

The Tunisian government have extended the state of emergency till 4 February.  The decision coincides with an increase in recent anti-terror operations following the suicide explosion that occurred in Tunis on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in October killing the attacker and wounding nine others (please see Travel Advisory).  On 3 January security forces stormed an Islamist cell in Sidi Bouzid province (central regions) leading to a gun battle before both militants detonated suicide belts.  One of the dead militants was identified as the leader of a jihadist cell that had ties to Al Qaeda.

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since November 24, 2015, when an explosive device was detonated on a bus killing 12 members of the security forces in downtown Tunis.  While security has improved in urban centres, including Tunis, counterterrorism operations have continued in central provinces of the country, highlighting a continued threat to travellers.  While the state of emergency will have little impact for travellers visiting Tunisia, it does give the government additional powers to suspend certain civil rights and freedoms.  For more information please see our latest Travel Advisory.

ADVICE: Travellers in Tunisia should exercise should maintain situational awareness and exercise heightened vigilance in high profile areas such as transport hubs, tourist locations or government buildings.  Report any suspicious behaviour or packages to the local authorities.  An increased security presence has been reported in Tunis and other urban centres in recent weeks.

KENYA: Nairobi  – Nairobi; Criminal groups posing as app-based taxi operators targeting foreign nationals.

Travellers in Nairobi should take additional precautions when travelling in the city following an increase in thefts targeting foreigners using app-based taxi services.  On 9 January a German national was robbed after requesting an app-based taxi in the affluent Kilimani neighbourhood in central Nairobi.  Shortly after being picked up the taxi stopped, and two further men got in.  The foreign national was then held at gunpoint and asked for his bankcards and pin numbers at which point the driver got out and withdrew cash from his accounts before they gave the victim a small amount of money to get a taxi back to his hotel.

Crime continues to pose the most significant risk to foreign travellers in Nairobi.  While most incidents are opportunistic in nature, there has been an increasing threat from organised criminal groups specifically targeting high-income Kenyans as well as business travellers. Criminal groups are often armed and are increasingly targeting areas near hotels and major businesses.  On 6 January seven Italian missionaries were robbed in the same area while waiting in their car.  One of the missionaries was subsequently shot and injured in the attack.

ADVICE: Travellers in Nairobi should consider heightened precautions to mitigate the risk from crime including minimising the time spent on foot in the city, locking all door and closing all windows when travelling in a vehicle and using a trusted local driver (which can be organised through your hotel) rather than Taxis’ or app-based ride share services.  Remain vigilant to threat from crime and if you feel you are being followed enter a shop or a busy environment and ask for help.


Global Headlines • 4 – 11 January 2019

BURKINA FASO: Bobo-Dioulasso – Two foreign travellers feared kidnapped. Stringent security measures should be considered for all travel outside capital.

All travellers in Burkina Faso are reminded of the dangers of road travel near the Mali border after the Canadian government announced this week that they were treating the disappearance of a Canadian traveller as a kidnapping.  The Canadian and Italian nationals have not been heard from since 15 December when one spoke to a family member from Burkina’s second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso.  The pair were travelling in Western Africa by car and had reportedly driven from Mali across the Burkinabe border (Hauts-Bassins region), an area rife with militant and smuggling activity, before reaching Bobo-Dioulasso.  They were due to drive to the capital, Ouagadougou, before flying on to Togo to support in a humanitarian project.  There has been no contact from the pair since 15 December.

Kidnap remains a significant risk in regions bordering Mali.  Homegrown militancy alongside long-term socio-economic inequality and an overstretched military has driven higher rates of kidnapping in recent years. While Islamist groups tend to operate further north in the Sahel and Nord regions of the country local Islamist cells linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have emerged countrywide since the 2015 Burkinabé coup d’état.  The cells which target and embed themselves within local communities are known to use kidnap-for-ransom to finance their operations.  High profile abductions of foreign nations have previously taken place in the Sahel and Nord regions, including a Romanian mineworker and Australian Doctor in 2015.  Both are yet to be released.

ADVICE: Travel outside Ouagadougou requires careful planning and appropriate security support including journey management and itinerary specific security briefing.  Road moves should only be conducted during daylight hours, in a well-maintained four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle with a comprehensive breakdown kit, water, additional fuel, adequate communications systems and a medical kit. Daily itineraries should be considered carefully, selecting major routes where possible and identifying safe and suitable locations to stop for fuel and provisions, in coordination with a local driver.  Please see our latest Travel Advisory on the rise in terrorist activity in Burkina Faso.

AUSTRIA; GERMANY; ITALY: The Alps – Twelve killed following severe winter conditions.  Avalanche threat increased to second highest level, anticipate disruption.

At least six people have been killed following heavy snow and high winds in Alpine regions over the last week.  The severe winter conditions have trapped hundreds of people at popular skiing resorts in Austria following widespread road closures.  Parts of Germany and Austria have experience up to 50 cm of snow in past 72 hours.  The avalanche risk rating has been increased to the second highest level in recent days, meaning that lots of roads are now deemed unsafe to travel on.  Several Alpine regions have declared states of emergency as roads, trains and ski resorts remain closed for the third day.  Helicopters normally deployed to control avalanches remain grounded. Heavy snow is projected to continue in Austria, Northern Italy and southern parts of Germany in the coming days. Flight disruption should be expected in the coming days as airlines attempt to clear a backlog of passengers.

ADVICE: Travellers are recommended to speak with their airline and their travel provider if they are due to travel to the region in the coming days.  Disruption should be expected throughout the Alpine regions including continued road closures and limited available public transport.  Do not self-drive unless familiar with the road network, speak the local language and you are aware of which routes are currently closed. Local ski resorts in Austria are advising all the guests to not go off-piste while the avalanche risk remains high. Monitor Solace Global alerts for further updates.

GABON; Libreville – Normal movement can resume after suspected ringleaders detained on 7 January

At approximately 4.30 local time on 7 January, a group of soldiers took control of the national radio station in Libreville and broadcast a live statement announcing the implementation of the ‘National Restoration Council’ to restore democracy to Gabon. Within hours of the broadcast, a government spokesperson stated that four of the five soldiers had subsequently been arrested and order has been restored. A heavy military presence remains visible in some high-profile areas of Libreville however, the city is calm, and at least seven soldiers, including the ring leader, have been detained.  Airports are operating normally, and international land borders remain open. The internet, which was briefly shut down, has been restored.

The attempted coup comes amidst growing concerns over President Ali Bongo’s ill health and the potential battle for succession.  President Ali remains in Morocco recuperating after being hospitalised in Saudi Arabia in October with some local reports suggesting he had suffered a stroke. The power vacuum that has been left while the President remains out of the country appears to have prompted today’s events with groups seeking to exploit his absence.  Please see our latest Travel Advisory on the recent coup attempt in Gabon.

ADVICE: Travel to Libreville can continue following a stabilisation in the security environment however, travellers should continue to expect heightened security in the coming days.  Always carry your travel and identification documents with you and follow all directives from local officials.


Significant Dates and Events

Date Country Event Potential for Violence
TBC Jan Guinea Legislative elections MODERATE
1 Feb Senegal Presidential elections MODERATE
3 Feb El Salvador Presidential elections HIGH
16 Feb Nigeria Presidential and Legislative elections HIGH
24 Feb Cuba Referendum LOW
24 Feb Moldova Legislative elections MODERATE
TBC Feb Thailand Legislative elections MODERATE

Click the following link to download this report as a PDF: 20190111 – Global Security Forecast – Week 2

The Global Security Forecast highlights what travel security managers should look out for over the next week while also providing advice following significant events from the last week. The Global Security Forecast was compiled by Solace Global’s in-house intelligence team.