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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Uganda

Uganda - Consular Information Sheet
March 16, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Uganda is a developing east African nation. Infrastructure is adequate in Kampala, the capital, but it is limited in other areas.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. U.S. citizens can obtain a visa either at the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in Washington, D.C. or at Entebbe Airport, near Kampala. Further information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda, 5909 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011; telephone (202) 726-7100; web site: http://www.Ugandaweb.com/ugaembassy; e-mail: ugembassy@aol.com. Information may also be obtained at the Ugandan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, telephone (212) 949-0110. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Ugandan embassy or consulate.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens living in or planning to visit Uganda should be aware of threats to their safety from insurgent groups, originating both within and outside of Uganda, particularly in northern and western Uganda. They have at times specifically targeted U.S. citizens. These groups have engaged in murder, armed attacks, kidnapping and the placement of land mines. Incidents occur at random with little or no warning. Ongoing hostilities between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and rebels in that country could prompt military attacks in Uganda, which has troops in the DRC. Numerous incidents of banditry and armed robbery have occurred in the northern and western districts of Uganda.

Tourists who remain in the gorilla parks overnight do so at their own risk. Security has improved in all national parks since the 1999 attack in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that claimed the lives of American and other tourists. Proximity of Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla national parks to the border and the continuing instability in Congo make these parks potentially vulnerable to Congolese rebel groups. The decision to sleep inside the gorilla parks should, however, be weighed against security concerns associated with pre-dawn driving if one chooses to use accommodations far away from Bwindi or Mgahinga. In addition to the general risks of higher accident rates, pre-dawn and nighttime driving also increase the risk of banditry. The Ugandan army, which is charged with the safety and welfare of travelers and accompanies tourists on gorilla tracking, has greatly increased its presence in the parks. The Ugandan government periodically closes tourist areas that it considers to be risks. The Rwenzori mountain range, for example, has been closed to tourists since 1997 and remains closed.

U.S. Government employees must have permission from the Chief of Mission to visit the following districts: Kotido, Moroto, Apac, Lira, Northern Gulu, Kitgum, Kisoro, Rukungiri, Kasese, Moyo, Arua, Nebbi, Adjumani, Bundibugiyo, and Kabarole. Although rebel activity slowed in Bundibugyo and Kasese districts since spring/summer 2000, presumably as a result of the Ugandan army counterinsurgency efforts, it increased in Hoima, Kibale and Bushenyi districts and the Semliki Forest. Travelers are reminded that although rebel activity from the DRC is often unpredictable, safety is usually enhanced by increased distance from that border. The above-named districts include districts containing all or part of several national parks. Tourists contemplating travel in any of these districts are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kampala for the latest security information.

There have been a series of bomb attacks at various public places in Kampala since July 1998. In March 2001, there were three bombings in Kampala. A bomb and a grenade attack occurred near a downtown Kampala market, and a third bomb exploded in a passenger minivan about 25 miles (40km) outside Kampala. Three Ugandans were killed and at least 18 injured. As a general rule, U.S. citizens in Kampala are still urged to exercise caution and to be alert when visiting both indoor and outdoor public facilities, including, but not limited to, bars, restaurants, hotels, and markets, as well as using local and inter-city public van service ("matatus") and larger buses.

The Peace Corps, which suspended operations in May, 1999, is scheduled to resume operations in 2001.

REGIONAL TERRORISM: One of the many rebel factions in the Great Lakes Region has committed, and continues to threaten, violence against U.S. citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several Western tourists in Uganda. A rebel faction was responsible for the kidnapping of four foreign nationals in August 1998 in a region of the Democratic Republic of Congo that borders Uganda. Rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the surrounding areas, including sections of Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi.

CRIME: Incidents of armed vehicle hijackings and armed highway robbery are frequent throughout the country. Although these attacks are often violent, victims are generally injured only if they resist. In September 1999, one American was murdered during a highway robbery. U.S. Embassy employees are generally advised against using roads at night in non-urban areas. In the past, there was a series of incidents on secondary roads in which vehicles were fired upon without warning or provocation. On the road from Entebbe Airport to Kampala, there has been an increase in carjackings, particularly against single vehicles traveling at night.

Females traveling alone are particularly susceptible to crime. An American woman was murdered in 1998 in a four-star Kampala hotel. Several violent attacks occurred in Kampala and other parts of the country in 1998.

Crimes such as pickpocketing, purse snatching and thefts from parked vehicles or vehicles stalled in traffic jams are common. These offenses also occur on public transportation. Passengers should not accept food or drink from a stranger, even a child, because such food may contain narcotics used to incapacitate a victim and facilitate a robbery.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, http://travel.state.gov, and from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Uganda, including Kampala, are extremely limited and not equipped to handle most emergencies, especially those requiring surgery. Outside Kampala, hospitals are scarce and offer only basic services. Equipment and medicines are often in short supply or unavailable.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including a provision for medical evacuation and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/ and autofax at (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Uganda is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Most inter-city transportation in Uganda is by small van or large bus. Many drivers of these vehicles have little or no training, and are often reckless. These vehicles are usually poorly maintained, travel at high speeds and are the principal ones involved in the many single and multi-vehicle accidents along Ugandan roads. Large trucks on the highways are often precariously over-loaded, with cargo inadequately secured. Alcohol frequently is a contributing factor in road accidents, particularly at night. In 2000, one American was killed and one seriously injured in a two-car accident at night on a highway.

In Uganda, one drives on the left, and most vehicles are right-hand drive. Motorcycles are common and weave in and out of traffic to avoid traffic jams. There are no posted speed limits in Uganda, and virtually no enforcement of traffic infractions outside Kampala. Impatient drivers frequently overtake multiple vehicles at the most inopportune times -- while uphill, in the dark, and around blind corners. Ugandan pedestrians often walk in the roads and may not be visible to motorists. There are no reliable traffic accident/fatality statistics published. Large potholes are ubiquitous, and adequate signage or shoulders are almost non-existent. Road grading is inadequate, and blind corners can be very dangerous. One local driving custom that often confuses Americans relates to the use of turn signals. It is common for a vehicle in front to use the right turn signal to warn against passing, and a left signal to indicate that it is safe to pass (although a left signal may also simply mean that the driver is turning left). Large branches or rocks in the road sometimes indicate an upcoming obstruction or other hazard. Banditry in some areas is both frequent and unpredictable. Highway travel at night is particularly dangerous.

Traffic accidents draw crowds. Ugandan law requires that the driver stop and exchange information and assist. In some cases, where serious injury has occurred, there is the possibility of mob anger. In these instances, Ugandans often do not get out of their car, but drive to the nearest police station to report the accident.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Ugandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Uganda Tourist Board, IPS building, 14, Parliament Avenue, Kampala, Uganda; telephone 256-41-242-196/7. You may also wish to consult the web site: http://ugandaweb.com/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Uganda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ugandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uganda are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Once imprisoned in Uganda, there are frequent long delays in judicial processing. The food, sanitation, and medical care in the overcrowded Ugandan prisons are poor.

PHOTOGRAPHY PROHIBITION: Photography in tourist locations is welcome. However, it is inadvisable to take pictures of military/police installations or personnel. Military and police officers have also detained tourists for taking photographs of part of Entebbe Airport and of the area around Owen Falls Dam.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our web site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Kampala and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Uganda. The chancery is located at Gaba Road, Kansanga, Kampala; telephone 256-41-234-142; fax 256-41-258-451; e-mail: uscons@infocom.co.ug.

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