On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, the United States government issued an advisory regarding potential terror threats in Uganda. This advisory comes after earlier warnings by Ugandan security agencies.
In a brief statement released by the US Embassy in Kampala City on Monday, American citizens in Uganda were urged to remain vigilant and to avoid large public gatherings.
The statement mentioned recent reports of an improvised explosive device (IED) discovered near a church in Kampala’s Rubaga Division on September 3. Although the police successfully located and defused this IED, there were unconfirmed reports of additional potential devices.
The US Embassy reminded its citizens that the US Department of State’s travel advisory for Uganda is currently at Level 3, which suggests travelers should reconsider their plans due to terrorism concerns. The advisory emphasized that the threat of terrorist attacks remains in Uganda and the surrounding region, and it advised US citizens to stay alert and steer clear of crowded public events.
The police reported that they recovered an IED and safely detonated it using controlled explosion techniques. Various items associated with the device, including a dry battery, a detonator card, a container of powder, 57 four-inch nails, yellow cell tape, an Itel phone battery and housing, as well as burnt parts of a black bag, were found.
In response to these security concerns, security agents in Rubaga Division also located and neutralized five other IEDs, leading to the arrest of six individuals. Despite these developments, the police spokesperson, Mr. Fred Enanga, stated that the overall security situation in the country had not seen significant changes.
Mr. Enanga emphasized the continued existence of a threat environment and encouraged vigilance among Ugandans and other citizens in the country. He urged individuals to be attentive while shopping, attending places of worship, partying, and celebrating, especially looking out for any suspicious objects, unusual activities, or behaviors.
The United States classifies security threats into four levels, with Level 3 being the second-highest level of concern. Other countries categorized at Level 3 include Nicaragua, Pakistan, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Guinea-Bissau.
This security advisory follows a similar alert issued by the United Kingdom in July, which warned of the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Uganda. The UK alert faced criticism from Ugandan authorities, who believed it aimed to tarnish the country’s image and deter tourists and investors. However, two months later, Ugandan security authorities confirmed the reality of the threat and expressed their commitment to preventing it.
In February, the United States government had already highlighted Uganda’s vulnerability to terror attacks in a counterterrorism report. The report pointed to factors such as porous borders, corruption, limited information sharing among security services, the diversion of security resources to focus on political matters, an overly militarized approach to combating extremism, and strained relations between security forces and local communities and civil society as contributing to this vulnerability.