Travel Alert Status
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
Safety and Security
Potential for terrorist activity from extremist organizations such as al-Shabaab remains high and U.S. citizens are advised to avoid high-density public gatherings. The July 11, 2010, bombings of a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala resulted in the deaths of 76 people, including one U.S. citizen, with six other U.S. citizens among the injured. More recently, terrorists in Nairobi attacked a bus bound for Kampala on December 20, 2010. U.S. citizens traveling to the Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda should be aware of ongoing conflict and armed banditry in this region.
Northern and Eastern Uganda:
After years of conflict, relative stability returned to northern Uganda in 2006 when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The vast majority of people internally displaced by the LRA in northern Uganda have since returned home, and the Ugandan government continues to expand and improve the capacity of the civilian police force in northern Uganda by deploying additional personnel and concentrating resources to further recovery and redevelopment activities throughout the north. The Governments of Uganda, the DRC, and Sudan initiated joint military operations against LRA bases in the DRC in December 2008, after LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a peace agreement. These military operations are ongoing, as are LRA attacks on civilian populations in the DRC, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.
Like the rest of Uganda, the North suffers from a general lack of infrastructure.
Services such as emergency medical care are inadequate, and U.S. citizens are strongly advised to restrict their travel to primary roads and during daylight hours due to hazardous driving conditions, the potential for banditry, and poor roadways.
Cattle rustling, armed banditry, and attacks on vehicles are common in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda, and the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) continues to implement a program to disarm Karamojong warriors. Past incidents included ambushes of UPDF troops, and attacks on vehicles, residences, and towns that resulted in multiple deaths. Most of the violence occurred in the districts of Kaabong, Kotido, and Abim, although some violent incidents also occurred in Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts. In February 2010, unknown assailants attacked an NGO convoy near Nakapiripirit. Three people were killed and two others were injured. We recommend U.S. citizens avoid travel to the Karamoja region given the frequent insecurity. For U.S. Embassy personnel, any travel to Karamoja (excluding charter flights to Kidepo National Park) must first be authorized by the Chief of Mission.
U.S. citizens traveling in southwestern Uganda should be aware of the historical conflict in the districts of North and South Kivu in the DRC, and the close proximity of fighting to the Ugandan border. The most recent fighting occurred in November 2012. During spikes in the conflict, refugee flows across the border can number in the thousands and there is also a risk of incursions by armed combatants. U.S. citizens should review the Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the most up-to-date information regarding the conflict in the DRC.
On August 8, 2007, a group of armed assailants entered Uganda from the DRC and raided Butogota, a town in Kanungu District, in southwestern Uganda. Three Ugandans were killed and many others assaulted during the raid. Ugandan officials believe that the perpetrators of the attack were members of one of the various militia groups operating in the southeastern region of the DRC or possibly remnants of the "Interahamwe," a group that participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and was also responsible for the 1999 attack in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The 1999 Bwindi attack killed four Ugandans and eight foreign tourists. Butogota is in an area transited by tourists traveling to Bwindi, a popular gorilla-trekking destination. Within Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest Park, armed security personnel accompany tourists on the daily gorilla hikes and the UPDF maintains a military presence. At Ishasha Camp, another popular tourist destination located in the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the UPDF also maintains a small military base near the park headquarters for security purposes.
In February 2008, a Belgian tourist climbing Mt. Elgon in the company of park rangers was shot and killed. The attack occurred while the group was camped for the night and assailants fired into the campsite. The tourist was reportedly struck by gunfire when exiting her tent in the darkness. Ugandan security and park officials suspected that the attack was perpetrated by smugglers engaged in cattle rustling or other illicit activities that are common in the border area.
In April and May 2011, at least ten people were killed and many injured when police used live ammunition and tear gas to disrupt protests against rising prices in Kampala, Gulu, and several other Ugandan cities.
As many as 40 people were killed during violent riots in Kampala from September 10-12, 2009. Several hundred more were injured as Ugandan security services used live bullets and tear gas to bring the riots under control.
Demonstrations in Kampala and other Ugandan cities occur from time to time in response to world events or local developments. These demonstrations frequently occur with little warning and can become confrontational or violent. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if they find themselves in the vicinity of any demonstration. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Because many demonstrations are spontaneous events, the U.S. Embassy may not always be able to alert U.S. citizens that a demonstration is taking place and to avoid a specific area. If employed with an institution or other large organization, U.S. citizens may find it helpful to request that local employees notify expatriates when they learn of a demonstration from local radio reports or other sources. Recent protests have occurred over land disputes involving Kampala market areas, university closures and strikes, the lack of electricity, the rising cost of living, and protests by taxi drivers over the enforcement of traffic regulations.