Khartoum, along with most other urban centres throughout Sudan, experienced a wave of violent unrest which began in December 2018 and led to the ousting of long-time President Omar al Bashir in the following April. The military coup d’état was not enough to placate protestors however, who maintained their sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum while calling for the military to hand over power to a transitional civilian government. The unrest came to a head on 3rd June, when the military forcibly dispersed the sit-in, killing dozens and injuring hundreds in the process. In response, protest leaders called for a campaign of strikes and civil disobedience.
On 6th June 2019, the Healix Global Security Operations Centre received a request from an NGO client for the evacuation of an aid worker, one of their last remaining expatriate employees, from Khartoum. The situation had been closely monitored by our team who had published over 70 alerts via the Healix Travel Oracle app since unrest first began, along with issuing a number of reports and advisories.
We were able to make immediate contact with the employee who was standing-fast inside the client’s offices with enough food, water and medical supplies to last seven days.
Sudanese airspace remained open; however, a number of airlines had suspended flights to Khartoum and demand for the remaining flights was extremely high owing to multiple organisations, including the UN, making the decision to evacuate. The authorities had also implemented a partial internet shutdown, creating additional difficulties with communications.
Within an hour of the request coming in, Healix had made contact with accredited local ground assets to get an ‘on-the-ground’ perspective and begin making plans for a ground move from the client’s offices to Khartoum International Airport. Healix also dedicated an Analyst to monitor the situation, with a focus on identifying the locations of ongoing unrest and security checkpoints, as well as closely monitoring developments at the airport.
In the meantime, we made preparations for the ground team to collect the employee and securely transfer them to the airport, as well as assisting with exit-visa requirements. We maintained constant communication with the employee throughout, in order to reassure and update them of progress, before briefing them on evacuation procedures.
With visa requirements arranged, a seat on the next available flight to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was secured. In the early hours of 9th June, the ground team conducted reconnaissance of the route to the airport to ensure its viability, before successfully transferring the employee. The ground team remained at the airport while the employee passed through customs and were able to confirm wheels-up.
The employee landed safely in Addis Ababa, where the client had made arrangements for them to be met by local colleagues. The evacuation of the aid worker was successful.