Security evacuation from South Sudan - getting out of a city on lockdown.

What began as a minor incident on the outskirts of Juba, soon progressed into significant disruption that spread to the city centre. With the city on lockdown, several clients reached out to the Healix security team to request evacuation support from Juba and a number of remote locations nearby. From activation of the ground move to ‘wheels up’, the process took an impressive three hours.

The whole story:  On 7th July 2016, low level fighting broke out on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan; an incident consistent with the risk environment.  It appeared to be a dispute at a checkpoint in which five government soldiers were killed. Healix adopted our standard response of sending out regular alerts to clients and their employees via our Travel Oracle App. Over the following days this small skirmish evolved into significant, directed and coordinated fighting that spread to the city’s centre and closely resembled the unrest of December 2013 that prompted the South Sudanese Civil War.

As the fighting intensified, we escalated our processes internally by assigning an analyst to constantly monitor the situation, assess client exposure and develop advice lines in anticipation of requests for assistance. Alongside this, our Africa Regional Security Coordinator reviewed our existing plans for South Sudan to ensure that we were able to stand up an Incident Management Team if required.

Our first requests came on Sunday 10th July. In all, we received evacuation requests from two clients across four locations.

  • There were several complications. As soon as the fighting escalated, the airport was closed. Land borders were shut and a road move was considered too dangerous given the risks of banditry and troop movements. For the duration of Monday the 11th July, the city was on lockdown and nobody was getting out, including the British and US governments.
  • We placed our evacuees on immediate notice to move and managed to reserve an aircraft at the Juba Airport, despite operations there being halted. We also reserved a plane at Entebbe (Uganda) and Wilson (Nairobi, Kenya) airports to conduct the remote extractions.
  • We had a fixer moved to the Juba airport to liaise with the authorities and secure flight clearance the moment operations resumed. On July 12th around midday, we received notice that our flight had been granted clearance.
  • At that point, security providers across Juba were quoting a lead time of four hours for ground transportation to the airport. However, one of our consultants on the ground was able to leverage contacts and secure an armoured vehicle. The ground team was able to arrive at the client location within 10 minutes and move the evacuees to the airport 20 minutes later.
  • Once the travellers arrived at the airport they were immediately met by the fixer, who ushered them through the chaos that was immigration and airport security and physically put them on the plane.

 From activation of the ground move to ‘wheels up’, the process took an impressive 3 hours.