In early September, 2009, Global Rescue received a call from the father of a 22-year-old American woman who was trapped in the house of a local family in Kampala, Uganda, where she worked with a non-profit organization. As he spoke, ethnic rioting was unfolding on the road below his daughter’s window. He asked that she be extracted from the house and evacuated back to the United States if the unrest continued and her life was endangered.
Global Rescue dispatched to Kampala a former Navy SEAL with operational experience in East Africa, to lead an indigenous team of security experts and put an extraction plan into place to evacuate her if necessary. The teams entry into Kampala was timed for the early morning hours when the streets were calm.
Kampala’s rioting was a response to the government’s refusal to allow the tribal king of Buganda entry to visit an area north of the city. Stores were looted, cars burned, and at least 24 people were gunned down by police. Some foreigners had already been evacuated from downtown locations.
The team’s first task was to positively identify the location of the young American’s room on the edge of town, evaluate its security, and reconnoiter the routes in and out. With the aid of local translators and security operatives, the team successfully negotiated the checkpoints on the main road that led past the American Recreation Area – a narrow street that previously had been completely obstructed by roadblocks and rioters – and mapped out a secondary route that led from the rear of the house to an area not far away that could serve as a helicopter landing zone.
The team then placed its helicopter pilot on standby. He had been conducting evacuations already from the roof of a downtown hotel. Together they established a plan to airlift the member if necessary to Entebbe International Airport or, alternatively, to a safe haven if the airport were closed.
Ultimately the king decided to call off his visit, the riots soon subsided, and the young woman and her family decided that her environment was safe enough to continue to work in Uganda.