Last Friday, the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan cited "a potential threat against commercial aviation transiting between Juba, Sudan and Kampala, Uganda" and said it had "received information indicating a desire by regional extremists to conduct a deadly attack onboard Air Uganda aircraft on this route."
However, the Sudanese and Ugandan governments characterized the situation differently.
The Sudanese government dismissed the United States' warnings. According to a report, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Muawiya Osman Khalid, said, "The United States, if having received any information or having any concerns in this regard, should have discussed them with the Sudanese authorities concerned so that required measures would be adopted, instead of circulating baseless information
The Sudanese official also said the movement of international aviation between Sudan and other countries were progressing "normally and safely." He added, "The concerned security organs in Sudan are always following up with a highest level of alert the safety measures and are efficiently living up to their responsibilities."
The Ugandan government expressed a different tone, but one that still diverged noticeably from the United States' position on the matter. The spokesman for the Ugandan Army, Lt. Col. Felix Kulaigye, told VOA that he was surprised that the US had issued the warning at this point in time as the intelligence had been acquired in early December.
"As far as we know, in the Ugandan security circles, this is old information," he said. "We got this information from our friends in Juba in early December."
Lt. Col. Kulaigye said a number of security precautions had been taken since then on the planes and at the airport. "They didn't even share that information with us," he said.
The BBC has more on the Uganda"s reaction:
Ignie Igunduura, a spokesman for Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority, said the information was not new and the authorities had "been aware of this threat for some time." He said, "But any time there is renewed information, and this renewed information came from the US but also others, you don't start taking chances."
In light of past tensions between the United States and Kenya on the matter of missile strikes in Somalia, and current tensions with Nigeria over the country being included in the recently released enhanced airport screenings list (Sudan made the list as well), I am concerned about the fact that these three governments are not on the same page regarding this incredibly serious situation.
I am not inflicting blame to any particular government. Perhaps the government of Sudan dismissed the threat because it perceived the embassy's statement as an intervention in Sudanese affairs, or because of hostility towards America. Perhaps Uganda's government does not believe such an attack is likely. Perhaps the United States government has not shared the critical information with these countries, or misinterpreted old evidence as pointing to a present threat.
It is impossible to know whether any of these scenarios, or another not mentioned, is the case; however, it is appropriate to say that the clear lack in coordination in the aftermath of the Christmas Day terror incident is dismaying. Wherever the responsibility lies, clearly the coordination and communication between Washington and African governments still has major holes.