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Bombings in Kampala

July 12, 2010

I am safe in Kampala. There were synchronized bombings last night in another part of the city from where my friends and I had gathered to watch the World Cup finale. Stories at NYTimes, Daily Monitor, New Vision, the Independent.  According to reports, the bombers struck an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby field, where fans had gathered to watch the game. The rugby field was hit twice simultaneously. The bombings were announced at the restaurant/bar where we were, during the 100th or so minute of the soccer game, and some people got up to leave. There was no panic.

The bombings seem to have killed at least 60 people, which indicates to me that the bombers were somewhat skilled. Grenades or pipe bombs can’t do that sort of damage. That sort of damage usually happens with established, practiced terrorist groups—of which there are none in Uganda. So signs suggest that the attacks were perpetrated by an external terrorist group.

The New York Times suggests that the Somali groups al Shabaab might be responsible. Uganda has a large contingent of troops in Somalia, as part of an African Union peacebuilding opertation. Uganda has just announced that they will deploy at least 2,000 more soliders there. And there is an AU summit scheduled for next week. It seems to make sense that as Shahab is responsible, but barring a positive claim of responsibility or dramatic new evidence, we won’t know for sure. The bombers appear to have died in the explosions.

As I rode around the city this morning, everything seems to be normal, even around the government buildings downtown. No apparent added security. Street life proceeding as normal.

It looks as though a US aid worker was killed in the attacks. Among other things, it will be interesting to see how the NGO community reacts—will they pull out personnel, restrict movement, etc. The NGO community in Kosovo (where I worked in 2005) was on a tight leash, and would frequently adapt their behavior to disturbances on the ground.

  1. AnneMarie Olson permalink
    July 12, 2010 12:06 pm

    George, so thankful you are safe. We had a scary ten minutes there until we heard from Nicole and your family… Trust your gut and come home if you’re not feeling 100% safe – much love, be safe and take care, BAMO

  2. Jennifer Rinna Hildreth permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:51 pm

    George- so glad you are safe! Not the first news story all your loved ones wanted to hear coming out of Uganda after you arrived….take care. Will be checking your posts to see how your trip is progressing! Jen

  3. dad permalink
    July 14, 2010 9:46 am

    Give us a call when you have a chance. Love, Dad

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