Republic of Congo: Current Situation & Safety Tips

We're still working on our own traveller-specific safety tips for the Republic of Congo.

In the meantime here's some great information from the US State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), which is part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The information is specific to US citizens, ex-pats as well as tourists, and consular and government staff working overseas.

Not ideal, but until our own reports are ready you'll get an idea of the level of security and issues you might face.

The Republic of the Congo 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Republic of the Congo (ROC) is a developing nation in central Africa. The official language is French. The largest cities are the capital, Brazzaville, located on the Congo River, and Pointe Noire on the coast. Facilities for tourism are very limited. A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the Republic of the Congo.

Crime exists in Brazzaville. Several incidents of petty street crime against Americans have occurred in 2011. Americans are not typically singled out by criminal elements, but may become targets of opportunity depending on their dress, actions, behavior, and level of perceived vigilance. Reports of violent crime in Brazzaville are not uncommon.

There are no areas that the Embassy considers "off-limits" in Brazzaville. In the neighborhoods of Poto-Poto, Bacongo, and Makelekele, one can expect to be verbally harassed. Vendors often physically grab potential clients or say "Mondele" (white/western person) to get their attention. Women traveling alone will experience greater verbal harassment. Two Western women have been mugged recently, one during the day outside of Park and Shop and the other at night near Hippocampe in Centre Ville. A family member from the Embassy community had money stolen out of her purse while she took a picture during a music festival at the French Cultural Center. Pretty crime often happens in large crowds.

Pointe Noire has the same concerns as Brazzaville with one exception. The beaches are a place where petty crime is often committed. Any valuables should be secured when visiting the beaches. The Embassy recommends staying on main beaches and avoiding all beaches completely at night; this is a popular time for crime. One should also use caution when swimming because riptides are present. The main areas of concern are the coastline (currents), beachside after hours, and market areas (another popular area of petty crime). The market areas should also be avoided after dark as well.

Transportation links (roads) within the capital are relatively stable. Air travel is the only feasible and expeditious manner by which to travel south from the capital for any appreciable distance. The capital's logistics chain is directly tied to the continued operation of the Atlantic Ocean port at Pointe Noire. Road and rail travel from Brazzaville to Pointe Noire is not recommended. Travel north is possible by a well-paved primary highway for several hundred kilometers, up to the city of Oyo, which has a usable airport for regional international travel. The rainy season from September-December and again from February-May makes any non-primary roads outside of the capital region essentially unusable during this time frame.

Buses are strongly discouraged. While there are no officially registered taxi companies in Brazzaville or Pointe-Noire, taxis are required to have an operator permit. However, many are essentially privately-owned operators. Some individual owners and multiple-car owners sub-lease cars for day use operators. In the past several years, there have not been any reported incidents with casual use of taxis in Brazzaville or Pointe Noire, however, the Embassy proposes a few guidelines for local taxi usage.

1. Hire only taxis painted in the authorized GREEN & WHITE color (Brazzaville) BLUE & WHITE (Pointe Noire): only these taxis are licensed to operate in Congo.

2. Taxis are not metered. Fares should be negotiated before passengers embark. Carry small bills: taxis are notorious for not having change and will always tend to round-up fares or not return change.

*The standard/typical day-time fare is CFA 1,000 within the city or municipalities within the city limits of Brazzaville. It is usually a little more in Pointe Noire.

*Night-time fares vary from CFA 1,500-2,000 in Brazzaville. It is usually a little more in Pointe Noire.

3. As a common-sense security precaution, passengers should take a note of vehicle registration in case of any incidents or issues with taxi-operators.

4. Taxis vary greatly in terms of operating state and are generally not air-conditioned. Taxis are not regularly inspected and in some case will not have functioning seat belts, working windows, or doors. Therefore, personal safety, security, and liability issues should be evaluated when choosing local taxis.

5. While taxis are a convenient and relatively safe alternative for transportation in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, the Embassy does not endorse the use of any local taxi operators in Brazzaville/Pointe Noire. It is each person's responsibility to determine whether the basic concerns and risks are commensurate with their transportation needs.


Political Violence

Currently, the Government of the Republic of the Congo (GROC) enjoys relative political stability. However, the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville has been evacuated three times since its inception with the most recent evacuation occurring during the 1997 civil war. Civil conflict in 1997 and again in 1998-1999 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country. The last rebel group signed a cease-fire accord with the government in March 2003. Although terrorism has not been a recent problem in the ROC, the Ninjas (a former rebel group) reside in the Pool Region, especially in and around the village of Kinkala. Although they do not specifically target Americans, they do routinely establish roadblocks and conduct highway robberies. The best practice when planning an excursion is to visitwww.travel.state.gov to become familiar with any current travel advisory notices.

Visitors should also pay close attention to events in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as unrest in Kinshasa can also affect Brazzaville. In 2007, stray small arms fire originating in Kinshasa landed in Brazzaville. For the most up to date security and safety information on the DRC, please refer to the Department of State's Travel Warning and Country Specific Information Sheet for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Police Response and Post-Specific Concerns

For police in the ROC, a common practice is to stop foreigners and accuse them of minor infractions (which may or may not be valid). When this occurs, the police do not want to write a ticket, but rather request the person to pay a fine on the spot. The U.S. Embassy does not encourage anyone to pay fines.  It is important to carry some form of identification at all times in the ROC. Wallets should contain only a small amount of cash and be free of all credit cards. The Embassy recommends that all travelers carry a copy of their U.S. passport and Congolese visa to prevent them from being taken by police or armed assailants during an attempted bribe. U.S. citizens who are victims of crime or police harassment should contact the Embassy duty officer at +242 04 444 0013.

Currency

The Republic of the Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency. Traveler's checks can be cashed for a fee at some hotels. Two hotels in Brazzaville and several in Pointe Noire accept major credit cards but prefer payment in cash. Prices are usually quoted in CFA or Euros. Other businesses do not normally accept credit cards. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. There is one Automated Teller Machine (ATM )in Brazzaville that accepts foreign debit cards at the Credit du Congo Bank. ATMs at several of Credit du Congo's branches in Pointe Noire also accept foreign debit cards.

Medical Emergencies

Local health infrastructure has neither breadth nor depth. A mass casualty incident, natural disaster, or disease outbreak (even if not directly affecting Post) will quickly overwhelm the medical capacity and capabilities available in ROC. The clinic that Embassy personnel would use in the event of an emergency is Netcare.

Netcare Clinic (Open 24 hours)

Netcare Contacts:

Netcare Main Line: 05 547 0911 OR 06 666 6911

Nadine Ramene, Administrator (speaks French and English):05 529 6797

Dr. Ali Abbas FAKIH (speaks some English): 05 512 3001

Address: Avenue Maréchal Lyautey, across the street from the Centre Hopital Universitaire (CHU) water tower and next door to the MoneyGram agency in Poto- poto

SOS Air Rescue Africa:

Tel: 00-27-800-127-600 OR 00-27-11-541-1350, OR 00-27-11-541-1000

Website: www.internationalsos.com

E-mail: [email protected]

AMREF "Flying Doctors of East Africa" (24 hours Emergency Control Center at Wilson Airport/Nairobi):

Tel: 00-254-20-315454, OR 00-254-20-315455, OR 00-254-20-60009 OR 00-254-20-602492, OR 00-254-20-600602, OR 00-254-20-600552 OR 00-254-20-600833, OR 00-254-20-600868

Mobile Phone: 00-254-733-628-422, OR 00-254-733-639-088, OR 00-254-722-314-239

Satellite Phone: 00-873-762315580

Radio: HF 9116 kHz OR 5796 kHz LSB

Call Sign: Foundation Control

E-mail:[email protected]

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

When confronted by an armed individual, the best practice is not to resist. Resistance or hesitation on the part of the victim can result in death or serious injury. Hands should be visible and instructions should be followed carefully. Any furtive movements might startle the attacker. Be as compliant as possible; the decision if and when to defend oneself is a personal choice dependent on each situation.

General Guidelines:

  • Avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
  • Vary routes and times- Do not be predictable in daily routines.
  • Avoid walking alone.
  • Do not carry credit cards, U.S. driver's license or other important documents around town.  Establishments in Brazzaville accept only Congolese Francs.
  • Always carry some form of identification.
  • A cell phone and sim card should be bought for use in the Republic of the Congo (ROC).
  • Program important phone numbers into the cell phone.

In Hotels:

  • Do not leave valuables such as money, jewelry, or passports in an unoccupied room unless they are secured in a proper safe (even this is not foolproof).
  • Know where the fire extinguishers and fire escapes are located.
  • Familiarize yourself with hotel staff.

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  • iryna said

    good day, weekend in park or one of the lakes are ok? If to go to visit for a few weeks, what agency or hotel would be reccommended? Thank you in advance, Iryna

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