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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Republic of the Congo Country Security Report

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses that travelers should exercise increased caution in the Republic of the Congo due to COVID-19 and crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Peace Index 2021 ranks Republic of the Congo 119 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as being at a medium state of peace.

Crime Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed Brazzaville as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

The U.S. Department of State has included a Crime “C” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Republic of the Congo, indicating that there may be widespread violent crime and/or organized crime present in the country, and/or that local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.

The crime emergency line in Republic of the Congo is 117. Review the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Crime: General Threat

Most crime affecting expatriates in the Republic of the Congo (RoC) is for economic gain. In recent years, there have been several incidents of petty/street crime and burglaries involving U.S. nationals and other expatriates. Petty crime often happens in public places and areas of congregation (e.g., marketplaces, sports venues, popular bars/restaurants frequented by local nationals). On rare occasions, armed assailants have confronted foreigners. Criminal elements do not typically single out U.S. nationals, but may view them as targets of opportunity based on perceived affluence or vulnerability. 

The downtown (centre-ville) areas of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire are generally safe, housing high concentrations of government offices and security forces. Most expatriates live and work in these areas, with many major shops, restaurants, and hotels concentrated there. In recent years, expatriates have noticed many cases of aggressive panhandlers. This may pose an indirect danger by putting foreigners into vulnerable positions. Pay attention when entering and exiting vehicles and stores to avoid them. The Embassy continues to receive sporadic reports of burglars targeting expatriate homes. Homes without adequate security features, such as razor wire, are vulnerable to home invasion.

There is a spike in crime each year around the December holiday season.  

Crime: Areas of Concern

There are no off-limits areas in Brazzaville. The Marché Total and Bacongo neighborhoods of southern Brazzaville and the Moungali area of northern Brazzaville are higher-crime areas. The Embassy has received reports of violent crimes perpetrated by gangs of young males. Local media and security forces use the catch-all term of bébés noirs to describe young criminals, who generally use knives to subdue victims. There are also reports of fights between gangs and confrontations with security forces in the northern neighborhoods of Brazzaville. RoC security forces have attempted to repress gang activity by rounding up suspected young men and adolescents. In 2018, one of these actions led to the deaths of 13 youths in custody at the Chacona police station in Mpila.  

Pointe-Noire has the same general concerns as Brazzaville. However, its beaches are areas for opportunistic crime, which is often associated with violence, particularly after dark. The U.S. Embassy has designated one portion of Pointe-Noire’s beaches as permissible for U.S. official personnel to visit, this area extends from the western limit of The Yes Club to the eastern limit of the VIP Escale Demex, and borders many hotels/restaurants, which provide increased security. All other public beaches are off limits to U.S. official personnel. The Embassy recommends that travelers avoid all beaches at night.  

The U.S. Embassy discourages travel in the Western Pool region due to a history of armed conflict. The Embassy has received several reports of armed highway robbery after dark in this area. Avoid unnecessary travel in this part of the country.    

Just as with major cities in the U.S., pretty crime often happens in large crowds. Safeguard your valuables as you would anywhere else in the world. As circumstances often change, the Regional Security Office may deem it necessary to make certain parts of the city off-limits to U.S. Embassy personnel. Always pay heed to Security Alerts that broadcast these warnings.

Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs, Considerations for Hotel Security, and Taking Credit.  

Kidnapping Threat

The U.S. Department of State has not included a Kidnapping “K” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Republic of the Congo. Kidnapping does occur in the country. Review OSAC’s reports, Kidnapping: The Basics and Active Shooter and Kidnapping Response Tips.

Drug Crime

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Congo are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 

Consult with the CIA World Factbook’s section on Illicit Drugs for country-specific information.

Terrorism Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed Brazzaville as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

The U.S. Department of State has not included a Terrorism “T” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Republic of the Congo. Review the latest State Department Country Report on Terrorism for Republic of the Congo.

The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Terrorism Index 2020 ranks Republic of the Congo 77 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as having a low impact from terrorism.

Terrorism: General Threat

No known indigenous terrorist organization operates in the country. However, RoC’s borders remain porous, creating the potential for spillover from neighboring countries that have multiple active terrorist groups operating within their territories (e.g., Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo). Land border controls are overwhelmed, and only present in specific locations. There are many locations to cross borders without passing through areas with government control. 

Political Violence and Civil Unrest Environment

​The U.S. Department of State has assessed Brazzaville as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Starting in 2016, for almost two years, the RoC Government fought an insurgent group known as the Ninjas in the western Pool region. In 2017, the parties reached a ceasefire agreement, which remains in effect. 

Elections/Political Stability

The recent RoC political situation was marked by the presidential election held in March 2021 which saw the re-election of the incumbent president in the first round. On the eve of election day, an opposition candidate officially died of COVID 19. The political situation remains relatively stable, as no protests or disputes have been noted following this election. However, the opposition continues to demand the release of the opponents imprisoned following the presidential elections of 2016, who have been accused of attacking state security. Legislative elections are scheduled for 2022 and 2023. 

Protest & Demonstration Activity

Brazzaville continues to experience a small number of public protests. However, the government normally anticipates and forestalls any protests. Avoid any demonstrations or large groups of people.

In 2021, a number of protests and strikes – some significant in size – took place over social and economic issues, to include pension disagreements, unemployment concerns, and unpaid salaries. In May, retired civil servants demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s office over unpaid pensions. At the same time, the union members from the Brazzaville University Hospital Center began a strike due to 5 months of unpaid salaries.  

Employees of SOPECO, the government owned postal service, conducted several demonstrations due to poor working conditions and 26 months of unpaid salaries. Pointe-Noire saw a similar demonstration by employees of the National Agency of the Civil Aviation of Congo following claims the agency failed to pay employees for eight months.

Unrest in Kinshasa, Democractic Republic of the Congo can affect Brazzaville, as the two capital cities are located directly across the Congo River from one another.  

Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Law Enforcement Concerns: Security Agencies

Security forces in Republic of Congo consist of the National Gendarmerie and the National Police, controlled by the Ministry of Security and Public Order. Police are responsible for traffic accident investigations and have a riot-control element that responds to civil unrest. Police also have an investigatory role in the prosecution of crimes. The gendarmes serve in a crime prevention and close protection capacity, which also includes responding to civil unrest. Police teams responding to protest activity often uniformly dress in dark blue or black. Traffic police may dress in dark blue pants and light blue shirts. It is not unusual to see checkpoints staffed by police/gendarmes, particularly at night. Reported incidents of bribery/money solicitation have occurred at these checkpoints as well.  

Police Response

RoC security services, including the Army, National Police (controlled by the Interior Ministry), and Gendarmerie (controlled by the Defense Ministry), are highly visible on a day-to-day basis. There are regular reports of law enforcement officers using excessive force. There are also occasional reports of solicitations of bribes and participation in criminal activity by security forces. Police resources are limited, and response to emergency calls is often slow or non-existent.   

Police have stopped foreigners and accused them of minor infractions, which sometimes have not been justified. Police typically do not want to write a ticket, and often request the payment of a fine on the spot. The U.S. Embassy does not encourage payment of fines directly to requesting officers.  

The detention of U.S. citizens is rare. In the few instances that have occurred, Congolese police have allowed arrested U.S. citizens to contact the Embassy. Arrested or detained U.S. citizens have the right to request that Congolese authorities alert the U.S. Embassy, and should use whatever means of communication available to notify the U.S. Embassy of their situation. 

Law Enforcement Concerns: Emergency Contact/Information

The emergency line in the Republic of the Congo is 117. Local Emergency Fire number is 118.   

Transportation Security

Road Safety

Road infrastructure has improved in recent years. However, campaigns to improve road-safety awareness have not accompanied physical road improvements, in fact, fatal accident rates are increasing in areas with new highways. Motorists should use extreme caution and defensive driving techniques on highways. Avoid nighttime driving on major highways. 

Secondary roads outside of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire are often impassable during the rainy seasons (September-December, February-May). Outside of Brazzaville, the RoC environment is a mix of rainforests and open savanna. Make sufficient preparations prior to travel, and exercise extreme caution in remote areas.  

Gasoline and diesel fuel are sometimes unavailable in the major cities, and are especially limited in the more isolated regions of the country.  

Armed soldiers or national police may conduct vehicle searches and check passengers for identity papers. These roadblocks often are poorly marked. Local authorities may target foreigners to solicit bribes. 

For detailed, country-specific road and vehicle safety information, read the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques, and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.  

Public Transportation Safety

Avoid travel by public transport (e.g., buses). Train service between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire is unreliable and does not meet U.S. safety standards. 

While there are no officially registered taxi companies, municipal authorities in the major cities require taxis to have an operating permit and to have a specific color scheme (green/white in Brazzaville, blue/white in Pointe-Noire, red/white in Dolisie). Although taxis are a convenient and relatively safe alternative for transportation in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the Embassy does not endorse the use of any particular local taxi operators. Taxis do not have meters, negotiate fares before using one. It is customary for drivers to charge a supplemental fee to or from airports. Travelers using taxis should keep small denomination bills. Passengers should take note of the vehicle registration in case of any incidents or issues with taxi operators. The Embassy has received reports of a small number of taxi operators conspiring with thieves to rob passengers. Taxis do not undergo routine inspections and vary significantly in their state of repair. Always wear a seat belt and use the vehicle’s door locks for added safety. To avoid theft at intersections do not use a mobile telephone with the window down, and place your personal baggage between your legs.   

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights, and consider the European Union Air Safety List.

Aviation Concerns

Brazzaville’s Maya-Maya International Airport (BZV) received a new runway in 2010 and a new terminal in 2013. Following immigration control, travelers enter the baggage area, where airport porters may try to assist with belongings or provide luggage carts. Only accept assistance from official airport staff, who will present blue or green ID cards on request, if not openly visible. Those who accept assistance from airport workers should expect to pay a small tip for their assistance. Keep a close eye on carry-on items while searching for checked baggage, to mitigate potential theft. Maintain checked baggage claim tags, as luggage frequently disappears.  

There are four main aviation companies operating in Congo at the national level: Trans Air Congo (TAC), Canadian Airways (CanAir), Africa Airlines (AA), and SN Air Congo.   

Maritime Security

A commercial ferry service exists between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, however, it may suspend service with little notice. The port closes at 1600 and is open only until 1200 on Sundays and holidays. Passengers must already have a valid visa to cross the Congo River. 

The International Maritime Bureau warns mariners to be extra cautious when transiting the waters off Pointe-Noire, where minor piracy events happen regularly. Sophisticated piracy events occur in and near RoC waters (about 100 nautical miles from Ponte-Noire) targeting oil tankers, including a tanker hijacking with its crew on board. Pirate groups involved in Gulf of Guinea piracy typically originate from Nigeria. Increasingly, pirates have kidnapped crewmembers for ransom from ships in more northern waters of the Gulf of Guinea, in such cases, pirates have transferred victims to other vessels or even taken them ashore – often to hideouts in southern Nigeria.  

Consult with the Stable Seas Maritime Security Index for detailed information and ratings regarding rule of law, law enforcement, piracy, and other maritime security indicators.

Personal Identity & Human Rights Concerns

Significant human rights issues include unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or on behalf of government, cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government, including by Congolese peacekeepers deployed to UN missions, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary arrest or detention, political prisoners or detainees, serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, substantial interference with the freedom of association, restrictions on political participation where the government is unelected or elections have not been found to be genuine, free, or fair, serious acts of corruption, lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women, crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous people, crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting LGBTI+ persons, and the worst forms of child labor.

Safety Concerns for Women Travelers

Rape, spousal rape, and domestic violence are all crimes in Republic of Congo punishable with fines or imprisonment. However, these crimes remain common and underreported. Indictments are rare and police are unlikely to intervene.  

Police receive reports for only a fraction of rapes. Police reports verifying rape cost CFA 30,000 francs ($52) to cover medical examination and report expenses, an onerous cost for most victims. Domestic violence is widespread but rarely reported.

Sexual harassment is illegal. Generally, the penalty is two to five years in prison. In particularly egregious cases, the penalty may be 10 years. The government does not effectively enforce this law.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The coverage, however, is limited to the two large urban centers, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.

Customary marriages, family laws, and civil laws enacted by the government govern the rights of women, children, and extended families. Women are provided the same legal status as men under the law, and authorities enforce those laws. Individual bias and customary beliefs, however, contribute to societal pressures to limit the rights of women. Adultery is illegal for women and men, although the penalty differs. Under civil law the husband could receive only a fine for adultery, while the wife could receive a prison sentence. Polygamy is legal, while polyandry is not.

Women experience discrimination in divorce settlements, specifically regarding property and financial assets. The law considers the man the head of the household, unless the father becomes incapacitated or abandons the family. The law dictates that in the absence of an agreement between spouses, men shall choose the residence of the family.

Women experience economic discrimination with respect to employment, credit, equal pay, and owning or managing businesses.

Consider composite scores given to Republic of the Congo by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in its Gender Development Index, measuring the difference between average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development, and Gender Inequality Index, measuring inequality in achievement in reproductive health, empowerment, and the labor market. For more information on gender statistics in Republic of the Congo, see the World Bank's Gender Data Portal.

Review the State Department’s webpage for female travelers.

Safety Concerns for LGBTI+ Travelers

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in the RoC. However, members of the LGBTI+ community face heavy stigmatization, and on occasion, police officers have harassed gay men and claimed the law prohibited same-sex sexual conduct to elicit bribes.

Local NGOs report limited violence by government authorities and private citizens against LGBTI+ persons. Authorities investigated and punished these acts of violence. Surveys of LGBTI+ populations by local NGOs indicate a majority of violence occurs among persons within the same family. There have been reports of police in Pointe-Noire verbally, physically, or sexually abusing openly gay young men and harassing gay men to elicit bribes.

There is no law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services.

Review OSAC’s report, Supporting LGBT+ Employee Security Abroad, and the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI travelers.

Safety Concerns for Travelers with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but authorities do not enforce these provisions effectively. Access to transportation, lodging, and public buildings is limited. There are few sidewalks and no curb cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators. ​

Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Safety Concerns for Travelers Based on Race, Religion, & Ethnicity

The law prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity, but the government makes little effort to enforce it. Clashes between Congolese nationals and West African immigrants and shopkeepers occur occasionally. Although strong ethnic fault lines exist among the Congolese population (mainly along a North/South divide), ethnic violence has not surfaced among domestic groups in recent years.  

Review the latest U.S Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom for country-specific information.

Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.  

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Most Congolese have a favorable view of U.S. nationals and of the United States. However, France is often accused by Congolese intellectuals of supporting the power in place.

Concerns involving the Rule of Law, Arbitrary Detention, Official Harassment, Corruption &/or Transparency

Following the 2021 presidential election, authorities arrested many civil society activists. Local and international organizations regularly accuse government officials, including the president, his family, and senior ministers of corruption. The accusations generally allege officials have diverted revenues from their official portfolios into private, overseas accounts before officially declaring the remaining revenues.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Republic of the Congo 165 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most transparent.

Communication Issues

Freedom of the press in Congo is guaranteed by the constitution. However, journalists and human rights activists are most often arrested when they criticize power. The constitution recognizes the right to freedom of speech, but this right is often violated.

Cell phone and the Internet services are private but subject to direct government control and monitoring. The government has a history of shutting electronic and telephonic communications nationwide during constitutional referendum-related civil unrest and presidential elections. 

The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks Republic of the Congo 118 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most freedom. The Freedom House Freedom in the World report rates Republic of the Congo’s freedom of speech as not free.

Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.

​Health Concerns

Emergency Health Services      

Health facilities are very limited. Hospitals in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire suffer from inadequate facilities, chronic underfunding, outdated equipment, and shortages of supplies and medications. There is a shortage of physicians and other qualified medical personnel. Some hospitals have ambulance services, but these are limited, unreliable, and require an on-scene cash payment. Psychiatric services and medications are very limited. Travelers must carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines.

Malaria is endemic. Use CDC recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.

The following diseases are prevalent: hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, rabies, and typhoid.

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on health insurance overseas.

The U.S. Department of State has included a Health “H” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Republic of the Congo, indicating that Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that temporarily disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. Review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) country-specific Travel Health Notices for current health issues that impact traveler health, like disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters.

See OSAC’s Guide to U.S. Government-Assisted Evacuations, review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad, and visit the State Department’s webpage on Your Health Abroad for more information.

Vaccinations

The Government of Republic of Congo requires a negative PCR test collected within three days (72 hours) preceding the flight’s departure to Brazzaville. Strongly consider COVID-19 vaccination prior to all travel. Proof of yellow fever vaccinations are required for entry.

Review the CDC Travelers’ Health site for country-specific vaccine recommendations.

Issues Traveling with Medications

Some medications may not be available at local pharmacies. Bring extra medications when possible.

Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.  

Water Quality

In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested.  Ice for drinks may be made using tap water. 

Drinking water in the country is insufficient. People make use of the rain waters, ponds, streams, rivers, and wells, which are unprotected from water-borne diseases (e.g., schistosomiasis, bilharzia).

Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

Environmental Hazards

The most significant environmental problems in Congo are deforestation, increases in urban population, and the protection of its wildlife. Congo's forests are endangered by fires set to clean the land for agricultural purposes. The forests are also used as a source of fuel.

Congo's urban centers are hampered by air pollution from vehicles and water pollution from sewage. Its water purity problem is most apparent in rural areas.

Cybersecurity Concerns

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Republic of the Congo. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. 

Common scams include romance/online dating, money transfers, lucrative sales, gold purchase, contracts with promises of large commissions, grandparent/relative targeting, free trip/luggage, lotteries, inheritance notices, work permits/job offers, and bank overpayments.

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling Abroad with Mobile Devices, and Guide for Overseas Satellite Phone Usage.

Counterintelligence Issues

Congo is a police state where telephone communications are controlled by the government. There is the potential for intelligence agency presence in all hotels. Hotels must present guest files to the police.   

Other Security Concerns

Landmines

The Republic of Congo was declared mine-free in 2012, following a concerted demining effort after having been heavily mined during civil war.

Import/Export Restrictions

RoC law prohibits the exports of artifacts and other items of historical significance.

A country-specific listing of items goods prohibited from being exported to the country or that are otherwise restricted is available from the U.S. International Trade Agency website.

Photography

Congolese law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police, military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and airports. Such sites are rarely marked clearly.

Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

ID Requirements

Always carry some form of formal identification. The Embassy recommends that travelers carry a copy of their passport and Congolese visa rather than the originals. 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

RoC infrastructure does not meet western standards for workplace health, safety, security, and environmental issues. A primary example is in the engineering and construction sectors, where few safety standards exist on construction sites, other than those under the control of western companies.  

Internet access is extremely expensive, tends to be unreliable, and is often affected by technical glitches and regular government restriction. 

OSAC Country Chapters

Brazzaville has an OSAC Country Chapter that meets quarterly. There has not been a regular meeting since May 2020 due to COVID-10 restrictions on gatherings.

Contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.

Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy: 70-83 Section D, Boulevard Denis Sassou N'Guesso, Brazzaville. Tel: +242(06)612-2000, +242(05)387-9700.

Trustworthy News Sources

  • Newspapers: “La Semaine Africaine,” “Les Depêches de Brazzaville,” “Manager Horizon,” “Le Nouveau Regard,” “Le Troubadour.” 
  • Local radio: Radio Congo, Vox TV, DRTV. 

Other Helpful Info

 

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