is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Libreville. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Gabon. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Gabon country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses Gabon at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal
precautions. Exercise Increased Caution in Libreville and Port Gentil due to
crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Libreville as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed
at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Crime
continues to be more common in the capital, Libreville, and in Port Gentil, Gabon’s second
largest city, than in rural areas. Libreville and Port Gentil account for
most of Gabon’s 1.8 million population, and are home to the country’s most
affluent citizens. In urban and rural areas alike, police response can be slow,
and capabilities are limited.
crimes against foreigners are non-violent confrontations, and are most often
crimes of opportunity, though there have been some reports of foreigners robbed
at knife- or machete-point. These crimes include muggings, theft of
unattended possessions, and pickpocketing. The items stolen most frequently
during a robbery tend to be cash, cellular phones and other electronic
items. Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
In 2019, there were two separate theft incidents against U.S.
nationals in Libreville. In both instances, the individuals attempted
to snatch the victim’s belongings and take off running, seeking to avoid confrontation.
In early 2018, criminals robbed several U.S. nationals of their cell phones and
personal electronics from an unattended and unsecured vehicle. Thieves take advantage
of stopped traffic, traffic control devices (stop signs or lights),
or drivers slowing down at an intersection. When the vehicle slows,
the thief opens the unlocked door to steal items from inside. In May
2018, an Embassy employee was the victim of this type of theft. In that
situation, the embassy vehicle was moving through slow traffic when the thief
grabbed a workbag placed on the passenger seat. In 2019, a thief robbed an
Embassy employee at knifepoint while walking on the beach adjacent to the Bord
du Mer and Radisson hotel.
Foreigners are seldom experience physical harm when they comply
with the perpetrator’s demands. However, criminals will resort to force, if
necessary, to carry out a robbery. Confrontations with their intended victims do
not deter gangs and other groups. Crime among the local populace can be more
violent. In the month of March 2019 alone, three corpses discovered in the PK5
neighborhood of Libreville prompted police investigations that remains unresolved.
Visitors should be particularly aware of their surroundings in
congested urban areas, such as open-air markets or on the beach. While these
areas are certainly more dangerous at night, daytime incidents have also occurred.
Being in a crowded area does not ensure one’s security. Some victims report
being robbed in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses. Mob justice exists;
suspects can find themselves pursued and beaten by bystanders.
Hotel rooms have historically been prime targets for theft, though
the very best hotels in Libreville have policies in place to discourage
employee theft and are quick to identify and remove perpetrators. Many hotels
have basic security standards in place (24-hour guards, locking doors, and
OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
Residential burglaries continue to be a problem in Libreville and
Port Gentil. Burglaries and home invasions are occurring more frequently than
in the past. In the past few years, U.S. Embassy Libreville received and
responded to reports regarding residential break-ins, including homes of U.S.
nationals assigned to the Embassy. While most burglaries occur
when residents are away from their homes, criminals have entered residences
while the occupants are asleep.
In December 2017, a Gabonese resident of Nigerien descent traveled
from Booué to Libreville to “hurt Americans” after learning of the U.S.
decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As a result, two
Danish nationals received injuries in a knife attack, one seriously. Gabonese
authorities quickly arrested the suspect and concluded that this was
a “lone wolf” act in which the individual acted alone. Apart from this
incident, violent crime directed toward expatriates or foreign tourists is
Unsophisticated scams are fairly common. Scams include taking
money for items and then failing to deliver the item purchased. Only pay for
items you have seen and can take possession of immediately.
have paid roadside vendors to top-up their cellphone minutes and then
not received the minutes. Establish top-ups through vendors.
U.S. Embassy does not restrict travel for its employees.
Caution when visiting popular Libreville night spots. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of
established grocery stores, hotels and high-end restaurants have started taking
credit and debit cards only recently, but there are frequent connectivity
problems. Be prepared to pay cash even if an establishment advertises that it
takes credit. When contemplating a large purchase, be prepared to visit several
ATMs, possibly over the course of several days. At times, ATMs do not have cash
available for withdrawal. Embassy Libreville has not received any reports of card
skimming. Review OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that you
would at home. A 2016 article by France’s Journal du Dimanche claimed that
Gabonese intelligence services had wiretapped EU election observers in Gabon
for the 2016 Presidential elections.
E-Commerce does not exist in
most places in Gabon. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The quality of roads throughout Gabon varies. The major roads in
Libreville and Port Gentil are paved but in poor condition. Road improvement projects
have largely stalled due to budget difficulties. Minor roads in Libreville
and Port Gentil, and many roads outside of large cities, are nothing more than
dirt tracks; conditions vary depending on the amount of rain that region has
received. Interior roads are often winding, posing additional hazards.
Outside of the cities, many roads lack adequate maintenance and
become significantly more hazardous during the rainy season. Gabon does have a
system of highways that lead to the major metropolitan areas. Once travelers
leave these major arteries, consider a four-wheel drive vehicle. It can be
difficult to locate compatible spare tires outside of major cities; with tire
blowouts a problem on poor roads, consider a spare tire or two, jack and tire
iron, tire plug kit, and an air compressor as the minimum equipment when
traveling outside of the major cities. Also consider tow straps, medical
supplies and food and water for trips, as well as a cell or satellite phone. Avoid
driving at night outside of Libreville and in areas with low population
density. Rural and suburban areas alike have poor lighting and pose additional
safety hazards due to pedestrians and animals crossing the road. Consider the
availability of gas and diesel at a destination before embarking on a trip by
Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers to visitors to
Gabon. Exercise extreme caution as both a driver and a pedestrian, as
enforcement for speeding and reckless driving is virtually non-existent. Pedestrians
rarely have the right of way. Road hazards include poor street lighting,
failure by drivers to obey traffic signals, a lack of marked pedestrian
crossings, animals on roadways, slow moving vehicles, large trucks, inebriated
drivers, poorly maintained roads, and erratic stopping by taxis and minibuses.
Many local vehicles lack proper maintenance and some lack headlights. Large
trucks sometimes park on the sides of roads without using emergency flashers or
Always drive defensively. When driving a vehicle or as a passenger
in a taxi, always keep your belongings out of plain view. Always lock
vehicle doors, fasten seat belts, and roll up windows. While stopped in
traffic, scan rearview mirrors to identify potential trouble. If idling at a
stop light or sign, leave adequate maneuver room between vehicles to allow for
a hasty departure if necessary. Park only in well-lighted areas, preferably in
parking lots with a security guard.
Anticipate police checkpoints, which have a loose purpose of
ensuring that vehicles and drivers are carrying necessary paperwork. The
reality is that police or security forces use these checkpoints to extort small
amounts of money from drivers and passengers.
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 Conditions
consider other transportation options before deciding to take public
transportation. Every year, there are serious and fatal accidents involving minibuses
and taxis. Many lack proper safety equipment (e.g. seat belts, headlights), are
overcrowded, and driven by unlicensed drivers. Drivers are often reckless,
making frequent stops to pick up passengers and speeding from one stop to the
next. Travelers who do take taxis should hire only those called by a hotel. If
hailing one on the street, specify “course” (exclusive use/not shared)
to the driver. Review OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
air travel can be frustrating for even the most seasoned traveler. Flights are
often delayed and canceled, sometimes for days. Baggage frequently goes missing
and lost. Pack any required medicines, important documents or valuables in a
carry-on bag. Local airlines do not have to pay restitution for lost bags. There
was one reported airline accident in 2012, when a private charter plane crashed
in the interior.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Libreville as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Gabon suffers from
extremely porous borders. Trafficking in wildlife and natural resources is a
problem for local security forces and at times involves well-armed foreigners. There
exists the potential for these same trafficking routes to be used to facilitate
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Libreville as being a LOW-threat location for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
There was widespread rioting and looting following the 2016 Presidential
Elections. The cities of Libreville, Oyem,
Port Gentil, and Lambarene all experienced unrest upon the release of
election results. City streets in Libreville were impassable due to
protestor-erected barricades of burning vehicles, tires, and other debris. International
flights arriving to and departing from Libreville had to refuel in different
countries, as fuel trucks were unable to service the airport. Some airlines
cancelled flights into the capital. Rioters burned and looted grocery stores
and businesses in the neighborhoods of Hauts de GueGue,
Charbonnages, Cocotiers, Nkembo, Sotega, Venez Voir, Akebes, Glass, Awendje, Lalala, Beau Séjour, IAI, and the area known as the PKs (along the N1). Parts of the
Parliament building burned, authorities reportedly arrested over 1000 people, and
the government declared that three people died in post-election unrest - though
the opposition claims that the number is higher. Authorities cut internet and
SMS completely in the days immediately following the election unrest. After a
week with no internet and SMS, it came back on but only from
0600-1800 each day. Full internet connectivity only returned one month after
the end of the unrest.
October 2018 parliamentary elections passed without incident.
Shortly thereafter, President Ali Bongo Ondimba suffered
a medical issue while on official travel in Saudi Arabia. The resulting uncertainty
regarding the President’s health led to an anti-government military action by
members of Gabon’s Republican Guard in January 2019. During the event, members
of the Republican Guard briefly took control of a radio station and broadcast a
call to action to overthrow the Bongo regime. Gabonese security forces quickly
confronted and arrested the conspirators, resulting in two deaths. Of note,
the Gabonese government shut down the internet in Gabon for 24 hours
as the government restored order and the normal rhythms of daily life
and union actions are common in Gabon, and have occurred frequently over the
past year. In 2019, Gabon faced students protests over a change in
academic regulations and reductions in scholarships. In 2020, a
general worker strike across several industries resulted in shortages of fuel,
water, and electricity.
Avoid large crowds, political gatherings, and demonstrations.
Political gatherings and demonstrations have the potential to turn
violent; police and security forces typically disperse crowds
using tear gas or other force. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
Gabonese have a favorable view of U.S. nationals and of the United States.
the rainy season (September-May), torrential downpours can cause severe damage
to local neighborhoods, dirt roads, and bridges. There have been no major
natural disasters in the last five years.
Personal Identity Concerns
the State Department’s webpage on security for female
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI+ events in Gabon. Although there have been no reports of violence against
LGBTI+ persons, discrimination, including in housing and employment, is a
problem. Many LGBTI+ individuals choose to keep their status secret, except in
trusted circles. Stigma is a likely factor in preventing the reporting of
incidents. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
OSAC’s report, Freedom
to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
law prohibits discrimination against persons with “physical, mental,
congenital, and accidental” disabilities, and requires access to buildings or
services for persons which such disabilities. Most public buildings do not
provide adequate access. There is some societal discrimination against persons
with disabilities, and treatment facilities are limited. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for travelers
enforces its drug laws. Foreigners found in possession of illegal drugs should
expect prosecution and punishment, including imprisonment. Marijuana is illegal
in Gabon. Avoid iboga, a hallucinogenic drug indigent to Gabon, is a dangerous,
illegal Schedule I drug in the United States. Reports of addiction, personal
injury, and serious inappropriate behavior attributed to this drug have been
recorded. The potential for narco-tourism becoming a problem is a topic of
concern as iboga becomes more widely known on the world drug market.
photographs of the Presidential Palace, airport, and military or other
government buildings is illegal. Review OSAC’s report, Picture
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out
of other countries.
The police and security forces often lack communications
equipment, weapons and ammunition, and vehicles, which limit their
ability to respond to routine and emergency calls. Many gendarmes and police
stations have only one vehicle and often rely on personal cellular phones to
coordinate any police response. Any response is often slow and limited
generally to writing a report or taking statements.
There are frequent allegations of police
corruption. Incidents of police or security force harassment or detention
of foreigners are rare but do occur. On two separate occasions in one
week an Embassy employee was stopped by police while in a
diplomatic licensed vehicle in an attempt to collect fines for
non-occurring violations. U.S. citizens who become victims of police
harassment should be polite and cooperative. U.S. citizens detained by police
should ask that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately.
Crime Victim Assistance
police in Libreville at +241.011.73.90.00, and in Port Gentil at
+241.077.29.63.89. In the event of an emergency, the local police are typically
the first point of contact. However, police response is slow, and
investigations often never initiate. Prosecutions are very slow, if they are
Gendarmerie, a branch of the Ministry of Defense, is the principal agency in charge
of law enforcement. The National Police are responsible for traffic enforcement
and security at major events. The Police Judiciare are responsible for
conducting criminal investigations related directly to prosecution.
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
is limited adequate medical care, and in the event of a traumatic injury or
medical emergency, consider temporary stabilization and medical evacuation
(medevac), if possible. Traffic and poor road conditions make for unpredictable
travel times to reach a hospital. Availability of doctors and access to
hospital facilities is unreliable, medical equipment does not function or lacks
trained operators, medicines and surgical tools may not be available, and
sanitary conditions may be substandard. Emergency responders and medical
personnel likely do not speak English. Find contact information for available
medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments
webpage on insurance
must have proof of yellow-fever vaccination to enter Gabon by air. Without
proof, you must pay for and receive an immunization at the airport. Malaria and
serious infectious tropical diseases are endemic.
following diseases are prevalent: Malaria; Yellow fever; Dengue fever; Chikungunya;
Diarrheal illness; Tuberculosis; Schistosomiasis; African trypanosomiasis; and HIV/AIDS.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Gabon.
OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Traveling
with Medication, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare
for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council
does not have an OSAC Country Council. Contact OSAC’s Africa team for more information.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Embassy is located in the Sabliere neighborhood of Libreville, across the street from Hotel Onomo.
you travel, consider the following resources: