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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Sudan 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Sudan. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Sudan 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 password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Sudan at Level 3, indicating travelers should reconsider travel due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

A national state of emergency, which gives security forces greater powers of arrest, is in effect across the country. Detentions, including of foreigners, have occurred in different parts of the country, including in Khartoum. Demonstrations occur frequently and police response can be sudden and violent. Authorities may impose curfews with little or no warning. Penalties for violating curfews can include imprisonment.

Crime Threats 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Khartoum as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Crime rates increased over 2019, most likely connected to the deteriorating economic situation. Criminal activity is generally non-violent and non-confrontational. The Embassy received reports in 2019 of criminal targeting of UN personnel and other Westerners for car break-ins and other crimes of opportunity.

Most crimes impact the local population, as opposed to the international community. Most local crimes are property crimes (e.g. motor vehicle theft, burglary, larceny-theft, arson). Pickpocketing, bag snatches, smash-and-grabs, and car break-ins have also been reported. In the rare instances of armed assaults in cities, knives or handguns seem to be the weapons of choice. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Throughout the Darfur region, criminals victimize local communities with assault and theft, generally related to inter-communal clashes. Tribal groups affiliated with the Bashir regime and Darfuri armed groups have carried out criminal attacks against internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants, and other foreigners. Carjacking by gangs and armed groups continue throughout Darfur. The threat of other violent crimes (e.g. home invasions, armed robberies, kidnappings) is particularly high in Darfur, as the government has limited capacity and resources to combat crime there. As the African Union-UN peacekeeping mission for Darfur (UNAMID) continues to decrease its size and scope, it is likely that such crime will increase.  

In the eastern region, individuals and organized crime networks are engaged in smuggling and trafficking activities through the country’s porous borders with Eritrea and Ethiopia. The government is attempting to address these problems through anti-trafficking efforts, declarations of states of emergency, and occasional border closures; however, authorities do not have the resources to stop these activities. 

Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud,Taking Credit, Hotels: The Inns and Outs,Considerations for Hotel Security.

Cybersecurity Issues 

Poor information infrastructure leads to a wide range of risks in cyberspace. Cyber actors, with varying levels of sophistication, are developing capabilities to commit crime and to support terrorism activities. Terrorist groups are known to use platforms in cyberspace, mainly through social networks, to promote their agendas in Sudan and to support their recruitment efforts.

The government censors internet activity through the National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) and the General Intelligence Service (GIS) Cyber-Crimes Unit. These agencies block proxy servers. In 2019, in response to ongoing anti-government protests, the previous Bashir regime blocked WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites. 

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Over the past year, Sudan has experienced periods of extreme shortages of fuel -- mostly of commercial diesel, but at times also gasoline. The availability of fuel can change with no notice; shortages can last for weeks or longer. 

Driving conditions are hazardous throughout most of Sudan. Drivers should always be aware of unsafe, poorly maintained road surfaces, unskilled drivers, and the presence of non-roadworthy vehicles. In general, the main roads in Khartoum and north/central Sudan are paved but haphazardly maintained. A turn off a main road could lead to blocks of unpaved dirt and potholes. At night, most streets lack proper (or any) lighting, and many drivers do not use headlights. Drivers frequently do not comply with traffic regulations. Driving excessively fast or very slowly is common on the main roads. Drivers commonly ignore traffic signals, stop in traffic lanes without warning, turn from the opposite lane with complete disregard for oncoming traffic, and drive against traffic in lanes meant for one direction. In addition, poorly-maintained vehicles, three-wheeled motorized taxi vehicles, donkey carts, unrestrained livestock, overloaded tandem-axle cargo trucks, and pedestrians all share the roadways.

Those involved in traffic accidents should summon police assistance. Do not make restitution at the scene, especially if livestock or pedestrians are involved. Remain aware of potential crowds gathering at the scene of an accident and depart the scene if you perceive an imminent threat to your safety.

Arrange with your in-country POC or your hotel to secure trusted transportation. 

Travel outside of metropolitan Khartoum can be challenging, and enforcement of regulations can be uneven. Before traveling anywhere outside of Khartoum, check news reports and local conditions. Use four-wheel-drive vehicles due to a variety of road conditions on major inter-city highways. South of Khartoum, road conditions deteriorate significantly during the rainy season from October to May and dust storms (“haboobs”) greatly reduce visibility. Travel outside of Khartoum with a minimum of two vehicles to protect against the threat of criminal attacks. Use reliable GPS and carry additional fuel, spare tires, and provisions. Professional roadside assistance service is not available

Exercise caution in remote areas or off main roads outside of Khartoum due to landmines. Landmines are most common in the Eastern states and Southern Kordofan. Stay on main roads marked as cleared by a competent de-mining authority. Human traffickers operate in the Kassala area near the Eritrean border; stay on major roads if you are traveling by road.

You must have a permit, which you can obtain from the Tourism Ministry through your hotel or travel agent, for travel outside of greater Khartoum. A copy of the permit goes to the Aliens Department at the Interior Ministry. Authorities require a separate travel permit for travel to Darfur. The Embassy’s ability to provide consular services outside of Khartoum, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. Carry multiple copies of permits, as travelers without permits may face detention or arrest. You must register with the Aliens Department at the Interior Ministry within 72 hours of arriving in Sudan. You must also register with local police within 24 hours of arrival anywhere outside Khartoum.

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 Conditions

Public transport options include three-wheeled motorized vehicles, taxis, and mini-buses. Bus travel is available within and between major towns; schedules are often unpublished and subject to change without notice. Fatal accidents are routine. Many drivers have little training and are reckless, and the vehicles lack proper maintenance. Most buses and bus stops are privately operated and unmarked. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded.

Taxis are available throughout Khartoum, but most do not meet U.S. safety standards. Taxi services provided by hotels and the ride-sharing services Tirhal and Meshwar are generally safe. Drivers rarely speak English. Write your destination in Arabic.

There is weekly passenger train service from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa and to Port Sudan. Trains are in very poor shape.

While there is some public transit available in rural communities, most areas lack standardized and well-maintained public transportation.

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions 

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sudan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. 

Maintain constant contact with your baggage, and ensure it does not contain illicit items (e.g. alcohol, pornography, and objects usable as weapons). Authorities have removed and detained U.S. citizens from international flights when detecting suspect items in checked baggage. Authorities may also search for and question passengers regarding the transport of currency out of Sudan. As of this report's publication, the maximum amount of foreign currency an individual can take out of Sudan without declaring it is $3,000 USD. This monetary regulation is available for view at KRT.  

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Khartoum as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Elements of ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and many other terrorist organizations recruit in Sudan. The transitional government CLTG has taken steps to limit the activities of these terrorist organizations, and has worked to disrupt foreign fighters’ use of the country as a logistics base and transit point. Sudan enacted legislation to combat organized crimes (e.g. human trafficking) and is no longer on the U.S. Financial Action Task Force watch list related to terrorism financing. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence 

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

Civil Unrest  

In recent years, Sudan experienced periodic and localized demonstrations. Since December 2018, several sectors of society, such as youth groups, professional associations, neighborhood organizations, and political activists have called for and organized persistent nationwide protests and demonstrations. Other forms of civil disobedience could occur with little warning. This protest movement has widespread civilian support.

Since the formation of the CLTG, large-scale protests have died down. Smaller, localized protests have continued with a focus on injustices committed by the Bashir regime and violence that took place during the protest period leading to the creation of the CLTG. Most of the protests have been nonviolent, but often led to road closures by security forces and the protestors. At times, the security forces have used tear gas to disperse protestors. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Despite declared cessation of hostilities since 2016, the situations in Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and the disputed area of Abyei remain dynamic due to sporadic armed conflict among rebel groups and tribes. The Government of Sudan announced in January 2019 that it would continue indefinitely its unilateral cease fire, in effect since 2016, with armed rebels throughout the Blue Nile region (Blue Nile, Sennar, and White Nile states) and Southern Kordofan region (includes Abyei region, North Kordofan; South Kordofan; and West Kordofan). The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - North has also maintained its unilateral cessation of hostilities without a commensurate announcement. While violence has reduced significantly from previous years, tensions remain high. Banditry and intercommunal violence are common.

The government and rebel groups in Darfur have maintained a similar relationship. However, humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers have been targets of kidnapping, car-jacking, armed robbery, burglary, and murder. Deadly intercommunal conflict continues, as does violence perpetrated by bandits and government supported militias. Conflict over economic resources (e.g. land, gold) also is common. Tensions within camps for internally displaced people have resulted in fatalities and violence.

Humanitarian workers have been the target of attacks in the Kassala region (Kassala, Al Qadarif, and Red Sea states). There is cross-border militant activity.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

UNAMID reports on frequent incidents of ethnic violence throughout the five Darfur states. Rapid Support Force, a government military unit formed from former militia members, continues to be a destabilizing force. Regular violence occurs between ethnic tribes in and around the numerous Internally Displaced Persons camps, primarily in Darfur. UNAMID is decreasing its overall size and reach as part of a planned June 2020 mission termination.  

In the latter half of 2019, there was an increase in tribal violence in the region in and around Port Sudan. Ethnic tensions were on the rise, resulting in multiple confrontations between the two dominant tribes from the area. The confrontations resulted in death and the burning of residences and business in the area. Mediators from Khartoum defused the situation and helped the tribes reached a peace agreement. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

Areas adjacent to the Nile River are subject to flooding during the rainy season (July-September). In June-July 2019, the Nile reached levels not seen in nearly a century, causing floods throughout Sudan. The flooding resulted in loss of life and destruction of homes and property.

During the summer, Sudan experiences many haboobs (dust storms). These haboobs move in as a wall of sand, extending upward 3,000 feet, and can contain winds of up to 70 mph. Haboobs generally last no more than three hours, but can severely hamper road/air travel for many hours afterward. 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Power outages and interruptions to the water supply system are common in Khartoum. Transportation infrastructure, specifically the railway system, is heavily deteriorated. Most of the historical infrastructure is run-down and clearly shows a lack of maintenance.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft 

With lax laws protecting intellectual property rights, and the rise of digital technologies, some local businesses promote their services, products, and establishments with clear references to U.S. corporate trademarks. Sudanese political actors can influence commercial and contractual disputes. Public tenders do not always proceed with appropriate transparency and objectivity. 

Personal Identity Concerns 

Sudan’s is a conservative society, particularly in the capital and other areas with a Muslim majority. Modest dress and behavior is expected for everyone, including foreigners. Female visitors should wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and full-length skirts/slacks. Men may wear short-sleeved shirts in public, but short pants are not common. 

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Sudan. Despite a lack of active enforcement, the death penalty for male same-sex sexual activity remains part of Sudanese law. There has been one confirmed case of an individual detained, beaten, and harassed by authorities because of suspected affiliation with LGBTI+-friendly groups. LGBTI+ organizations have felt pressured to suspend or alter their activities due to threat of harm. Several LGBTI+ persons have felt compelled to leave the country due to fear of persecution, intimidation, or harassment. Those complicit in discrimination or abuses do not face criminal investigation or punishment. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Early and forced marriage of children continues. The national prevalence rate of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is 88&. Spousal abuse is common. Women who file claims of domestic violence face accusations of spreading false information, harassment, and detention. Police normally do not intervene in domestic disputes. Rape is a serious problem throughout the country, especially in conflict areas. Investigative and prosecuting authorities often obstruct access to justice for rape victims. A woman who accuses a man of rape and fails to prove her case may be tried for adultery or arrested for “illegal pregnancy.” Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

National laws reflect a sharia system of jurisprudence. Other criminal and civil laws, including public order laws, based largely on the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, are determined at the state level. The government sometimes holds non-Muslims to the same standards. Non-Muslim women do not have to wear a veil or cover their heads. Flogging is a common sentence for various crimes and may be conducted summarily. Avoid public displays of affection. Alcohol and pornography are illegal. Government offices and businesses follow an Islamic workweek (Sunday to Thursday). Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Access to transportation, lodging, and public buildings is rare for people with mobility issues. 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.

Kidnapping Threat 

Kidnapping foreigners for ransom is a risk. Kidnappers took an experienced international humanitarian worker captive in Darfur in 2017. The primary motives behind the kidnappings appear to be financial. Some abductees have been released unharmed after being held for as little as a few hours. Despite terrorist calls for violence against UN forces in Darfur, there is no indication that extremist religious ideology was motivation for the reported kidnappings. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Photography requires a permit from the External Information Centre in Khartoum (part of the Information Ministry). Even with a permit, it is illegal to take pictures of military installations or forces, public utilities, infrastructure (e.g., bridges, airports), government buildings, poor neighborhoods, or anything else that may cause it embarrassment. Do not take photographs or use equipment with cameras (including cell phone camera and laptops) close to government buildings. Authorities could fine you, confiscate your photographic equipment without notice, and detain or arrest you. Do not take photos of Sudanese people without their permission. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency line in Sudan is 999. While most police officers are generally helpful, language/cultural barriers sometimes lead to misunderstandings between Sudanese law enforcement and Westerners. Very rarely will a police officer assigned to patrol duties or a checkpoint speak English. In addition, several security elements, to include GIS, do not wear uniforms and can be difficult to identify. 

If police stop you, remain calm and do not respond with aggression. Present your identification documents and answer questions fully. Sudanese security forces are known to detain individuals arbitrarily and without warrants for arrests. Authorities have arrested and detained dual Sudanese-U.S. citizens without notification to the U.S. Embassy and without affording consular access; the government in the past has not recognized dual citizenship for consular purposes, and does not provide the U.S. Embassy with courtesy notifications for dual Sudanese citizens. Authorities may delay Embassy access to detained dual nationals for weeks or may not allow it at all. Sudan does not routinely detain U.S. citizens without dual citizenship, but all are subject to detention at any time. If police detain you, immediately request a consular notification to the U.S. Embassy’s Duty Officer.

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Contact information for law enforcement agencies in Khartoum is as follows:

  • Fire Brigade (Civil Defense Police) / Tel: 998.
  • Police General Administration of Passports, Immigration and Identity Cards: Altair Mard St./ Tel: 1-837-82338.
  • Police General Administration of Central Investigations: Abed Khatim St./ Tel: 999.
  • Police General Administration of Prisons and Reformation: Alzaber Basha St./ Tel: 999.
  • Police General Administration of Civil Defense: Katrina St. / Tel: 1-834-67777.
  • Police General Administration of Wildlife Protection: Madni St./ Tel: 999.
  • Police General Administration of Customs: Haray St./ Tel: 999. 
  • Police General Administration of States’ Affairs: Nile St. / Tel: 1-837-83508.
  • Police General Administration of Public Order: Jamhory St., Almogran area/ Tel: 999.
  • Police General Administration of Central Traffic: Madni St., Soba area/ Tel: 777. 
  • General Administration of Popular Police: Jamhory St., Almogran area/ Tel: 999.

Medical Emergencies

The medical emergency line in Sudan is 333. All substantial medical services are in Khartoum. In all other states, local medical assistance is limited. Medicines are available only intermittently. Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription and bring enough medication for the duration of your trip. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

Facilities will provide emergency medical treatment for 24 hours before requiring payment. For all other care, providers expect payment in Sudanese pounds in full before treatment. Although the U.S. has lifted economic sanctions, patients cannot use credit cards and most checks for payment of medical services. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Malaria is widespread throughout the country. Use mosquito repellents containing at least 20% DEET. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Begin malaria chemoprophylaxis prior to arriving in Sudan and continue for the duration of your stay.

The following diseases are prevalent: dengue fever; ; hepatitis A; malaria; meningococcal meningitis; rabies; and yellow fever. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Sudan.

Review 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 Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

Khartoum has an active Country Council. Contact OSAC’s Africa team for more information or to join.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Road, Kilo 10, Soba, Khartoum 

Hours of operation: 0800-1630 Sunday-Thursday

Embassy Operator: +249 1-870-22000 

Embassy Duty Officer: +249 912-141-483 

Consular section: ACSKhartoum@state.gov

Website: http://sd.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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