is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Burkina
Faso. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Burkina Faso 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.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses Burkina Faso at Level 4, indicating travelers should not travel
to the country due to terrorism, crime, and kidnapping. Do not travel to the
11th Arrondissement of Ouagadougou (Karpala, Balkiui, and Rayongo/Dayongo
neighborhoods) due to terrorism and crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
Faso is an “adults only” post; minor family members of U.S. government
employees may not travel to the country.
has increased across country, particularly after the emergence of extremism in
eastern Burkina Faso in 2018, which has since spread to other parts of the
country. Prior to 2018, extremist activities were prevalent mainly in Burkina
Faso’s northern Sahel region. However, 2019 saw an exponential increase in
extremist activities, which has expanded to the east, west, and southern
portions of the country. Terrorists target civilian and military targets alike.
Armed criminality and intercommunal violence driven by economic desperation,
food insecurity, and competition over land and water resources have fueled
violent extremism and antigovernment grievances, further exacerbating
instability. Burkina Faso’s borders remain extremely porous and hard to police,
factors criminal actors and terrorist groups may exploit. Natural population
movement occurs between Burkina Faso and its neighbors. Growing insecurity and
extremist activity has led to an exponential increase in the number of
internally displaced people.
Government of Burkina Faso has maintained a state of emergency in the entire
East and Sahel regions, the provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle de
Mouhoun region, the province of Kenedougou in the Hauts Bassins region, the
province of Loroum in the North region, and the province of Koulpelogo in the
Center-East region. Active military operations, curfews, and movement
restrictions, including bans of motorcycles and other vehicles are ongoing or
could occur in these areas. The Burkinabè military has undertaken operations to
combat terrorism in the north, east, and southwest.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Ouagadougou as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed
at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Ouagadougou experienced an
increase in the number of armed robberies in 2019. Street crime (especially
pickpocketing, purse snatching, and backpack/cell phone theft) is pervasive in
major cities. Cellular telephones, jewelry, laptops, money, and other items of
value are frequent targets of thieves. Most street crime occurs after dark and
involves one or two individuals on motorbikes. Street crime typically increases
in Ouagadougou around the holidays, the West African Movie Festival (FESPACO),
and the Regional Craft Festival (SIAO).
most streets in Ouagadougou are safe and non-threatening during daylight hours,
they become less so at night, especially in isolated areas around
bars/nightclubs that tend to attract unsavory individuals after dark. Crime
occurs in affluent residential areas such as Ouaga 2000, Zone du Bois, and
Koulouba. United Nations Circle and Avenue Kwame Nkrumah are also high-crime
areas. Criminals often attempt to establish rapport with Westerners in order to
later rob or defraud them, or intimidate them into paying money. Bribery and
fraud are prevalent. Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
thieves do not threaten victims with weapons, although there have been cases of
theft and attempted theft involving firearms and knives, and the number of
armed robberies increased in 2019. Criminals in urban areas may carry an edged
weapon to cut straps on bags, purses, or backpacks. Criminals can become
violent if the victim is noncompliant.
and sexual assault occur periodically in smaller towns and in Ouagadougou.
security is generally adequate against petty crime, but residential thefts/home
invasions occur occasionally in expatriate residential areas (e.g. Ouaga 2000,
Koulouba, and Zone du Bois) and in other parts of Ouagadougou. Thieves have
entered residences at night surreptitiously, avoiding direct confrontation with
the occupants. Most perpetrators exploited an unlocked door or window. Review
OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
banditry has been a nationwide problem in previous years. Bandits have fired warning
shots and attacked vehicles that did not stop. Local police label the Eastern
Region beyond Koupela (toward Fada N’gourma) as banditry-prone due to its
isolated location and intermittent cell phone coverage. According to police
statistics, more than half of all reported roadside banditry incidents occurred
in this area.
U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. Government personnel from personal travel to the
Karpala, Balkiui, and Rayongo (also known as Dayongo) neighborhoods of
Ouagadougou’s 11th Arrondissement for security reasons.
OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
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
and road conditions in Ouagadougou make driving difficult and hazardous. In
addition to regular car/truck traffic, there are large numbers of mopeds,
pedestrians, bicycles, donkey carts, hand-cranked wheelchairs, and hand-pulled
wagons on main thoroughfares. Commercial areas are overcrowded with
pedestrians, taxis, trucks, handcarts, innumerable vendors, and beggars. Most roads
are gravel surfaces or dirt tracks. Hazards on side roads can be worse than
those on main thoroughfares. Drivers may encounter young children at play, dogs
scavenging in trash piles, and grazing livestock. Exposed rocks, loose gravel,
potholes, broken concrete/tile, and scattered pieces of wood often litter
deeply rutted dirt roads. The streets in the neighborhoods where many Embassy
staff live may be paved, but the asphalt may be crumbling, especially at the
and mopeds dash in/out of traffic, often directly in front of oncoming
vehicles. Drivers of every type of vehicle obey traffic laws only selectively,
and often engage in unsafe driving practices. Mopeds have the right of way;
operators seem to believe this permits them to drive with complete disregard
for their own or others’ safety. The law requires moped operators to carry
driver’s licenses and wear helmets, but the police do not enforce this law. As
a result, it is quite common to see accidents involving mopeds with serious
must go well beyond the norms of defensive driving. Burkina Faso theoretically
follows European rules of the road. Yield to aggressive drivers and maintain a
cool head in traffic – even if you have the right of way. All personal vehicles
in Burkina Faso must carry local third-party liability insurance.
bicyclists, motorbikes, livestock, donkey carts, cars, buses, and trucks shared
paved roads between major cities. Any vehicle on the road may be overloaded or
in a state of disrepair. There may be long stretches between major cities where
one must detour to an unimproved road.
same carelessness and general lack of safety awareness among drivers presents
even greater dangers at night. Many cars and motorbikes do not have or use
headlights, and most areas do not have streetlights. Bicyclists and pedestrians
in dark clothing are practically invisible in the dark. In some neighborhoods,
packs of domesticated dogs roam the dark streets. All these factors combine to
create a very taxing, perilous nighttime driving experience.
is no roadside assistance; in the event of a mechanical breakdown, it could be
hours before help arrives. Travelers must carry plenty of food/water when
traveling outside the cities, and should have a well-maintained vehicle and two
good spare tires. Many drivers have had to purchase new car batteries, because
the country’s intense heat significantly drains battery life.
you have an accident and are not in immediate danger, do not move your vehicle
until a police officer instructs you to do so.
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
Embassy prohibits the use of all public transportation.
on the highways have been involved in catastrophic accidents, and are commonly
the target of roadside bandits.
taxis are often mechanically unsafe, and may stop to pick up additional
passengers during one trip. These taxis do not have meters, are not subject to
regulation, and are generally not roadworthy. Tourists have been victims of
crime and involved in accidents when using local green taxis.
yellow taxi services may be acceptable. Such services use centralized
dispatchers and have relatively well-maintained automobiles with fare meters
streets have names. Some street names have changed in recent years, sometimes
repeatedly. When navigating the city, note landmarks rather than street names. Most
paved roads do not have adequate markings; the lack of signage and consistent
naming leads to confusion among drivers.
OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
there is no direct commercial air service to the U.S. by carriers registered in
Burkina Faso, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed
the government’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Ouagadougou as being a CRITICAL-threat location for terrorism directed
at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Do not travel to Burkina
Faso, especially outside of Ouagadougou and other urban areas due to risk of
terrorism, armed criminality, and kidnapping. Traveling at night may increase
these risks. Terrorists or their proxies have routinely ambushed security
forces and increasingly kidnapped road travelers – particularly foreigners –
along transit arteries, including those connecting major cities. There has been
a significant increase in the number of roadside improvised explosive devices
groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso, and may conduct attacks
anywhere – even in Ouagadougou – with little or no warning. Targets could
include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, areas at or near
mining sites, places of worship, military posts, and schools.
saw two of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso’s history, each
killing over 30 civilians. Extremist groups have conducted attacks in the
northern and eastern regions of Burkina Faso, as well in the west and
southwest, and in Ouagadougou. Extremist groups have the capacity to conduct
complex attacks utilizing vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs) and large numbers of
armed individuals. These groups are especially active in areas near the Mali
and Niger borders. Terrorist groups have conducted high-profile attacks in
Two groups of armed men attacked the Burkinabè military headquarters and French
Embassy nearly simultaneously, attacking the former with a suicide
vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED).
A small group of armed men attacked the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in downtown
Terrorists attacked the Hotel Splendid and Cappuccino Café.
events are a stark reminder of the need to remain vigilant of one’s
surroundings and immediately report all suspicious activity to the local police
or security forces. Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso.
Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with little or no warning. Terrorist
groups have demonstrated their intention to target Burkina Faso in retaliation
for the Burkinabè government’s participation in regional stabilization and
counterterrorism efforts and support of Western interests, including France’s
military presence in the region. Burkina Faso actively participates in the
recently deployed G-5 Sahel regional counterterrorism force and the UN Mission
in Mali (MINUSMA).
terrorist groups that could conduct activities in Burkina Faso include JNIM
(“Group in Support of Islam and Muslims”), a coalition of four Mali-based
terrorist groups that includes al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar
al Dine, al-Murabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front; ISIS in the Greater
Sahara (ISIS-GS); and Ansaroul Islam, which is active in northern Burkina Faso,
particularly in the Sahel region.
Faso’s borders with Mali and Niger remain porous; elements terrorist groups may
be able to move across the international borders easily.
to credible threat information and terrorist activity, the U.S. Embassy and
many other diplomatic missions restrict employee travel outside of Ouagadougou.
The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens
throughout most of the country.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Ouagadougou as being a HIGH-threat location for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
is risk from civil unrest in Ouagadougou. Demonstrations, marches, and other
gatherings are common and may become violent at any time. Although most
conclude peacefully, there have been outbreaks of violence, looting,
roadblocks, tire burning, and destruction of property during demonstrations.
Instances may arise where the best and safest course of action is to shelter in
place temporarily. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
has been a major problem during the rainy season (June-September), damaging
some roads and buildings severely. Ouagadougou experienced its last major and
destructive flood in 2009, with extensive damage to roads, levees, and
residential areas. The floods destroyed small villages on the outskirts of
Ouagadougou, displacing more than 10,000 people. The central hospital sustained
significant damage, and the U.S. Embassy evacuated several residences.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
hazards do exist, including buildings not constructed to code, and insufficient
enforcement of safety standards.
Personal Identity Concerns
of the LGBTI+ community find life in Burkina Faso extremely difficult and, at
worst, dangerous. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and
gender identity remains an issue; religious/traditional beliefs do not tolerate
homosexuality. There are regular reports of verbal and physical abuse against
members of the LGBTI+ community. LGBTI+ employees have passed partners off as
relatives, even within the Embassy community, to avoid the possibility of
intolerant reactions. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
should dress conservatively to avoid harassment. At some local social occasions
(e.g. weddings, dinners, religious ceremonies) and at some events, women and
men sit separately. Such gender-based separation sometimes negatively affects
the ability of diplomats to conduct business. Although the law prohibits
violence against women, domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is widespread.
Wives have limited legal recourse in cases of abuse. There is no reliable data
on the extent of sexual assault, though it is a problem. Rape cases do not
usually go to trial. Police generally investigate reports of rape, but victims
often do not file reports due to cultural barriers and fear of reprisal. The
law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting, but the practice is widespread,
particularly in rural areas, and usually performed at an early age. Child
marriage is a problem. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female
disabled individuals would have a very difficult time in Burkina Faso, as
facilities are generally not accessible. Access to buildings, pedestrian paths,
and transportation is extremely difficult for persons with disabilities. Most
cafés, restaurants, hotels, and residential buildings have stairs at the
entrance without wheelchair ramps. Buses and taxis do not have special
accommodations for disabled persons. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers
OSAC’s report, Freedom
to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
drugs are available; however, Burkina Faso is mostly a transit country for the
illegal drug trade. There are no indications that illegal drugs in Burkina Faso
connected to narco-terrorism.
threat of kidnapping remains persistent throughout Burkina Faso, including in
Ouagadougou, and especially in the Sahel and Est regions. Burkina Faso had its
first kidnapping incident involving a Westerner in 2015. Since then, there have
been multiple high-profile kidnappings of Westerners – many of which coincided
with the escalation of terrorist activity throughout more areas of the country
over the last year.
- In May 2019, a hostage-rescue
operation freed four international hostages, including a U.S. citizen, that kidnappers
had taken in Burkina Faso and in neighboring Benin.
- In January 2019, kidnappers took
and later killed a Canadian geologist working in the mining sector in Sahel
- In December 2018, kidnappers took
two tourists (Canadian and Italian) from an unknown location in Burkina Faso –
possibly while en route to Togo from Bobo-Dioulasso. Authorities recovered the
hostages in Mali in early 2020.
- In September 2018, kidnappers took
two mining employees (Indian and South African) traveling from the Inata mine
to Ouagadougou while in Sahel Region.
addition, in September 2018, kidnappers took an Italian priest from a location
just over the border in Niger, reportedly transporting him across the border
into eastern Burkina Faso via suspected extremists.
OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
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.
security and emergency response capabilities can be limited, especially in
areas outside of Ouagadougou and other urban areas. Terrorists have ambushed
security forces, including escorts and reinforcements, along major roads.
authorities take extra measures to protect Westerners and international interests.
However, local law enforcement practices, procedures, and expertise often fall
below the standards expected in developed countries.
Ouagadougou, emergency services numbers are as follows:
Police: Dial 17 or 25-30-63-83, or 25-30-71-00
for emergencies, or 25-36-44-42 or 25-32-60-69 for administrative issues.
Gendarmerie (Military Police):
or 25-30-62-71 for emergencies, or 25-30-32-71 or 25-31-33-40 for
Ministry of Security: 10-10
dispatches the appropriate law enforcement entity, but English-language
comprehension may be limited.
Department: Dial 18 for emergencies, or 25-30-69-47 or 25-30-69-48 for
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Ouagadougou, dial 18 for medical emergencies, or 25-30-66-44 or
25-30-66-45 for administrative issues. 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
Faso is a malaria-endemic country; ensure you have adequate chemoprophylaxis.
There is a risk of Zika infection in Burkina Faso. HIV infection is common
throughout the country. Yellow Fever is a risk in Burkina Faso; CDC recommends
this vaccine for travelers who are 9 months of age or older. You can get
hepatitis A and typhoid through contaminated food or water in Burkina Faso. The
following diseases are also prevalent: Dengue, Meningococcal meningitis,
Schistosomiasis, and Tuberculosis.
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Burkina
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
Regional Security Office (RSO) re-launched the OSAC Country Council program in
Ouagadougou in 2017. Contact OSAC’s Africa
team for more information or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
The U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou is
located at Secteur 15, Ouaga 2000, Avenue Sembène Ousmane, rue 15.873,
southeast of the Monument aux Héros Nationaux.
Monday-Thursday 0730-1700, and
Friday 0730-1230, excluding U.S. and local holidays.
After-Hours Duty Officer:
you travel, consider the following resources: