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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Angola 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Luanda. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Angola. For more in-depth information, review OSAC's Angola 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 Angola at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise reasonable precautions with increased caution in urban areas due to crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Luanda as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Angola presents a crime and safety situation consistent with many developing countries. Angolan National Police report a steady increase in crime over the past three years. Crimes of opportunity, such as armed robbery, remain the primary criminal threat to local Angolans and the expatriate community in Luanda. However, armed assaults and premeditated home invasions are also on the rise in the capital.

Most of Luanda's crimes are crimes of opportunity, seeking financial gain. Luanda's high crime rate is due mostly to rising unemployment and an inflated economy. The most common types of crimes are strong-arm robberies against targets of opportunity. Muggings often occur, particularly at night throughout the city. Criminals will often watch banks and ATMs for unsuspecting victims. The perpetrators are predominantly males between the ages of 17 and 30, operating in groups of two or more. In 2019, a tactic involving two individuals on a motorcycle emerged as a common robbery method. In these attacks, a motorcycle with two riders, a driver and an armed assailant on the back, would follow an individual from a bank or ATM and rob them at gunpoint. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

In November 2019, the city's criminal situation came to a boiling point when multiple robberies resulted in six homicides in four days. All of the victims were foreigners, although police ascertained that the criminals were targeting large sums of money and not foreigners specifically. To address the threat, the Angolan National Police flooded the streets with checkpoints, and seized numerous illegal weapons. The surge strategy proved effective, as the number of attacks by gunmen on motorcycles dropped.

The Embassy has observed an increase in crime, specifically in Luanda. Assault and carjacking, sometimes escalating to homicide, does occur throughout the capital with some frequency. A large percentage of street crime goes unreported and does not appear in official police statistics. Overall crime levels in Luanda remain a concern for locals, U.S. government personnel, and foreigners, as crime has become more violent. The use of firearms in the commission of crimes used to be rare, but is becoming more prevalent. Although the law requires special permission to own or possess a firearm, the availability of firearms has increased along with their use in crime.

No area in Luanda is immune from crime. The U.S. Embassy has advised its personnel not to enter the wooded area directly in front of the Embassy, and discourages them from walking along the "Serpentine" road (Rua Nehru) leading from the Embassy to the Marginal (Avenida 4 de Feveriero). Robberies and assaults involving expatriates and local nationals have occurred in both of these areas. In 2019, three shootings occurred in the area directly across from the U.S. Embassy building. Additionally, there have been five armed home invasions within a 2-5 house radius from U.S. Embassy official housing.  

U.S. government personnel traveling outside of Luanda must inform the Regional Security Office (RSO) before departing. When traveling overland outside of Luanda, Embassy personnel travel with off-road recovery equipment and an emergency beacon. Embassy personnel require special RSO permission to drive outside of Luanda after dark, mainly due to road safety conditions. Additionally, walking after dark (between 2200 and 0530) in Luanda and its adjoining suburbs is not advisable due to criminal activity.

Those living in or planning to visit the far northern enclave province of Cabinda should be aware of security and safety concerns outside Cabinda City proper. Over the past four years, armed groups have targeted and attacked foreign interests, resulting in robbery, sexual assault, and murder. Although the government increased its security presence in the region, the threat of attack still exists.Militant groups have indicated their intention to continue to conduct attacks on foreigners and occasionally attack police and Angolan Armed Forces convoys and outposts.

The diamond-producing provinces of Lunda North and South have the potential for civil unrest and crime. There have been reports of violent incidents against foreigners, who require official permission and documentation from the government of Angola to travel there. Failure to meet these requirements may result in detention.

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

Cybersecurity Issues

As internet penetration increases globally, Angola does not deviate from the norm in regard to cyber-intrusions. In 2019, e-mail scams represented over 70% of attempted cyber intrusions in Angola. The Government of Angola has introduced legislation to help mitigate cyberattacks, and implemented a criminal code that defines strict penalties for cybercrime.

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

Major roads between Luanda and the provincial capitals are improving, but some road conditions remain poor while the infrastructure for pedestrians is lacking. Drunk driving is also a problem. Other hazards include potholes, lack of traffic signals (and lack of attention to signals), erratic driving habits, excessive speed, pedestrians, and roaming animals. During the rainy season (November-April) roads and bridges, already in poor condition, can become impassable and landmines may become displaced, surfacing outside of known mine fields.

When driving outside of Luanda, other than on primary roads between major cities, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is useful. Secondary roads are often unpaved and nearly impassable. Major routes though are paved in most areas, and feature gas stations and other roadside services.

Drivers need an international driving permit or Angolan license to drive, but may use a U.S. license for one month.

Within and around Luanda, police set up spontaneous roadblocks to check vehicle documentation. They may also solicit bribes or request immediate payment of "fines" for alleged minor infractions. Police and military officials are sometimes undisciplined; do not challenge their authority. Make sure all vehicle documentation is available for inspection. Resist paying bribes. Politely ask for a ticket or for the officer’s name and badge number if they allege no violation. Ask to contact the Embassy if they do not release you. Remain inside your vehicle with doors locked and open the window slightly to communicate. Carry color photocopies of your passport and other identity documents to give to security or police officials. Report any incident to the U.S. Embassy.

In the event of an automobile accident, remain at the scene until the police arrive. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident. Do not stop at the scene of an accident where people have gathered, as mobs can develop quickly.

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

Avoid the use of public buses. Avoid all use of public transportation known as “candongueiros” or “taxistas,” (multi-passenger vans) and hire private transport from a reliable source. Any form of public transportation is unregulated, unreliable, and generally unsafe. Many vehicles suffer from poor maintenance. Petty crime often occurs on crowded buses. In recent years, the U.S. Embassy has surveyed several local taxi services and, in consultation with other Embassies, determined that Allo Taxi, Morvic, Transcoop SA, Divisão, and Universal are acceptable. Taxi services that use an on-demand application are generally safer because the driver is traceable to the taxi company.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Angola, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Angola’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Luanda as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. While there do not appear to be any international terrorist groups currently active in Luanda, the global nature of terrorism and developing immigration controls make Angola an attractive transit point for potential transnational terrorists and criminal enterprises.

The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) is the only known local group that has employed terrorist tactics in the country in the past five years. Its precise composition and numbers are unknown. These incidents, while small in overall numbers, have occurred with little/no warning. In recent years, FLEC's methods have shifted from kinetic attacks to those of a propaganda war. Regional terrorist threats (e.g. Boko Haram, AQIM, and al-Shabaab) are a concern, but these groups have never carried out an attack in Angola. The government takes the threat of terrorism, including the danger of attacks from transnational groups, seriously. The U.S. Embassy works closely with Angolan authorities and other partners in the fight against terrorism.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Luanda as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There are risks of civil unrest in Luanda. As the Government of Angola increasingly opens civil liberties, political protests are becoming more prevalent throughout Luanda. Although these protests have not targeted the U.S. or other foreign interests, they have on occasion turned violent. Heavy-handed police response complicates the situation and creates an environment of increased risk to passersby and adjacent neighborhoods. Often these demonstrations will happen near major intersections and road junctions, causing traffic delays.

When demonstrations occur in Luanda, authorities are largely able to maintain control. Angolan law allows for and protects freedom of speech and assembly. Security forces are generally on hand when a demonstration takes place, ostensibly for the security of all parties. The law requires any group to notify the provincial government before a public gathering can occur. The provincial government may request the group postpone or cancel the event if the group did not register, or if it deems the demonstration may disrupt public peace or conflict with another activity. Sometimes, authorities use administrative requirements (e.g. a prohibition on protesting near a government building) to stifle public gatherings. Authorities have arrested and detained protestors for marching and gathering in public places without authorization.

Authorized large public gatherings may have a neutral or pro-government tone, but opposition protests also occur. Both spontaneous and planned civil disturbances and demonstrations, primarily related to governance and economic issues, do occur.

Maintain security awareness at all times, and avoid unknown crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, as they create uncertain safety situations. When a demonstration occurs that the government deems disruptive, police response can be heavy-handed, resulting in clashes with authorities and arrests. On occasion, confrontations with have resulted in injuries to demonstrators and bystanders. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Angolans seldom express anti-U.S. sentiment toward U.S. citizens in Luanda, either official or non-official. U.S. interests are generally not targets of political violence.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Some parts of Luanda are vulnerable to flooding and fires. A multi-year drought has resulted in crop failures throughout much of the south. The government continues to address this concern.

Critical Infrastructure

Luanda is an increasingly modern city with consumer services ranging from upscale hotels to fast food outlets. However, development in rural areas, outside of major provincial cities, has lagged. Travelers should understand the degree of self-sufficiency needed in the areas they will visit when traveling, as the level of infrastructure development varies greatly outside of Luanda.

Cellular phones are the norm, as landlines are non-existent. It is possible to purchase a SIM card locally and use a U.S.-compatible cell phone. The major cellular providers are Angola Telecom and Unitel.

Economic Concerns

Angola's oil-based economy presents a host of economic espionage targets for malicious actors.

Angolan constitutional and statutory protections against government searches are less rigid than those in the United States.

ATMs dispense local currency only, and frequently malfunction or run out of cash. A limited number of hotels and restaurants accept credit cards.

Personal Identity Concerns

Criminals target women driving or walking by themselves. Statistics on prosecutions for violence against women are not available. Authorities do not prosecute most rape cases. Domestic violence counseling centers, shelters, and various treatment centers and free legal assistance are available to abused women. According to a survey conducted by the country’s National Statistics Institute, one in every five women suffers domestic physical violence “frequently or from time to time,” and 31% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing domestic violence at some point in their lives. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Angola, although it is not socially acceptable. The National Assembly passed a new penal code in 2019 that decriminalizes same-sex sexual relations and makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. At year’s end, the penal code remained unpublished. Local NGOs report that LGBTI+ individuals face violence, discrimination, and harassment. The government, through its health agencies, has instituted a series of initiatives to decrease discrimination against LGBTI+ individuals. Discrimination is rarely reported to authorities; when reported, LGBTI+ individuals assert that sometimes police refuse to register their grievances. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Religious leaders continued to criticize the 2018 decree that led to the closure of more than 2,000 places of worship and the registration requirements under the new religion law. Several also complained that the government did not recognize theology training completed abroad. Political leaders from the ruling and opposition parties – citing public opinion – called for increased government action against churches that committed financial fraud and religious groups that condoned practices that they said violated human rights or cultural norms. Some religious leaders acknowledged a perception that the majority-foreign Islamic community allegedly posed a cultural and security threat. Jewish and Ismaili Muslim religious minorities, mostly concentrated in the business sector, report no issues concerning religious freedom, and state they have good relations with high-level government officials. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Major hotels have ramps. Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, public buildings, hotels, and communication accommodations. There are few sidewalks and no curb cuts, and most buildings lack elevators. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

Angola is a transshipment point for cocaine destined for Western Europe and other African states, particularly South Africa.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings decreased in 2018 and 2019, particularly those involving ransom, which were more common in previous years. In 2017, kidnappers took and killed a famous female Angolan journalist. In 2016, there were several high-profile kidnappings-for-ransom and even a daylight murder of a Portuguese national who resisted being abducted by the kidnappers. In 2015, there was an alleged, but difficult to document, increase with a series of kidnappings-for-ransom targeting Chinese nationals. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Avoid taking any firearms or ammunition into Angola. Anyone caught entering Angola with firearms or ammunition may face severe penalties, including prison time. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Certain regions of Angola, particularly provinces in the south and east, suffer from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a legacy of Angola’s civil war. The United States continues to support demining efforts to decrease this threat. The Angolan government has pledged to work towards its goal of being landmine-free by 2025. Use particular caution outside major cities in Benguela, Bie, Cuando Cubango, Huila, Huambo, and Moxico provinces, all of which have active demining known areas that contain high numbers of landmines and UXO.

Disrespecting government officials is illegal and can lead to expulsion from the country. Angolan authorities confiscated the U.S. passports of a family for several weeks after they complained to immigration officials about the time it took to process their visas and passports at the airport. Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.

It is illegal to take pictures or use binoculars, maps, or GPS near government buildings, military installations, and key infrastructure. Authorities could confiscate your photographic equipment, and fine, detain, and/or arrest you. Do not take photos of people without their permission. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

Foreigners must always carry identification. If possible, U.S. citizens should carry a certified copy of your passport and visa/immigration documents to avoid the risk of theft or loss of original documents.

Police Response

The emergency line in Angola is 113. Angolan Police continue to improve. Although professional shortcomings still exist, 2019 has seen a dramatic drop in police corruption and reports of graft. Police often set up checkpoints to verify vehicles are properly registered and have the required insurance documents. These checkpoints also help deter criminal activity in the local area. English-speaking police are rare, and language skills outside of Portuguese are very limited.

In most cases of police interaction, being respectful to the officer will go a long way in ending the stop. Detained individuals have the right to request the detaining officer's name and badge number. Angolan officers receive training in this requirement, and generally comply with such requests.  

Police/Security Agencies

The national police, controlled by the Interior Ministry, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Criminal Investigation Services (SIC), also under the Interior Ministry, are responsible for preventing and investigating domestic crimes. The Expatriate and Migration Services and the Border Guard Police, in the Interior Ministry, are responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency, and investigates sensitive state security matters. The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) are responsible for external security but also have domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against FLEC separatists in Cabinda. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Security forces are generally effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities and services do not always meet international standards. Adequate care for serious medical emergencies is limited to Luanda, where there are several well-staffed and equipped private clinics. Some of these facilities offer 24-hour service with a general practice physician and specialists on call.

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy's Medical Assistance page.

Overseas medical insurance and evacuation insurance are beneficial for visitors not affiliated with a foreign embassy or major company in Angola. However, there is no legal requirement that travelers carry such coverage. Review OSAC’s report, Medical Evacuation: A Primer, and the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Angola requires proof of Yellow Fever vaccination to enter the country. The State Department Medical Office strongly recommends the use of malaria prophylaxis. Angola is fighting ongoing outbreaks of measles and vaccine-derived polio. Seasonal cholera and dengue outbreaks are common, and rabies is endemic. Angola is on the WHO list of high-burden countries for tuberculosis. Malaria is also endemic in Angola; 4% of global deaths from malaria in 2018 occurred in Angola. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Angola.

The number of new HIV infections appears to be rising in Angola, contrary to the decreasing number globally.

Use bottled water whenever possible. Most major hotels and restaurants will offer bottled water. Restaurants expatriates frequent are generally safe, but avoid purchasing food from street vendors or facilities with questionable sanitation. Review to OSAC's report, I'm Drinking What in My Water?

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

The OSAC Country Council in Luanda meets on an ad hoc basis. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC's Africa team with any questions or to join.

US Embassy Contact Information

Rua Houari Boumedienne #32 Luanda, CP 6468

Business hours: 0730-1730 Monday-Thursday; 0730-1200 Friday

Tel: +244-222-64-1000

Website: https://ao.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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