This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional
Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the
date of this report’s publication assesses Burkina Faso at Level 3, indicating
travelers should reconsider travel to the country due to
terrorism, crime, and kidnapping. Do not travel to The
Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, Centre-Est, Centre-Nord, Centre-Ouest (except
Boulkiemde Province), Centre-Sud, Est, Hauts-Bassins, Nord, Sahel, or Sud-Ouest
Regions 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.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou does not assume responsibility for
the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this
report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular
individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service
Review OSAC’s Burkina Faso-specific page for analytical
reporting, Consular alerts, and contact information, some of which may be
available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is considerable risk from crime in Ouagadougou. 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. The majority of street
crime is committed 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
While 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.
Ordinarily, thieves do not threaten victims with weapons, although
there have been cases of theft and attempted theft involving firearms and
knives. 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.
Rape and sexual assault occur periodically in smaller towns and in
Hotel 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, and
avoided direct confrontation with the occupants. Most perpetrators exploited an
unlocked door or window.
Roadside 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.
Other Areas of Concern
Due to credible threat information and terrorist activity, the
U.S. Embassy and many other diplomatic missions restrict employees from
traveling to the Sahel Region, East Region, and provinces along the border with
Mali. The U.S. Government has limited ability to provide emergency services to
U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas of the country.
Instability has increased across large portions of the 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. 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 has increased
internal displacement and emigration.
The Government of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency
in Est and Sahel regions, Kossi and Sourou provinces in Boucle de Mouhoun
region, Kénédougou province in Hauts-Bassins region, Loroum province in North
region, and Koulpélogo province in Centre-Est 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 in northern and eastern Burkina Faso to combat
The 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.
Limit road travel outside of Ouagadougou and other urban areas due
to risk of armed criminality and kidnapping. Traveling at night may increase
these risks, as well as likelihood of vehicular accidents. 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 have been multiple incidents in which roadside
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting security forces detonated,
including an August 2018 incident involving a mining convoy with escort that
killed a civilian employee and four gendarmes.
information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Traffic 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 of the country's
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
Pedestrians 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 injuries/fatalities.
Drivers 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 driven in Burkina Faso
must carry local third-party liability insurance.
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.
The 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.
There 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.
If you have an accident and are not
in immediate danger, do not move your vehicle until a police officer instructs
you to do so.
information on driving, review OSAC’s reports on Driving Overseas: Best Practices and Road Safety in Africa.
Public Transportation Conditions
The Embassy prohibits the use of all public transportation.
Buses on the highways have been involved in catastrophic accidents,
and are commonly the target of roadside bandits.
Green 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.
Some yellow taxi services may be acceptable. Such services use
centralized dispatchers and have relatively well-maintained automobiles with
fare meters and seatbelts.
As 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.
Other Travel Conditions
Few streets have names. Some street names have changed in recent
years, sometimes repeatedly. When navigating the city, note landmarks rather
than street names. The majority of paved roads do not have adequate markings;
the lack of signage and consistent naming leads to confusion among drivers.
There is serious risk from terrorism in Ouagadougou. Terrorist
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.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Extremist groups have conducted numerous attacks in the northern
and eastern regions of Burkina Faso, as well in the west and southwest, and in
Ouagadougou. These groups are especially active in areas near the Mali and
Niger borders. Terrorist groups have conducted several high-profile attacks in
March 2018: 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). (See
OSAC report, Ouagadougou Attack: The Sahel
Terrorist Threat Evolves.)
August 2017: A small group of armed men attacked the Aziz Istanbul
restaurant in downtown Ouagadougou. (See OSAC report, Ouagadougou Attack: Terrorist Targeting of Sahel Capitals Continues.
January 2016: Terrorists attacked the Hotel Splendid and
Cappuccino Café. (See OSAC report, Ouagadougou Terrorist Attack.
These 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).
Regional 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.
Burkina Faso’s borders with Mali and Niger remain porous; elements
terrorist groups may be able to move across the international borders easily.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Ouagadougou. Demonstrations,
marches, and other gatherings are common. 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.
Flooding 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 a number of small villages on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, and displaced
more than 10,000 people. The central hospital sustained significant damage, and
the U.S. Embassy evacuated several residences.
Occupational hazards do exist, including buildings not constructed
to code, and insufficient enforcement of safety standards.
Personal Identity Concerns
Members of the LGBT 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 LGBT community. LGBT employees have passed
partners off as relatives, even within the Embassy community, to avoid the
possibility of intolerant behavior.
Women 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.
Physically disabled individuals would have a very difficult time
in Burkina Faso, as facilities are generally not accessible.
Illegal 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. The Gendarmerie report 52%
fewer drug seizures in 2017 than the year before.
The threat of kidnapping remains persistent throughout Burkina
Faso, 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 January 2019, kidnappers took and later
killed a Canadian geologist working in the mining sector in Sahel region.
• 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.
• In September 2018, kidnappers took two mining
employees (Indian and South African) traveling from the Inata mine to
Ouagadougou while in Sahel Region.
In January 2016, kidnappers took two Australian aid workers around
Djibo in Sahel region; they released one shortly after the abduction, but the other
remains in captivity.
In 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.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Local 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. U.S. government response outside Ouagadougou is limited due to security
concerns, even in emergencies and evacuations.
The Burkinabè law enforcement authorities take extra measures to
protect Westerners and international business interests. However, local law
enforcement practices, procedures, and expertise often fall below the standards
expected in developed countries.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Detained or harassed U.S. citizens should call the U.S. Embassy
immediately to speak with the Consular Officer or Duty Officer.
Crime Victim Assistance
Within Ouagadougou, emergency services numbers are as follows:
Fire Department: Dial 18
for emergencies, or 25-30-69-47 or 25-30-69-48 for administrative issues.
Ambulance Service: Dial 18
for emergencies, or 25-30-66-44 or 25-30-66-45 for administrative issues.
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
Gendarmerie (Military Police): Dial 16 or 25-30-62-71 for emergencies, or 25-30-32-71 or 25-31-33-40
for administrative issues.
Ministry of Security: 10-10
dispatches the appropriate law enforcement entity, but English-language
comprehension may be limited.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance pages for Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Person: Dr. Massamba Diop
Baie de Soumbedioune
Rue 62 x64,
BP 731, Dakar
Response time: 6 hours
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Burkina 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. The CDC
offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Burkina
For more information, refer to
OSAC’s Reports Traveling
with Medications and I’m
Drinking What in My Water?
Country Council Information
The Regional Security Office (RSO) re-launched the OSAC Country
Council program in Ouagadougou in 2017. Interested private-sector security
managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou is located at Secteur 15, Ouaga 2000,
Avenue Sembène Ousmane, rue 15.873, southeast of the Monument aux Héros
Monday-Thursday 0730-1700, and Friday 0730-1230, excluding U.S.
and local holidays.
Duty Officer: +226-7720-2414
Enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment
Program (STEP), which gives you the latest security updates, and makes it
easier for the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an
emergency. Enrollees should remember to keep all information in STEP
up-to-date, particularly their current phone number and e-mail address.
Additional Resources: Burkina Faso Country
Information, Travel to High-Risk