This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé,
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this
report’s publication assesses Cameroon at Level 2, indicating travelers should
exercise increased caution in the country due to crime, terrorism, and civil
unrest. Do Not Travel to North, Far North, Northwest and Southwest Regions, and
Parts of East and Adamawa Regions due to crime and kidnapping; Far North Region
due to terrorism; and Northwest and Southwest Regions due to armed conflict.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé 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 provided.
Review OSAC’s Cameroon-specific webpage for original OSAC
reports, consular alerts, and contact information, some of which may be
available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
High unemployment and an under-equipped police
force continue to fuel criminality in Yaoundé, Douala, and other cities. An
influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR) and
Nigeria has strained Cameroon’s economy, putting pressure on already weak basic
social services and exacerbating overcrowding of already densely populated urban
and peri-urban areas, especially in the East Region. Cameroon’s borders remain
porous, exacerbating the potential for spillover from neighboring countries. At
the same time, the ongoing unrest and resultant humanitarian crisis in the
country’s Anglophone regions has displaced more than half a million people
within the Northwest and Southwest regions, as well in the neighboring Littoral
and West regions. Lack of access to basic services and livelihood opportunities
have increased the vulnerability of displaced persons and led to negative
coping mechanisms, including crime and armed banditry, particularly around
areas where those fleeing instability have resettled.
There is serious risk from crime in Yaoundé. Criminal
activity is a major concern for the official and private U.S. communities in
Cameroon. Most crime is economically motivated. Street crime is endemic in
major metropolitan areas, and ranges from opportunistic to violent in nature. Low-level
and more sophisticated criminals continue to target wealthy Cameroonians, expatriates,
and members of the diplomatic community. Criminals have robbed expatriates as
well as locals inside and outside their residences, on the street, in
restaurants, and in shops. Pickpockets operate at virtually all large
gatherings and soccer matches, as well as at airports. Thieves often attempt to
distract a victim by asking questions or bumping/jostling them, allowing an
accomplice to snatch valuables.
Criminals may be armed. Often, thieves use
knives or razor blades to cut valuables out of pockets, handbags, or backpacks.
Thieves may also draw victims in close and place the tip of a knife or other
sharp object in the victim’s side, while leading the victim to an isolated
location or crowd before taking or demanding money. Thieves routinely use
motorcycles to conduct drive-by snatchings of purses and other valuables. Theft
by intimidation or extortion is also a common tactic, with criminal groups brandishing
machetes and using them in the face of resistance or non-compliance.
Generally, there are upticks in street crime,
thefts from occupied and unoccupied vehicles, residential break-ins, highway
banditry, and armed robberies in the months of November and December due to the
holidays. These crimes often escalate to violence, especially when victims
resist or fight back; victims should comply with the demands of criminals as much
as possible. Many crimes involve an “inside man” and target individuals or
locations associated with payrolls, money transfers, or large sums of cash.
Theft of items from hotel rooms is common. Home
invasions by gangs occur in wealthier neighborhoods, especially at locations
without 24-hour guards and residential security enhancements (e.g., perimeter
walls, window grilles, solid-core/metal doors).
Carjacking is less common around Yaoundé;
however, it remains a concern throughout the country and has led to deadly
Violent crime, including armed robbery and
carjacking, has increased around Douala and some towns in Littoral region. Internal
displacement and economic desperation stemming from the Anglophone crisis are
likely drivers of this trend.
Commercial scams targeting foreigners,
including U.S. citizens, continue to be a problem. The scams generally involve
phony offers of lucrative sales/business opportunities and requests for
additional funds to pay for unforeseen airport and/or customs fees.
The Embassy and members of federal law
enforcement have identified a wide range of internet-scams based in Cameroon.
These schemes cover a broad spectrum of bogus activities, including child
adoptions, insurance claims, dating scams, real estate, and the offer of goods/services,
such as domestic services, agricultural products, antiques, and
exotic/domesticated animals. Often, these cyber scams involve “advance fee” requests;
frequently, victims receive little/nothing in return.
In 2016, a U.S. citizen was the
victim of attempted blackmail at the hands of an individual he had met via
social media. During a number of video chat sessions, the victim participated
in consensual, sexually explicit activity. The
individual recorded the activity and was threatening to turn
the video over to the police as part of a criminal complaint unless the victim
the individual’s demand for money.
A recent development in cyber
scams has been sending threatening emails via text message, WhatsApp, or other
social media, demanding that recipients demonstrate they have “chosen a side”
in the Anglophone crisis – either the separatists’ or the government’s – by sending
mobile funds to the scammer. Scammer affiliation with separatist elements or
the government is immaterial; they may be unaffiliated criminals exploiting the
crisis for financial gain.
Other Areas of Concern
U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in remote and rural areas
of Cameroon is extremely limited due to official travel restrictions and
security concerns. The U.S. Embassy restricts U.S. official travel to the North
and Far North regions, along with parts of the East Region bordering CAR due to
risk of violent crime and terrorism. All Embassy travel to these three regions
requires advance coordination with host-nation security forces due to terrorist
and criminal activities including attacks and kidnappings. Due to the
increasingly violent conflict in the Anglophone Regions, the Embassy also
restricts mission-essential personnel travel to Northwest and Southwest Regions.
The State Department warns U.S. citizens to
avoid all travel to the North and Far North Regions because of terrorist
threats – including kidnapping – presented by ISIS-WA and Boko Haram. Each group has actively targeted foreign residents,
tourists, and government leaders in the North and Far North Region, and have
reportedly kidnapped at least 37 foreigners altogether since 2013. Since 2015,
these groups have carried out dozens of suicide bombings in the North and Far
North Regions, including in Maroua; in recent years, successful attacks have
been limited to the border areas with Nigeria.
been a significant escalation in violence in the Northwest and Southwest Regions
by both the government and separatist parties to the conflict over the last 18
months; avoid travel to these regions. A U.S. citizen traveling by road died in
crossfire between separatists and Cameroonian security forcesin the Northwest region in late 2018.
borders with many of its neighbors remain porous, allowing the activities of
criminals, terrorist groups, political militants and other armed actors to
spill over into Cameroonian territory from other countries, especially Nigeria,
Chad, and CAR. In addition, cross-border migration occurs frequently between
Cameroon and its neighbors due to normal commercial activities or
instability-driven humanitarian flight. Military operations sometimes cross
into Cameroon. Exercise extreme caution within 60 miles of the following
border in the North and Adamawa Regions, which abuts Nigeria’s Adamawa State,
as Boko Haram and ISIS-WA elements are active in the area;
border area with Chad due to terrorist activity; and
border areas with the Central Africa Republic due to criminality and the
possibility of encountering armed groups.
Avoid travel after dark throughout the country
due to the heightened risk for traffic accidents and increased criminality at
It is illegal to take pictures of government
buildings, military installations, and other public facilities, many of which
are unmarked. Authorities could confiscate your photographic equipment, or fine,
detain, or arrest you. Do not take photos of people without their permission.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Picture
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Cameroon’s road networks (paved and unpaved)
are poorly maintained and unsafe even in major cities. During the rainy season,
many roads are barely passable, even with four-wheel drive vehicles. Livestock
and pedestrians create constant road hazards, especially at night. There are
few road and traffic signs. Roadways are often unlighted, making travel
dangerous; there are few streetlights, even in major cities.
Drivers frequently disregard road safety rules.
Authorities enforce speed limits minimally, with the exception of the major
routes between Yaoundé, Douala, and Bamenda. Speed traps and checkpoints on
highways catch unsuspecting motorists and result in fines of approximately US $50.
The maximum national speed limit is 110 km/hour. Very serious, often fatal speed-related
accidents are common on the major highways. Drive defensively and be alert to
the possibility of passing vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
Vehicles are generally in poor maintenance, and
mechanisms or requirements to inspect vehicles for roadworthiness are unevenly
enforced. In 2013, the government passed a law requiring that a basic safety
kit should be in all vehicles; roadside checkpoints will stop and conduct
vehicle inspections for these items. However, untrained, government-backed
private safety associations staff these checkpoints, and in doing so, create
road traffic and hazards by stopping vehicles at unsafe locations along major
highways For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Reports on Driving Overseas: Best
Practices and Road Safety in Africa.
Cameroon has experienced a resurgence in road
banditry in the Adamawa, East, Far North, North, Northwest, and Southwest
regions. Road bandits (coupeurs de route)
have targeted public buses and have resorted to violence to control passengers.
Separatist-related attacks on public transportation and infrastructure have
also taken place since 2018 in the Anglophone regions, including blocking of
roads, destruction of bridges, stopping of vehicles, and even violence against
motorists; at least one bus driver was murdered. Separatists and Cameroonian
security forces heavily contest authority over major transit arteries,
increasing risk of wrong place/wrong time violence to road travelers.
Public Transportation Conditions
Avoid all travel by public transportation, and
hire private transport from a reliable source. Using public transportation is dangerous;
vehicles do not meet Western safety standards and are poorly maintained and
often overcrowded. Minibuses, buses, trains, and ferries are in poor mechanical
condition and often fill well beyond their intended capacity. Make sure any car
you hire has adequate insurance, preferably by written confirmation from the
insurance company (rather than the car hire firm). If you are hiring a driver
and car, make sure you are not liable for any accident or damage.
Bus accidents are frequent and result in
thousands of fatalities every year. Buses are always overcrowded and often
poorly maintained, and are driven in an unsafe manner at dangerous speeds.
Trains are also unsafe; the most recent major
train derailment occurred in October 2016. The accident killed 70 passengers and
injured more than 500 others.
Cameroon has experienced three major air
transport-related accidents in the past two decades. Temporary airport closures
have occurred due to poor illumination and/or lack of electricity. The
state-owned airline, Camair-Co, has had a number of safety incidents in the
past year, including a tailstrike at Bafoussam Airport (BFX) in March 2019 and
a forced landing in Garoua (GOU) in April 2019. Both mishaps involved
Camair-Co’s Chinese-built Xian MA-60 aircraft. The U.S. Embassy recommends
avoiding flights to Cameroon that transit Bangui M’Poko Airport (BGF) in CAR
due to potential unrest in Bangui.
from Nigeria presents an ongoing challenge for regional maritime security in
the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). The majority of GoG piracy events in 2018 occurred in
or near Nigerian waters; however, dozens of incidents occurred in international
waters or off the coasts of other GoG countries, including Cameroon. Vessels reported
boardings, armed robberies, and crew kidnappings near Douala – Cameroon’s main
port – and Tiko in 2018. Pirates have targeted foreign – and particularly
Western – personnel for kidnapping for ransom, likely due to kidnappers’
perceptions that they can exact higher ransoms for their release. In such
cases, they have transferred victims to other vessels or even taken them ashore
to hideouts; Nigerian pirates are generally involved in such events.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There is moderate risk from terrorism in
Yaoundé. Two Nigeria-based terrorist groups operate in the North and Far North
regions of Cameroon: Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in
West Africa (ISIS-WA). ISIS-WA, which initially emerged as a splinter group
from Boko Haram, is an ISIS-recognized regional affiliate; it has become
increasingly active in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring areas of Lake Chad
Basin countries over the last year. Since 2015, there have been over 100
documented and reported detonations of improvised
explosive devices (IEDs) along roadways, in villages, and in local
markets in Cameroon by Nigeria-based terrorist groups. Kidnappings of
Cameroonian nationals by terrorist groups and suicide bombing attacks have also
occurred in the North and Far North regions. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA each likely
aspire to target Westerners for kidnapping and attack.
There have been no reports of any widespread
anti-U.S. or anti-Western incidents or sentiment since 2015. However, the
potential for lone wolf attacks motivated by anti-Western or anti-U.S.
In 2016, a Cameroonian male approached the U.S.
Embassy and requested to speak with the Ambassador. The individual became
agitated when told that the Ambassador was not available and brandished a long
knife, stating that he was there to kill Americans. Ultimately, local Gendarmes
resolved the situation, with no injury to any Embassy personnel.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is considerable risk from political
violence in Yaoundé. Demonstrations, ranging from workers strikes to political
rallies and protests, are common in many major cities in Cameroon, including
Yaoundé. Following the 2018 Presidential elections, defeated opposition parties
have occasionally called for demonstrations. The government usually bans these demonstrations
and quickly arrests those attempting to assemble. A large-scale protest in
Douala led to police-involved non-lethal shooting of members of the opposition
leadership with rubber projectiles. Ongoing political disputes, including the
government’s detention of senior opposition leaders, increase the potential for
demonstrations. Avoid large gatherings; even peaceful demonstrations can
escalate to violence.
For the past several years, there has been a
political crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions because of years of feelings of
marginalization by Anglophone Cameroonians. In 2016, the area experienced
widespread civil unrest that included lawyers and teachers staging
walkouts and work stoppages that shuttered schools for several weeks. Owners of
stores and markets staged organized closures of storefronts, disrupting
services. Elements of those expressing discontent subsequently began calling
for secession from Cameroon.
In the ensuing years, armed separatists have
carried out attacks on Cameroonian government security forces and government
officials, resulting in the death of over a dozen police and gendarmes and
multiple kidnappings of Cameroonian officials. Some of these attacks have
involved the use of small-scale, makeshift bombs. Suspected separatist
militants have also demanded that schools remain shuttered and have allegedly
attacked educational buildings that have reopened.
In 2018 and 2019, the conflict increased in
intensity and took on an added dimension of violence, with the razing of villages,
hospitals, and capital infrastructure, as well as attacks on civilians by both parties
to the conflict
There is a serious lack of infrastructure in
most of the country, even in major cities. Power grids are unreliable, power
surges and wide-scale blackouts are common. Many neighborhoods lack running or
There is a noticeable lack of Western-branded,
service industry-oriented businesses. In the major cities, only a handful of
hotels meet Western standards.
The Government of Cameroon routinely restricts
access to internet and mobile communications during periods of civil unrest and
in advance of major anniversaries or political events. Affected communication
methods include SMS, image sharing, and social media access. Restrictions normally
affect localized areas, including in major cities. Due to Cameroon’s limited
telecommunications infrastructure, the quality of voice calls may degrade
during communications restrictions, and increased user volume may overwhelm
capacity. Travelers should ensure they have redundant communications systems
and sufficient training to use these systems.
Personal Identity Concerns
Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by a prison
sentence of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000
CFA francs ($35-$353). Cameroon’s
rate of enforcement of laws targeting the LGBTI community is among the highest
in the world. Over the past few years, authorities have brought charges against scores of LGBTI people under the Criminal
Code. Cameroonian society includes a
strongly homophobic current; not only does the public and media condemn homosexuality,
but religious figures also strongly oppose it. The misconception that members
of the LGBTI community do not hold legal rights because homosexuality is
against the law is prevalent, and has prompted police officers and civilians to
stigmatize, harass, and oppress LGBTI people. Police and civilians may extort money from presumed
LGBTI individuals with the threat of exposure or arrest. Suspected members of
the LGBTI community have received anonymous threats by phone, text, and email.
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
Kidnapping and kidnapping-for-ransom are serious
security concerns, especially in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, as well
as areas bordering northern Nigeria and CAR. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA have
several years of history engaging in this tactic to raise money for their
causes. Criminal elements may also engage in this activity for financial gain. Separatist
militants and criminals taking advantage of the conflict in Northwest and
Southwest regions have kidnapped Cameroonian government officials, local
security force members, and foreigners. Kidnappers –criminal or separatist in
nature – frequently employ brutal force against victims, and have increasingly
targeted locals of all backgrounds. For more information, review OSAC’s report,
Kidnapping: The Basics.
Local law enforcement and security personnel struggle
to deter and respond to criminal activities. Police response is often delayed
and non-existent in some areas; perpetrators of crimes are rarely caught. Police
and security forces lack training and equipment. In some cases, police and
security force members have colluded with criminal elements and/or perpetrated
criminal acts. Checkpoints and roadblocks often serve as a venue for police, military
forces, and gendarmes to extort bribes from travelers.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
U.S. citizens encountering difficulties should
contact local authorities and the U.S. Embassy. Any U.S. citizens detained by
local authorities should remain calm, be non-confrontational, and request to
contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. You may need to repeat these requests.
The Government of Cameroon does not recognize
the dual citizenship of Cameroonian nationals, even if they hold U.S.
passports. As a result, authorities have detained dual Cameroonian nationals for
prolonged periods, and the Embassy’s Consular Affairs Section has encountered
difficulties in accessing dual U.S.-Cameroonian nationals in custody. The
expression of anti-government sentiment has led to the detention of dual
Embassy Yaoundé switchboard: +237 22220-1500
American Citizen Services: Ext. 4341
Police: Dial 17 on landlines or 117
on cell phones
Fire: Dial 18
on landlines or 118 on cell phones
Medical and life safety services are limited in
Cameroon. Medical facilities in Cameroon do not approach the U.S. standard.
Services may be nonexistent in many rural areas. A lack of trained specialists,
outdated diagnostic equipment, poor sanitation, and medications in short supply
hamper emergency care and hospitalization. These issues are more severe in
rural areas. Non-French speakers will face language barriers at health
facilities in many parts of the country.
Contact Information for Available Medical
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Cameroon Assistance Sanitaire, Douala Tel: +237
23342-4891, +237 23342-7037 Fax: +237 23342-0079. Contact: Mr. Soussie + 237 23330-9020
Medevac Helicopter in Bamenda (Northwest Region) Tel: + 237 23336-1285
Assistance SA of Geneva Tel: +41 22 785-6464
medical evacuation from Cameroon to Europe Tel: + 41 22 785-6424
Ensure your health insurance covers medical
evacuation (medevac) via air ambulance.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
The following diseases are prevalent: Malaria, Schistosomiasis,
Cholera, Dengue, Yellow fever, Meningococcal meningitis, Polio, Tuberculosis,
and HIV. Malaria is endemic; travelers should consult their physician for
anti-malaria medication prior to travel.
All travelers must have up-to-date
immunizations and a yellow fever vaccination in their shot record. Enforcement
takes places prior to boarding outbound flights, as well as prior to passing
through immigration on inbound flights. Travelers without documented
immunization may receive a mandatory vaccine at the airport.
Water-borne illnesses are also a concern. For
more information, refer to OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?
The CDC offers additional information on
vaccines and health guidance for Cameroon.
Country Council Information
The Douala Country Council meets quarterly. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa
with any questions.
Embassy Location & Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Avenue Rosa Parks (in
the Mbankolo Quartier, adjacent to the Mount Febe Golf Club), Yaoundé
Business Hours: Monday-Thursday 0730-1700; Friday 0730-1230
Embassy Contact Numbers
switchboard: +237 22220-1500
Marine Post 1: Ext.
All U.S. citizens
living in or traveling to Cameroon should enroll
in the Smart Traveler Enrollment
Program (STEP) to receive security messages
and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
Additional Resource: Cameroon Country Information