Cote d’Ivoire 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Cote d’Ivoire is a coastal country bordered by Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Abidjan, similar to much of the developing world in sub-Saharan Africa, has long been rated critical for crime by the U.S. State Department. While the Embassy receives reports of home invasions, carjackings, and robberies at commercial establishments and on the street, historically, it has rarely been aimed at direct hire Americans. Indeed, the Embassy’s American direct hire staff has not been the victim of any serious crime in the past six years. This is attributable to a strong initial security briefing program and continuous reminders to staff to maintain a low profile that includes attention at all times to one’s surroundings as well as having a robust residential security program which includes guards 24/7.
Police professionalism and behavior, while typical for most West African countries, may seem rude or unprofessional to those not accustomed to Ivoirian law enforcement. This owes largely to the poor level of training for the police in tactics, ethics, and community policing. Travelers should be aware that it is not uncommon for crime victims to be asked to provide money or supplies to investigating officers. American citizens who become victims of crime are encouraged to contact the police and the U.S. Embassy.
Finally, if a traveler is confronted by an ill-intentioned person or group, the security advice is universal: comply with the demands of criminals to avoid violence.
The condition of the roads and highways linking Abidjan to other major cities can vary tremendously. While some roads permit driving at highway speeds, others require navigation at slow speeds through large potholes. A four wheel drive vehicle is best. There are periodic reports of highway robberies. These incidents usually occur at night or in the early morning hours. It is for this reason, as well as simple safety, that the Embassy prohibits inter-city travel by staff during the hours of darkness. Embassy staff travels around the country extensively and on a regular basis, and none have reported any security incidents since the end of the post-electoral crisis.
In Abidjan and other cities in Cote d’Ivoire, commercial and residential streets are often poorly maintained, leading to frequent traffic accidents and fatalities. Laws and rules of the road are seldom followed, pedestrians pulling carts crowd the streets, and individual drivers will often travel counter-flow on highly congested streets. Police traffic enforcement is rare, and patrols are mostly nonexistent. Defensive driving is always the order of the day when driving anywhere in the country.
The post-electoral crisis that led to the ordered departure of non-emergency direct hire Americans and their dependents is over. The ordered departure was lifted by the U.S. State Department in June 2011. Shortly thereafter, the threat rating for political violence was lowered a notch. The International School and the French School reopened normally in September 2011, and there have been no disruptions of those international school calendars. The school population is expected to grow substantially in 2013 when the Africa Development Bank reportedly plans to return some of its operations to Abidjan.
Most Ivoirians hold a favorable view of the United States. In that regard, it is noteworthy that during the post-electoral crisis, there were no demonstrations at the American Embassy, there was no looting of the American direct hire residences, and there were no sustained indications of any broadly-based anti-Americanism. While this sentiment towards Americans remains largely intact to this day, U.S. citizens are, nonetheless, always well advised to be familiar with the contents of the latest worldwide caution message issued periodically by the U.S. State Department and to incorporate the advice contained therein into one’s daily routine no matter what country a traveler may be in.
The large Lebanese community in Abidjan includes Hizballah supporters; however, they have posed no threat to U.S. interests or facilities to date.
Regional terrorism and organized crime
To date, Cote d’Ivoire has not experienced any problems with kidnappings or any other forms of terrorism. As a matter of routine and prudence, the Embassy regularly monitors terrorist-related incidents and reports from nearby countries in case there might be implications for Cote d’Ivoire.
The extent of organized crime is not well documented. There are anecdotal reports of smuggling, e.g., of gold, diamonds, drugs and cigarettes, but the extent of this activity is unknown. Corrupt officials and porous borders add credence to the reports.
International terrorism or transnational terrorism
Cote d’Ivoire's government does not provide political or financial support to any known international or transnational terrorist organizations, and the government has been generally supportive of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. There are no known operational components of any international or transnational terrorist organizations, nor is there evidence that Hezbollah have recruited any Ivoirians or third country nationals for operational purposes within Cote d’Ivoire. In 2009, the Ivoirian government deported a known Hezbollah fundraiser to Lebanon. He was later able to return to Cote d'Ivoire based on his Ivoirian citizenship.
Demonstrations, often the product of salary payment disputes, take place from time and may involve blocking access roads and entry into buildings. As is the case worldwide, American citizens are urged to avoid demonstrations and roadblocks and either return home or seek an alternate route to their destination. See the Political Violence section above.
Flooding is a major problem during the rainy season in Cote d’Ivoire, leading to blocked and damaged roads. Cote d’Ivoire, and especially Abidjan, experienced major flooding in July and August 2009 that caused extensive damage to the roads and residential areas throughout Abidjan. Extreme caution while driving during the rainy seasons is strongly recommended.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Industrial accidents are rare; however, a number of years ago toxic waste was dumped illegally in Port Bouet (located near the international airport) resulting in the death of 17 persons.
As noted above, transportation and highway accidents are frequent and often fatal. One of the most important concerns for U.S. citizens in Cote d’Ivoire is motor vehicle safety. Most local drivers are not well trained, and many vehicles, especially taxis and buses, are in poor condition. U.S. citizens driving in Cote d’Ivoire are urged to practice defensive driving skills and remain alert on the roadways.
Kidnappings have not been an issue in Cote d’Ivoire as they have been in other parts of West and North Africa.
Drug and Narcoterrorism
Illegal drugs are available, but the extent of the market is unknown. There are no indications that illegal drugs are connected to narcoterrorism.
How to handle incidents of police detention or harassment
Incidents of police harassment or detention of foreigners are rare but do occur. There are numerous police-controlled vehicle checkpoints throughout Abidjan to check vehicle and passenger documents; often security forces use the checkpoints to extort money from drivers and passengers. U.S. citizens who become victims of police harassment are urged to be polite and cooperate but not to pay the police. Persons receiving a ticket are encouraged to ask the officer for a receipt for any items confiscated by the police, such as a driver’s license or other identification. Drivers issued a ticket should note, however, that it is legal to pay the police officer money by the side of the road, but the amount paid should not exceed the amount printed on the ticket itself.
Where to turn for assistance if you become a victim of a crime and local police telephone numbers
U.S. citizens detained by the police should ask that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately. Contact information for local authorities includes:
Abidjan Prefecture of Police: (225) 20.21.00.22
Police Headquarters: (225) 20.22.08.22
Ministry of Security: (225) 22.214.171.124
The Polyclinique International St. Ann Marie (PISAM), located in Cocody, has the best surgical and intensive care facilities in Abidjan. The emergency room is staffed 24-hours a day, but is equipped with only limited technology. The only other emergency medical facility of note is the Institut de Cardiologie located at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Treichville. This facility is staffed by French-trained cardiac surgeons, but 24-hour access is uncertain.
Contact information for local hospitals and clinics
PISAM: (225) 126.96.36.199
Institut de Cardiologie: (225) 188.8.131.52 / (225) 184.108.40.206
CNTS: (225) 220.127.116.11 / (225) 18.104.22.168
(225) 22.214.171.124 (fax)
Air ambulance services
There are no dedicated air ambulance services based out of Abidjan. All services have to be coordinated with the service provider. Visitors to Cote d'Ivoire are encouraged to obtain air ambulance insurance before arriving in country.
CEGA Air Ambulance: (44) 0.1243.621.525
Accra, Ghana (44) 0.1243.773.169 (fax)
International SOS Assistance Inc. (001) 267.716.2411
3600 Horizon Blvd., Suite 300
Trevose, PA 19053
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
In Abidjan, U.S. citizens are urged to practice the same personal security measures they would in any large U.S. city. Gratuitous displays of money, electronics, or expensive jewelry should be avoided. Travelers are encouraged to pay attention to their surroundings, travel in groups, and exercise caution, especially when out at night.
Visitors to Cote d’Ivoire should be aware of scams that occasionally occur at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport. One scam consists of someone presenting himself to an obvious foreign traveler to offer expediting assistance through passport control and customs. In exchange for these “services,” the scam artist demands money upfront for himself and for the immigration and customs officers. Please note that travelers to Cote d’Ivoire are not required to pay police, customs, or immigration officers at the airport for any service rendered during arrival or departure.
Another scam involves a person holding up a placard with the traveler’s name on it, which they obtained from the legitimate greeter/expediter/driver waiting outside the arrival area for the traveler to exit. These scam artists push their way to the front of the crowd near the exit to meet the traveler first. They then direct the unsuspecting traveler to transportation where they are robbed. All travelers should confirm the identity of their initial contacts. If a crime does occur, victims should not resist.
While no area of Abidjan is considered off-limits, visitors to the Abidjan districts of Yopougon, Abobo, Adjame, and Treichville should exercise caution, even during the daytime. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid walking across the two major bridges (Houphouet-Boigny and Charles de Gaulle) connecting the Plateau and Treichville neighborhoods.
Throughout Abidjan, several private security companies offer 24-hour security guard and alarm services. These companies are generally effective in deterring residential crime, although care should be taken to select companies that offer mobile response teams that are capable of responding to alarms at residences or businesses. Emergency response team members generally have more training and are in better physical condition than a typical uniformed guard.
Embassy contact numbers
U.S. Embassy Operator: (225) 22.49.40.00
Marine Post One: (225) 22.49.45.00 / (225) 126.96.36.199
Consular Section: (225) 188.8.131.52 / (225) 22.49.46.02
Medical Unit: (225) 22.49.41.00
Political/Economic Office: (225) 22.49.44.01
Regional Security Office: (225) 184.108.40.206 / (225) 220.127.116.11
(225) 18.104.22.168 / (225) 22.214.171.124
OSAC Country Council
An OSAC Country council was established on January 23, 2012. The point of contact for OSAC Country Council matters is RSO Don Weinberg who can be reached at (225) 2249-4672 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Council meetings will be held at the American Embassy. Meetings with the American business community and other American individuals or groups with interests in Cote d’Ivoire are encouraged. Contact the Regional Security Office to arrange a meeting.