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Senegal 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Senegal

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Senegal has been assessed as a “Level 1: Exercise normal precautions” country; however, the Casamance region is assessed as a Level 2: “Exercise increased caution” area due to crime and landmines.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Dakar 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.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dakar as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. Government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Senegal-specific webpage for analytic reports, travel alerts, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Street crime is very common, particularly in urban areas. Crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft of valuables from vehicles, assaults, residential burglaries) are the most frequently encountered crimes by U.S. official personnel, business persons, and visitors. Aggressive vendors, panhandlers, and street children often attempt to divert victims’ attention while an accomplice steals valuables. Do not accept items offered by anyone on the street unless you are planning to buy it. This is a favorite ploy of street criminals.

In 2017, criminals increasingly used scooters/motorcycles to steal purses/backpacks from pedestrians in all neighborhoods of Dakar. There have been incidents of individuals on mopeds robbing other individuals on mopeds. Minor injuries often occur during moped attacks, as victims are knocked down or dragged.

Street robberies and muggings frequently involve the use of knives/machetes, though injuries, when the victim is compliant, are rare.

Throughout 2017, the U.S. Embassy received reports of home invasions targeting houses in neighborhoods frequented by expatriates; the total number of reports was roughly the same as in 2016.

An OSAC constituent and a member of an international organization, both in the Almadies area near the U.S. Embassy, were victims of home invasions in late 2016 while the occupants slept.

Most reported home invasions occur when residences lack sufficient security (alarms, barred windows, 24/7 guards).

Credit/ATM card fraud remains a concern in Dakar. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its employees avoid use of credit/debit cards. Skimming is the primary means of credit fraud and is undetectable until fraudulent charges appear on statements. If you must use a credit/debit card, accounts should be monitored closely for fraud. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

Other Areas of Concern

The Embassy prohibits its staff and family members from walking and running along the Corniche d’Ouest during darkness, particularly in the Ouakam, Fenêtre Mermoz and Fann neighborhoods, due to reports of assaults and theft. Street robberies along the Corniche d’Ouest in Fenêtre Mermoz and Fann (near the Radisson Blu Hotel) occur frequently. Due to the elevated threat of crime in Dakar, walking outside at night is not recommended.

Travelers should exercise caution throughout the Casamance region because of separatist violence, armed banditry, and possibility of landmines. Armed individuals have set up roadblocks and attacked travelers on roads south of The Gambia in the Casamance region of Senegal. Landmines from prior conflicts remain in the Casamance region; travelers should not stray from main roads and well-traveled areas in the Casamance region.

The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MDFC) is the longest-running separatist militant group in sub-Saharan Africa and continues to wage a low-level insurgency against the Senegalese government. While separatist militants primarily target military installations, convoys, and personnel in an attempt to destabilize the region, civilians in the Casamance have been targets of opportunity for separatist fighters and criminal elements, some of whom may be supported by rebels.

Armed banditry remains a concern, particularly in rural areas and for travelers transiting by road. Although the frequency of attacks has diminished since a de facto ceasefire in 2012, violent incidents still occur in the region.

A team of Senegalese topographers working in the Bounkiling area was attacked in 2016.  

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the Casamance region, due to official travel restrictions and security concerns. U.S. government employees are prohibited from travelling on National Route 4 south of Ziguinchor, on Route 20 between Ziguinchor and Cap Skirring, and on unpaved roads without armed escorts. U.S. government employees are also prohibited from travelling after dark. Due to security concerns, the RSO reviews and approves all travel by Embassy personnel to the Ziguinchor and Sédhiou administrative areas within the Casamance region. Until further notice, U.S. government personnel are prohibited from personal travel outside of Ziguinchor and Cap Skirring in the area west of Ziguinchor (or west of Route Nationale 4) between the Casamance River and Bissau-Guinean border due to up-ticks in armed criminality. The Embassy restricts personnel from traveling off paved roads in the Ziguinchor and Sédhiou administrative regions without prior RSO approval due to landmines, which have been discovered in road beds as recently as late 2016. The Senegalese government requires notification of official travel to the region.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicle accidents are the main threat to U.S. travelers. Risk of vehicle accidents increases at night. Poor traffic markers; changing traffic patterns; and random, unannounced, road construction confuse even the most experienced drivers. Drivers are aggressive, unpredictable, and untrained. The Embassy recommends keeping windows rolled up, especially in the Plateau area of downtown, due to the possibility of harassment and theft.

In late 2016, Embassy family members were assaulted and chased in their vehicle for more than a mile before eluding their pursuers.

Vehicles used by local drivers may be in poor working condition and often do not meet U.S. safety standards. Availability of spare parts and mechanics capable of repairing vehicles, in particular American brands, decreases the further from Dakar one travels.

A valid U.S. driver’s license is sufficient for driving in Senegal. Police may confiscate the license of a driver accused of a minor traffic violation or involved in an accident. The license is typically returned to the owner at the police station after payment of a fine. The Embassy does not recommend paying fines directly to traffic police, as this could fuel bribery attempts. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” and “Road Safety in Africa.”

Road conditions outside of Dakar vary greatly. Many roads are in poor condition, unpaved, or full of potholes – particularly in rural areas. Poor road conditions may impact drive times and driver safety. Drivers may drive unpredictably, as they jockeying for a smooth surface or avoid hazards. Road safety issues are exacerbated during the rainy season. The further from Dakar, the harder it becomes to find medical care and emergency services.

Public Transportation Conditions

Dakar’s distinctive black and yellow taxis are often in poor working condition and do not meet U.S. safety standards. Prices must be negotiated before getting in, and passengers should exit the taxi prior to paying. RSO advises Embassy personnel to use taxis with proper safety equipment, to never get into a taxi that is already occupied, and to insist on being the only passenger for the duration of the trip. There have been several reports of taxi drivers working in collusion with thieves to rob passengers who agreed to share a vehicle. When possible, Embassy personnel are encouraged to develop a business relationship with a competent taxi driver who has a vehicle in good working condition for repeated travel.

Embassy personnel are cautioned against using all buses, except the Dakar Dem Dikk city buses. Most of the colorful Ndiaye Ndiaye (Al Hum, Car Rapid) buses lack safety restraints, are missing windows, and are operated in an unsafe manner by unskilled drivers. Personnel are also discouraged from using sept place – old station wagons that are often seen chugging between cities throughout the countryside.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The government of Senegal inaugurated the Blaise Diagne International Airport in December 2017. Though modern, the airport is still going through start-up difficulties. Travelers should expect long lines at immigration and delays in getting luggage, particularly if multiple flights are landing concurrently. Security controls into the baggage claim area are sporadically enforced, and there have been incidents of travelers being approached by unauthorized personnel to assist them with their luggage. These personnel try to coerce an excessive fee for their help. RSO recommends that travelers decline assistance unless it has been pre-arranged (through, for example, a travel expeditor). RSO also recommends that travelers make arrangements with their hotel or company for transportation from the airport to their lodging. Taxi drivers will try to take advantage of newly arrived passengers and charge excessive fees.

There are safety concerns related to travel along the A1 highway, particularly after dark. The A1 has limited lighting, few Gendarme patrols, and there are no nearby trauma centers in the event of a serious accident. Furthermore, many of international flights take off and land after dark, increasing the likelihood of nighttime travel. RSO recommends exercising extreme caution along the route at night.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dakar as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Senegal has not been targeted directly by terrorist attacks but remains vulnerable due to porous borders, regional instability, and the activities of African-based terrorist groups, including those associated with ISIS in West Africa. In particular, Mali-based terrorist groups could pose a threat to Senegal, as the Senegalese government contributes troops and police to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. Various terrorist groups have threatened the Senegalese government because of its support of peacekeeping operations throughout the continent. Furthermore, terrorist groups have made threats specifically against French, and more generally Western, interests throughout the Sahel and parts of West Africa due to France’s intervention in Mali.

Attacks on soft targets where foreigners may congregate are of particular concern. In October 2017, the U.S. Embassy issued a Security Alert for Dakar. In recent years, the government of Senegal has taken steps to mitigate potential terrorist attacks, primarily by posting national police or Gendarmes, at potentially vulnerable or attractive locations to attack.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dakar as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Senegal is considered one of the most stable political democracies in West Africa. While Senegal is a predominately Muslim country, religious extremism and extremist rhetoric has not gained a foothold, and the populace seems willing to cooperate with authorities in preventing extremist violence.

Protests and political rallies may become more frequent in the lead-up to the 2019 presidential elections, especially in Dakar and other major cities.

Civil Unrest

Public protests, demonstrations, and strikes occur regularly and can escalate to violence. U.S. citizens should avoid large gatherings, as riot police may resort to using batons and teargas for crowd control. Common locations for public demonstrations are Place de l’Indépendence, Place de l’Obélisque, and University Cheikh Anta Diop. Demonstrations at the university are becoming more frequent. Gendarmes usually respond to and disperse protests quickly without resorting to the excessive use of force. Travelers should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings as even peaceful protests may become confrontational and escalate to violence.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

During the rainy season (June-October), severe flooding may occur, particularly in the Casamance region. Flooding can negatively impact Senegal’s road systems, making driving conditions even more dangerous. Heavy rains and wind have knocked down power lines for extended periods.

Personal Identity Concerns

 

Same-sex relations are illegal, and arrests, while rare, often make headlines. Arrests for these offenses are usually made after a complaint is filed by a third-party.

Senegal is extremely difficult to navigate for individuals with physical disabilities. There are very few accommodations for people with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Senegal is a pass-through point for West African drug trafficking, primarily from Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Some small marijuana cultivation efforts also exist within Senegal.

Kidnapping Threat

The threat of kidnapping by criminal elements and terrorist groups exists but is rare. The border regions between Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali should be treated as possible danger areas due to the potential for cross-border activity from Mali-based terrorist groups. The Embassy did not receive any reports of kidnappings in 2017. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”

Police Response

Senegalese police response to criminal activity is inconsistent and does not meet Western standards.

Senegalese law requires that individuals carry valid identification documents. As a general rule, the police do not distinguish between original documents and photocopies. At a minimum, travelers should carry copies of the biographic information page of their passport. Do not ignore a policeman’s lawful or reasonable orders. RSO advises travelers to treat Senegalese officers as they would U.S. law enforcement officials. Becoming belligerent or showing a lack of respect toward uniformed officers will exacerbate the situation and may result in arrest.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If arrested, ask to contact U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services. This request is not always honored expeditiously and may need to be repeated.

Crime Victim Assistance

Senegal has minimal resources available for victim assistance and support.

Police/Security Agencies

There are two primary law enforcement entities: the National Police and the National Gendarmerie. Both entities have country-wide law enforcement authority.

The National Police fall under the Ministry of Interior and are primarily located in major population centers.

The National Gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Armed Forces and are based throughout Senegal.

Dakar is split in two regions: the southern part is National Police jurisdiction, and the northern part is National Gendarmerie jurisdiction.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities outside Dakar are limited. In-patient psychiatric care is inadequate, but there is office-based psychiatry assistance available.

French medications are more readily available than U.S. pharmaceuticals. U.S. drugs may still be available, but listed under their French trade names. Medications may be obtained at pharmacies throughout Dakar and in other parts of the country frequented by tourists. Travelers should carry a personal supply of prescription medicines, along with copies of prescriptions that include the generic name for the drugs, as well as a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

There are several hospitals and clinics in Dakar that can treat a variety of injuries and illnesses. Public hospitals do not meet U.S. standards, but several private clinics are better than what is available publicly.

The Embassy maintains a list of medical resources for U.S.-citizen patients on its medical assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Europ Assistance in USA

Address: #1000, 4330 East-West Hwy, Bethesda, MD 20814

The 24/7 number: 1-877-710-4082, Local (240)-330-1523;

Healix

Address: Healix House, Esher Green, Esher, Surrey KT 10 8AB, United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 203 640 67940

International SOS

London call center at + 44-20-8762-8384 or U.S.-based POC: Ryan Clark: Phone 267-716-2411 if they are Tricare, ISOS should be used.

Address: Chiswick Park, Building 4, 566 Chiswick High Rd, London 5YA, UK

Insurance Guidance

The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that all visitors to Senegal travel with medical evacuation insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Senegal.

OSAC Country Council Information

Dakar has an active OSAC Country Council, which means quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Dakar, Senegal

Route des Almadies

Dakar, Senegal

Hours of Operation: M-TH 0800-1730, and F 0800-1300

Embassy Contact Numbers

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +221 33 879 4000

Marine Security Guard Post 1: +221 33 879 4000 (24/7)

Website: https://dakar.usembassy.gov/

Consular coverage for multi-post countries

The Embassy is also responsible for Guinea-Bissau.

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Senegal are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Senegal Country Information Sheet