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Equatorial Guinea 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Equatorial Guinea

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Equatorial Guinea has been assessed as a “Level 1: Exercise normal precautions” country. 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Malabo 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 Malabo as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Equatorial Guinea-specific page for original analytic reports, consular alerts, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

Criminals consider Malabo and Bata prime grounds for operations due to the number of people, businesses, and areas of congregation/congestion. Congested urban areas can be dangerous at night, but daytime incidents are also possible. The presence of other people should not be taken as an indication of increased security, as victims report being robbed in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses. Crime increases during the Christmas holiday season.

Crime affects urban and rural areas due to limited police presence. The most common crime reported by U.S. citizens and expatriates is extortion by corrupt police and members of other security forces.

Theft of unattended items, specifically cash and cellular phones, is the second most common crime reported by U.S. expatriates. Criminals often target victims based on perceived affluence and vulnerability. Walking around late at night, either alone or in a group, is discouraged due to heightened risk of crime.

When at a gas station, customers are often scammed by the pump attendant by not clearing the pump’s meter to zero, causing the victim to be shorted several liters of fuel. Distracted victims pay what is on the pump, only to realize after they drive away that they did not get what they paid for. Never allow the attendant to begin pumping fuel into your vehicle without seeing that the pump is reset to zero. Request an amount and watch the meter climb to the requested amount before paying.

Residential burglary is also frequently reported, especially among those who do not invest in a robust residential security posture. Among the local population, burglaries and home invasions occur frequently. Criminals have completely emptied a person’s home while they were away during the day. Burglars have entered residences while the occupants were home asleep. It has been reported that burglars capitalize on the sound of rain as a distraction during some break-ins.

In 2015, a Western Ambassador took refuge in his residential safe haven as burglars broke through window grilles of his upscale, official residence. The thieves made off with the Ambassador’s briefcase and electronics.

Expatriate residents with more resources install perimeter walls topped with anti-climb fencing, window grilles and security lighting, and have 24-hour security guards. An effective deterrent to burglaries and home invasions is the presence of a watchdog, as the local population tends to be afraid of dogs.

Criminals will resort to force if necessary to accomplish their goals. Gangs are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims. Violent crime directed toward expatriates or foreign tourists is unusual, but there are reports of expatriates who have been attacked violently. Victims of crimes should not resist assailant demands, as resistance may result in violence.

Although piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is common, ships in littoral waters have had fewer reported piracy incidents.

One locally-owned small cargo ship was hijacked in EG or Cameroonian waters in early 2014. The crewmembers were rescued by Nigerian Special Forces from a basecamp in the Nigerian Delta 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

Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers in Equatorial Guinea. Local drivers are prone to excessive speeding and reckless behavior. A large percentage of drivers are unlicensed, and many are drunk. Road travelers should exercise extreme caution, and drivers should use defensive driving techniques. Most local vehicles do not meet Western safety standards and are poorly maintained. Vehicle occupants should use seatbelts; accidents that would be survival in the U.S. may result in serious injury or death in Equatorial Guinea due to the limited availability of medical services.

Other road hazards include: poor lighting; failure to obey traffic signals; presence of pedestrians, livestock, and other animals on roadways; slow moving vehicles; large trucks delivering heavy cargo; and erratic stopping by various vehicles. All main thoroughfares and most secondary roads are paved and in good to excellent condition in Malabo. Avoid driving at night outside Malabo in deserted areas or those with low population density. Rural and suburban areas are poorly illuminated and pose additional safety hazards due to pedestrians and animals crossing the roads. Large trucks sometimes park on the roadside or on the road without using emergency flashers or warning signs.

Criminals may exploit unlocked doors and open windows to steal belongings. Do not roll down your window if someone approaches the vehicle.

If drivers encounter rocks/logs or other large debris in the road, do not stop the vehicle – even to assess the situation; this a technique used in by robbers to force vehicles to stop. Either drive around the obstruction or turn around.

Police and soldiers sometimes ask private vehicles to give them a ride; drivers should refuse to do so politely.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxi drivers have a reputation for being drunk while working. There have been reports in both Malabo and Bata of expatriate taxicab passengers being driven to unfamiliar places against their will and robbed. It is strongly advised to avoid the use of taxicabs; travelers should arrange for a private driver for transportation needs. If it is absolutely necessary to take a taxicab, travelers should only do so if they are in groups of two or more, so that passengers have the ability to physically dominate the driver. Do not share rides with unknown passengers or allow an unknown individual to enter the vehicle with you.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Outbound passenger screening should not be considered on par with U.S. standards, as passengers and non-passengers alike may proceed to the airside waiting room with limited or no security screening. Some airlines have instituted hand/visual screening at the boarding jet way; however, this is of minimal deterrence value and should not be considered passenger security screening equal to International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), U.S., or European standards.

Terrorism Threat

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

In general, Equatorial Guinea does not have a history of terrorism. Since 2015, there is growing concern within security forces over the potential for terrorism due to the increase in terrorist activity in the region, especially from Cameroon.

Equatorial Guinea saw a series of events in December 2017, which is referred by some as an attempted coup; several Equatoguinean government officials have characterizes this incident as a terrorist event.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

Equatorial Guinea’s septuagenarian president is Africa’s longest-serving head of state. While there is no political unrest, the country lacks democratic experience and institutional capacity to guarantee an orderly change of leadership. The regime has thwarted three armed attacks: one in 2004, one in 2009, and a failed coup attempt in 2017.

Civil Unrest 

Civil unrest is not common. Demonstrations are not allowed and are rare. If travelers encounter a large gathering, they should avoid the area, as it is likely an illegal demonstration; the police will attempt to disperse the crowd, including through use of force.

In March 2015, several rock throwing university students were arrested after an illegal protest over not receiving their scholarship funds; security forces used tear gas to disperse the more than 200 student protestors. Police also released tear gas and arrested nine youths who protested the closing of the Rebola Cultural Center.

In early 2015, a large body of taxi drivers protested proposed toll hikes. The government met the taxi drivers’ demand and substantially reduced the toll hike that taxis would have to pay under the new law. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

During the summer, torrential downpours can cause severe damage to villages, roadways, and bridges. Most major cities are in coastal areas, and the lack of infrastructure could complicate any rescue or response operations.

A number of drownings have been recorded to have occurred due to strong ocean currents. 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

There have been no major problems or concerns in the recent past involving critical infrastructures or the transportation system. Larger foreign companies have the capability to supply their compounds’ power needs from generators and water needs from onsite wells. Some reliance on fuel for both transportation and electricity is a potential vulnerability for compounds that do not produce their own.

Equatorial Guinea’s firefighting capability is limited, even in major cities. For more information on fire safety in hotels, please review OSAC’s Report, “Fire Safety Abroad.”

Economic Concerns

There is a small black market in Malabo that sells counterfeit, stolen, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violation goods. In downtown areas frequented by expatriates, street hawks will approach potential customers trying to sell questionable electronics. Do not accept or handle this merchandise.

Privacy Concerns

Visitors should have no expectation of privacy in hotel rooms or in publically accessible areas. Hotel rooms should be considered to be monitored or subject to being monitored and/or searched by local police/security entities.

Personal Identity Concerns

Equatorial Guinea is a conservative country.

Drug-related Crimes

Drugs, especially marijuana, are present. Care should be taken to avoid being involved in any form of narcotics activity. There have been no reports of narco-terrorist events in Malabo since at least 2009.

Kidnapping Threat

There have been occasional kidnappings-for-ransom, but such incidents are not prevalent.

A Chinese expatriate was kidnapped and died after he was bound and gagged in Bata in 2015.

Chinese expatriates have also been targeted in Malabo due to the (mostly true) perception that Chinese carry large sums of cash with them (the Chinese Embassy in Malabo recommends to their citizens that they not leave cash at their residence, leaving few options for travelers).

Police Response

The police have a limited presence in major cities and rural areas. Police may be armed and often engage in extortion. Equatorial Guinea’s emergency response is lacking.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Often, police will stop expatriates in traffic for minor infractions and will levy a fine to be paid on the spot, while threatening the driver with vehicle impoundment if they do not pay. This corruption tends to be the most prevalent crime that expatriates face. Usually, the officer will explain that the driver failed to stop before the appropriate line marker or that the vehicle’s tires are too far away from the crosswalk, etc. Over the past few years, there have been reports of several violence infractions involving police, including some incidents affecting expatriates.

A 2016 incident involved the detention, and subsequently threatening, of an expatriate for taking a photo of a political figure’s picture. 

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

If a U.S. citizen is harassed or detained by the police or other security personnel, s/he should immediately call U.S. Embassy Malabo. The Embassy’s main telephone number is +(240) 333-095-741. The after-hours duty cell phone number is +(240) 555-516-008.

Crime Victim Assistance

In the event of an emergency, the local police are typically the first point of contact. However, police response is sometimes slow, and investigations are often never opened. Prosecutions are very slow, if they are even initiated. Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (GREG) National Security emergency services can be reached 24 hours a day at 666 555 532.

U.S. citizens are advised to call the American Citizen Services unit at the U.S. Embassy. The after-hours duty cell phone number is +(240) 555-516-008.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

International SOS

Mobile: +(240) 222 217 327

24 hour Assistance Center

Tel: +(27) (0) 11 541 1300

Air Rescue Africa

+(27) (11) 541 1100

www.airrescueafrica.co.za

Insurance Guidance

Health insurance, along with insurance for medical evacuation, that covers you in Equatorial Guinea is strongly advised.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Malaria is endemic to Equatorial Guinea.

The Government of Equatorial Guinea requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever (this does not include the United States, but includes other countries in Africa).

Water-borne illness and food safety are a concern in Equatorial Guinea. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Malabo Country Council meets on the last Friday of even numbered months at 4p.m. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy of the United States in Equatorial Guinea, New Airport Road, Malabo Dos

Business Hours: Mon-Thurs: 0800-1730; Fri: 0800-1200. The Embassy is closed on both American and Equatoguinean holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers:

Embassy Operator: +(240) 333-095-741

After-Hours Emergency Line: +(240) 555-516-008

This line is for emergencies involving American citizens only.

Embassy Duty: Cell: +(240) 555-516-008

Post 1: +(240) 333-095-741 ext. 4396

Post 2: (after hours) +(240) 333-095-741 ext. 4170

Website: http://malabo.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Equatorial Guinea should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit provides passport, notary, and other citizenship services by appointment only. ACS does not accept customers without an appointment except in cases of emergency. Appointment Hours: Tues, Thurs: 1400-1600.

Additional Resources

Equatorial Guinea Country Information Sheet