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Equatorial Guinea 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Equatorial Guinea; Africa > Equatorial Guinea > Malabo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Department of State has designated Malabo as a High threat crime post. Criminals consider Malabo, the capital city, and Bata, the largest city on the mainland, prime grounds for operations due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas. Additionally, crime affects urban and rural areas due to limited police assets. Crime increases during the Christmas holiday season. 

Crime Threats

The most common crime reported by Americans and the expatriate community is extortion by corrupt police officers. Typically, police will stop expatriates in traffic and will levy a fine to be paid on the spot, while threatening the driver with vehicle impoundment if they do not pay. Usually, the officer will explain that the driver failed to stop before the appropriate line marker or that the tires may be too far away from the crosswalk, etc. Diplomatic plated vehicles are not affected by this problem. There were no reports of violence by police during the extortion events; however, a recent report involved an armed officer asking an American expatriate for the payment of a relatively small fine while unslinging his shotgun and bringing it to a ‘port arms position (in which the rifle is held diagonally in front of the body with the muzzle pointing upward to the left)’. The victim felt deeply threatened and paid the ‘fine’, although the officer never stated what the violation was.

Theft of unaccompanied items is the second most common crime reported by Americans. There are some local criminal gangs but not organized crime. Congested urban areas can be dangerous at night, but daytime incidents are also a possibility. The presence of pedestrians on the street should not be taken as an indication of security. Victims report being robbed in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses. The items stolen most frequently during a robbery tend to be cash and cell phones.

Residential burglary is also a commonly reported criminal act. Most expatriate residents take residential security seriously and attempt to protect their homes accordingly. Among the local population, burglaries and home invasions occur frequently. Criminals have been known to empty a person’s home while they are away during the day. Burglars have also been known to enter residences while the occupants are home asleep. At least two home invasions by armed intruders occurred in the expatriate community in 2013.

Violent crime directed toward expatriates or foreign tourists is unusual, but there are reports of expatriates who have been attacked violently. Recently, an extremely violent rape occurred targeting an employee of an American energy company who was on her way to board a company shuttle bus. Gangs are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims. Criminals will resort to force if necessary in order to accomplish their goals. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers in Equatorial Guinea. Use extreme caution when on the road, as drivers are prone to excessive speeding and reckless behavior. A large percentage of drivers are unlicensed, and a similar percentage of drivers are drunk, during the day and night. Other road hazards include: poor lighting, failure to obey traffic signals, presence of pedestrians on roadways, livestock as well as other animals on roadways, slower moving vehicles on the road, large trucks delivering heavy cargo, and erratic stopping by taxis and other vehicles.

Avoid driving at night outside Malabo in deserted areas or those with low population density. Rural and suburban areas alike are poorly lit and pose additional safety hazards of pedestrians/animals crossing the roads. Large trucks park on the side of the road or on the road without using emergency flashers or warning signs.

Keep automobile doors locked, seat belts fastened, and windows rolled up. Do not roll down your window if someone approaches your vehicle. Police and soldiers sometimes ask private vehicles to give them a ride. Refuse politely. Ignore persons outside your vehicle and drive away if you feel uncomfortable. While stopped in urban traffic, scan rearview mirrors to identify potential trouble. While idling at a light or stop sign, leave adequate maneuver room between your vehicle and the one in front so that you can expedite your departure should the need arise. Always use your seatbelt. Keep belongings out of plain view. Park only in well-lit areas, preferably in parking lots with a security guard.

Do not stop your vehicle if you encounter rocks or logs in the middle of the road. This is a technique for robbers to force vehicles to stop. Either drive around the barriers or turn around. Do not stop to assess the situation. 

Local ground transportation includes taxis in urban areas and minibuses that transport passengers from town to town. Every year, there are a number of serious and fatal accidents involving taxis. Taxi drivers have a reputation for being drunk while working. There have been reports from both Malabo and Bata of expatriates boarding taxicabs and then being driven to unfamiliar places against their will and robbed. It is strongly advised to avoid taxicabs. Many of the minibuses lack proper safety equipment, such as seat belts and headlights. The drivers are often reckless, making sudden stops to pick up passengers and then speeding.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence 

Equatorial Guinea’s septuagenarian president is Africa’s longest-serving dictator. The country lacks democratic experience and institutional capacity to guarantee an orderly change of leadership. The regime has thwarted two armed attacks in the recent past: in 2004 and 2009.
 
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There were no recent acts of regional, international, or transnational terrorism. There are no known terrorist organizations there. Equatorial Guinea’s borders are generally considered porous and could be used as a corridor for terrorists, or other activities, to transit the country to or from Cameroon. Reports of Boko Haram elements living in Cameroon may have contributed to reports of tightening border crossings from that country. 

Civil Unrest 

Civil unrest is not common in Equatorial Guinea. Demonstrations are not allowed and are rare. If you run into one, stay away from it, as it is likely an illegal demonstration that the police will disperse. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

During the summer season, torrential downpours can cause severe damage to villages and bridges. Most major cities are on the coast. There have been no major natural disasters in recent history. The lack of infrastructure could complicate any rescue or response operation. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

There were no reported airline accidents in Equatorial Guinea in the recent past. 

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.

Police Response

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. It is much better to prevent a crime than try to prosecute it. Prosecutions are very slow, if they are even initiated.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If an American citizen is harassed or detained by the police or other security personnel, s/he should immediately contact U.S. Embassy Malabo via telephone (+240-333-095-741). The after-hours duty cell phone number is +240-222-516-008. 

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

U.S. citizens are advised to call the American Citizens Services unit at the U.S. Embassy if they have become a victim of a crime. The after-hours duty cell phone number is +240-222-516-008. 

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

La Paz Hospital, Sipopo
La Paz Medical Center
Banades 3C Al S
Sipopo, Bioko Norte
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 
Mobile: + 240 555 500 300 or: + 240 222 091780 
Phone: +240 556 666 154

Virgin Guadalupe Clinic 
(Clinica Virgen de Guadalupe)
Calle Rey Malabo, 5th block
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Phone: +240 333 096 956

Clinica Santa Isabel
CLINICA STA ISABEL I
Avenida Hassan II, near the Hotel Tropicana

CLINICA STA ISABEL II
Parques de Africa, Caracolas
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Phone: +240 333 092 666

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

International SOS
Local POC: + 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)

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

CDC country-specific vaccination and health guidance is available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/equatorial-guinea.htm

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Simple personal security measures -- holding your valuables, not wearing a lot of expensive jewelry, or flashing money -- will decrease the likelihood of being targeted by criminals for petty crimes of opportunity. Pedestrians are cautioned not to wear jewelry or carry expensive items in open view. It is not advisable to display large amounts of cash, flashy jewelry, expensive clothing items, or cellular telephones. 

Walking around late at night, either alone or in a group, is discouraged. Travelers are advised to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to avoid unfamiliar areas with large crowds, such as public beaches. 

Do not take taxicabs. If it is absolutely necessary to take a taxicab, you should only do so if you are in groups of two or more and you have the ability to physically dominate the driver of the vehicle; do not allow unknown passengers in the vehicle with you.

Expatriate residents with more resources install perimeter walls topped with anti-climb fencing, window grilles, 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.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

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

Business Hours: Monday-Thursday: 8:00a.m.-5:30p.m., Friday: 8:00a.m.-12:00p.m. The Embassy is closed on both American and Equatoguinean holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: (+240) 333-095-741
Embassy Duty Cell: +240-222-516-008
Post One: +240-333-095-741 ext 4396
Post Two: (after hours) +240-333-095-741 ext 4370
Regional Security Officer: +240-333-095-741 ext 4377
Consular Officer: +240-333-095-741 ext 4375

Contact the U.S. Embassy at MalaboPublic@state.gov.

The American Citizen Services unit provides passport, notary, and other citizenship services by appointment only. We do not accept customers without an appointment except in cases of emergency. To make an ACS appointment (Tuesdays and Thursdays: 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m.), contact malaboconsular@state.gov. The after-hours, emergency tel: (+240) 222-516-008; this line is for emergencies involving American Citizens only. Please do not use this line for visa inquiries.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an OSAC Country Council in Equatorial Guinea, co-chaired by the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Officer and a rotating position co-chaired by a private sector partner. The OSAC Country Council meets on the last Friday of each month at 4pm.