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Angola 2015 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Angola; Africa > Angola > Luanda

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Angola, the seventh largest country in Africa, is approximately twice the size of Texas. The country’s geography is marked by a diverse collection of savannahs, forests, plains, jungles, mountains, and desert. 

Crime Rating: Critical

Crime Threats

According to official police statistics, the number of serious violent and non-violent crimes has decreased slightly in 2014. The official explanation for this positive development is improved and increased policing, including targeted operations against known criminals and criminal gangs. Nevertheless, criminality remains a serious issue, and Luanda especially suffers from serious criminal dangers.

The primary criminal threat to the expatriate community in Luanda remains robbery. Assaults and carjackings, sometimes escalating to homicide, have been recorded throughout Luanda. Violence is more common after dark, though care should be taken to avoid becoming a victim at all times. 

Areas of Concern

No areas of Luanda are off-limits to U.S. Embassy personnel, though staff traveling outside of Luanda must inform the Regional Security Office before departing. Depending on their itinerary, satellite phones, dig out equipment, and/or emergency beacons might be provided.

U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from walking the “Serpentine” (Rua Nehru) area leading from the U.S. Embassy to the Marginal (Avenida 4 de Feveriero) area. Specifically, Rua Nehru between Rua Hourari Boumedienne and the traffic circle at the end of Rua Gamal Abdel Nasser is off-limits to Embassy personnel. Many expatriates and local nationals have been assaulted and robbed in this area. 

Certain areas of Angola, particularly in the southern provinces, continue to suffer from landmines and unexploded ordinance, but demining efforts have decreased the threat significantly. The Embassy urges travelers to use caution in the provinces of Benguela, Huila, Huambo, Bie, and Cuando Cubango, all of which have a higher number of landmines and unexploded ordinance than other areas of the country.

Americans in or planning to visit Angola’s far northern enclave province of Cabinda should be aware of threats to their safety outside of Cabinda City. In 2008 and 2009, armed groups specifically targeted and attacked expatriates; these armed attacks resulted in the rape, robbery, and murder of a small number of expatriates. Private sector representatives in the Cabinda area continue to report a heavy security presence by Angolan forces.

Do not take photographs of sites and installations of military or security interest, including government buildings, since this can result in fines and possibly arrest.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

The principal safety threat is vehicle accidents. Serious accidents in Luanda, where improved road conditions have led to increased traffic and driving speeds, are less common than in the provinces. Throughout Angola, the threat of traffic accidents, including those that result in injuries or fatalities, increased in 2014. This is a consequence of newer roads, inexperienced drivers, increased traffic, and continued abuse of alcohol while driving. As with crime, the government appears to be trying to improve this situation by deploying police and other state assets to enforce traffic laws and increase driver skillsets.

Traffic in Luanda is frequently gridlocked. During rush hour, road traffic can become nearly paralyzed for up to half an hour before inching forward and then stopping again. Very few intersections have functioning traffic signals, and those that do are sometimes ignored. The city streets are riddled with potholes, particularly outside of the central business district and off of main roads. Vendors and other pedestrians regularly dart in and out of traffic. These and other hazards complicate driving and make alertness and patience a necessity. 

Road conditions outside of Luanda are improving. Major routes, particular to the south, have been paved recently in many areas and feature gas stations and other roadside services. Primary roads are generally good between major cities. While some off road-type driving should be expected on any journey of significant distance, travel between major cities is manageable with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Travel on secondary roads, however, often requires additional equipment to manage unpaved and sometimes nearly impassable roads. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of Luanda after dark.

Public Transportation Conditions 

Use of public transportation is highly discouraged because of Embassy concerns about the quality of vehicle maintenance, safe driving practices, and petty crime aboard crowded buses/taxis.

Other Travel Conditions

Police checkpoints are often established to check sobriety and paperwork. Sometimes, officials will request a bribe from expatriate drivers. Drivers are encouraged to have all of their paperwork in order so that they can better resist such requests.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Angola held presidential elections, widely deemed credible by the international community, in 2012. Presidential elections are due again in 2017.

Political Violence Rating: Medium

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, FLEC) is the only known local terrorist group. Its precise composition and numbers are unknown. In January 2010, FLEC attacked a visiting Togolese national soccer team, killing three and injuring nine. FLEC characterized the killing of the Togolese as a mistake, stating their actual target had been the Angolan forces guarding the team. In December 2014, FLEC elements ambushed an Angolan army patrol, killing one solider and seizing munitions. These incidents, while small in overall numbers, have occurred with little or no warning. 

Regional terrorist threats, ranging from Boko Haram and AQIM to the northwest to al Shabaab to the northeast, have never demonstrated a presence in Angola. The government takes seriously the threat of terrorism, including the danger of attacks from transnational groups such as al-Qai’da. There are no known threats from such groups in Angola.

Terrorism Rating: Medium

Civil Unrest 

Demonstrations occur infrequently in Luanda. The Constitution and law protect freedom of speech and assembly, but security forces regularly impede demonstrations before they start. The law requires any group (including political parties) to notify the provincial government before any public demonstration takes place. The provincial government may request the group postpone or cancel the demonstration if it deems the demonstration to be disruptive to public peace or in conflict with another public event. While most authorized large public gatherings have a neutral or pro-government tone, opposition protests have sometimes taken place. All large gatherings and demonstrations are ordinarily accompanied by a large police presence, ostensibly for the security of all parties. When demonstrations take place and the provincial government deems it disruptive, the police response is usually swift and effective. Protestors have been arrested and detained for marching and gathering in public places without the consent of the provincial government. U.S. government facilities and U.S. private sector organizations have not typically been targeted by protestors. However, it is prudent for expatriates to avoid any large gatherings and be mindful of the possibility of violence surrounding demonstrations.

Civil unrest in 2014 was limited to isolated, small demonstrations with the exception of the teachers strike in Huila province from May to July that reportedly had over 1,000 demonstrators, including teachers, students, and family members.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Some parts of the country are vulnerable to flooding and fires.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns 

While Luanda is an increasingly modern city with consumer services ranging from upscale hotels to fast food outlets, rural development has lagged.

Angola continues to make great improvements to infrastructure. While development is moving forward rapidly in Luanda, such growth is challenged by ad hoc housing structures and an increasing population. 

Personnel Background Concerns

The government came under some scrutiny in December 2014 for its perceived heavy handedness in dealing with the presence of illegal aliens. This followed a Friday-afternoon round-up of foreigners, many of whom were in the country lawfully, in an immigration sweep to review documents and identify illegal immigrants. Visitors should be certain to carry valid identification and immigration documents at all times.

In late 2013, there were purported statements made by some members of the government that practitioners of Islam were not welcome in the country. The government later clarified that these statements were inaccurate, noting that certain religious groups lacked the required number of adherents to register as an officially recognized religious organization. Government action against illegal immigration is sometimes misconstrued as against Islam. However, the leader of the largest Muslim community in Luanda says that his community does not feel threatened by police actions and that Muslims in Angola are allowed to worship freely.

Drug-related Crimes

Traditional narco-violence is largely absent from Angola. However, many petty crimes are committed by criminals who are under the influence of drugs, usually marijuana or alcohol.

Kidnapping Threat

2014 saw an apparent increase in the number of robberies taking place following banking transactions. Although this method of robbery is not new, in 2014 several incidents were noted where businesspeople withdrew cash from a bank and were held up at gunpoint soon thereafter. In some cases, victims were kidnapped and forced to withdraw money from ATMs until their accounts were frozen or emptied. Victims are ordinarily released shortly after their abduction. 

No kidnappings for ransom (KFR) of expatriates were recorded in 2014, and KFR at large remains rare in Angola.

Police Response

Angola’s police continue to improve their capacities, though their service is still challenged by issues of corruption, resources, and training.

If questioned by local authorities, provide the certified copies of ID documents as proof of identity and citizenship. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can prepare certified copies of American passports at no charge for individuals who are registered with the Embassy. However, when traveling between provinces, police often require original identity documents and have reportedly detained expatriates for providing certified copies of originals.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police can be reached by telephone: 113 or 222-332-301; Fire: 115 or 222-323-333. Travelers are advised, however, that police are not always proactive or responsive to reports of crime or requests for assistance.

In the event of an emergency during business hours (7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Friday), U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy by calling (244) 222-641-000 to reach the Consular Section. In the event of an emergency outside of business hours, U.S. citizen should contact the U.S. Embassy by calling the Duty Officer through the afterhours emergency number: (244) 923 404 209; if the first afterhours contact number is not available, please call (244) 923- 640-154 or (244) 222 64 1112.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities and services in Angola do not always meet international standards. Adequate care for serious medical emergencies is limited to Luanda, where there are several well-staffed and equipped private clinics. Some of these facilities offer 24-hour service with a general practice physician and specialists on call.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

Clinica Girassol: 226-698-000
Sagrada Esperanca Clinic: 222-309-360/309-034
Medigroup Mutamba: 222-393-783/395-283
Alvalade Clinic: 222-323-540
Elf Aquitaine Clinic: 222-352-633/354-511 

For ambulance/nurse and for doctor in Luanda (Avenida Mortala Mohammed, Ilha de Luanda): 923-330-845
In Johannesburg, South Africa: +27-11-54-1100 (24 hours)

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

International SOS (www.internationalsos.com), which also runs an air evacuation service, provides the only reliable local ambulance service. SOS works on a fee-for-service or subscription basis. The SOS ambulance will transport to the clinic most appropriate for the patient's condition - 923-441-900.

Recommended Insurance Posture

Overseas medical insurance and evacuation insurance are essential for visitors not affiliated with a foreign embassy or major company in country.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Bottled water is available in hotels and restaurants and should be used at all times. Restaurants frequented by expatriates are generally safe, but visitors should take care and avoid purchasing food from street vendors or facilities with questionable sanitation.

The State Department Medical Office strongly recommends the use of malaria prophylaxes. Angola suffers from high rates of malaria, cholera, intestinal parasites, rabies, and a variety of contagious and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. 

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/angola.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors to Luanda should follow the same common sense security practices that they would in any large metropolitan area. Travel in groups when possible; avoid touring the city after dark—particularly on foot. Always lock car doors and keep windows rolled up, with packages stored out of sight. Never display anything that you are not willing to lose. Try to travel with at least one person capable of communicating in Portuguese. If you are faced with an emergency, contact the police or Embassy as soon as possible.

When in your hotel or residence, use all security devices, shut and lock (double lock, if possible) all doors when you are inside. If you have a "safe haven," sleep inside it with the doors locked. Do not investigate suspicious noises yourself; send your guard or call for help. Be alert when you depart and arrive your residence. Criminals will often observe and gather information on their target before acting. Use a peephole viewer before opening the door and/or gate. Do not leave valuable possessions or money lying around. Key control is very important. Keep keys secure and in a safe place. Use secure storage for your valuables and pack away expensive items when you go away. Lock the doors and remove keys to areas that you consider off-limits. Take great care in hiring domestic staff, guards, and drivers, and avoid temporary help whenever possible. You should always be notified before workers arrive. Put away valuables and do not allow them to be unsupervised at any time; limit their exposure to your property as much as possible. Exercise care regarding what you discuss and with whom. Remember that information is critical for a criminal.

American citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution when traveling outside of Cabinda City and to limit travel to essential business only.

Avoid confrontations with the police. Make sure you have all required documents with you, including passport (or a properly certified copy).To avoid the risk of theft or confiscation of original documents, U.S. citizens are encouraged to keep their passports in a secure place and carry a certified copy of their passport and visa/immigration document with them at all times.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Embassy Rua Houari Boumedienne #32 Luanda, Angola C.P. 6468
Business hours: 08:00 – 17:00 Mon – Thur; 0800 – 1200 Friday.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Tel: +244-222-64-1000 +244-222-44-5481 +244-222-44-7028 +244-222-44-6224 Fax: +244-222-64-1232
Website: http://angola.usembassy.gov/

OSAC Country Council Information

The Angola OSAC Country Council is active and meets regularly to exchange security information and discuss relevant criminal trends. Membership is open to any American-owned, not-for-profit organization, or enterprise incorporated in the U.S. as well as organizations that employ Americans and foreign missions. For further information on membership please contact the Angola OSAC co-chair at RSOLuanda@state.gov. Point of contact for this report is Regional Security Officer Nick Pietrowicz, pietrowiczn2@state.gov. To reach the OSAC Africa Team, please email OSACAF@state.gov.