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Gabon 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Gabon; Africa > Gabon > Libreville


Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

U.S. Embassy Libreville does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided. Gabon is a francophone country and very few people speak English.

 

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIBREVILLE AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

 

Please review OSAC’s Gabon-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

 

Libreville and Port Gentil account for most of Gabon’s 1.75 million population and are home to the country’s most affluent citizens.

 

Crime Threats

 

Crime is more common in Libreville and Port Gentil than in rural areas. The majority of crimes against foreigners are non-violent confrontations and are most often crimes of opportunity (muggings, theft of unattended possessions, pickpocketing), though there have been some reports of foreigners being robbed at machete-point. The items stolen most frequently tend to be cash and electronics, often cellular phones.

 

Some examples of crimes in Libreville include:

  • In 2016, an American had her cellphone snatched from her hands while taking a photo on the beach.
  • In 2016, an American was pickpocketed near a free beach concert.
  • In 2016, the Embassy received several reports of foreigners being robbed in their vehicles. Thieves took advantage of stopped traffic, traffic control devices (stop signs/lights), or drivers who were slowing for speed bumps, to open an unlocked door of a car and steal items from inside.
  • In 2015, an American looking to buy coconut water was robbed on the beach after-dark.

 

An example of crime in Port Gentil include:

  • In 2016, the Embassy received several reports of taxis being stolen and used to pick up wealthy club-goers. Upon entering the taxi the club-goers were taken to a secluded area and robbed.

     

    Foreigners are seldom harmed when they comply with the perpetrator’s demands, but criminals will resort to force, if necessary, in order to carry out a robbery. Gangs and other groups are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims.

     

    Visitors should be particularly aware of their surroundings in congested urban areas, such as open-air markets or on the beach. While these areas are certainly more dangerous at night, daytime incidents have also been reported. Being in a crowded area does not ensure one’s security. Some victims report being robbed in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses.

     

    Mob justice exists and suspects can find themselves pursued and beaten by bystanders.

     

    Hotel rooms have been prime targets for theft, though the very best hotels in Libreville have policies in place to discourage employee theft and are quick to identify and remove perpetrators. Many hotels have basic security standards in place (24-hour guards, locking doors, and safes).

     

    Residential burglaries continue to be a problem in Libreville and Port Gentil. Burglaries and home invasions occur more frequently than in the past. Embassy Libreville has received numerous reports of residential break-ins, including several homes of Americans. Gangs, armed with knives or firearms, target homes they suspect contain cash/valuables. While most perpetrators prefer to strike while residents are away, criminals have entered residences while the occupants are asleep.

     

    Violent crime directed toward expatriates is infrequent.

     

    Unsophisticated scams are fairly common.

  • Since mid-2015, an individual pretending to have a medical emergency has been spotted by Embassy employees on at least four occasions. This individual lies down on the street/sidewalk and has an inhaler near-by. When passers-by stop to render aid, he tells them that he is in need of money for a required weekly injection.
  • Other scams include taking money for items and then failing to deliver the item purchased. The Embassy has received two complaints since mind-2015 of failure to deliver items that were paid for – in one case, it was wooden African statues and in the other it was a vehicle. Americans should only pay for items that they have seen and can take possession of immediately.
  • Americans have paid roadside vendors to top-up their cellphone minutes and then not received the minutes. Top-ups should be through established vendors.

 

Gabon’s established grocery stores, hotels, and high-end restaurants have started taking credit/debit cards only since 2016, but there are frequent connectivity problems, and visitors should be prepared to pay cash even if an establishment advertises that it takes credit. When contemplating a large purchase, visitors should be prepared to visit several ATMs, possibly over the course of several days. ATMs do not always have cash available for withdrawal.

 

Other Areas of Concern

 

Caution should be taken when visiting popular Libreville night spots.

 

Travelers should consult the appropriate State Department online resources prior to visiting Gabon’s neighbors in the Central African region.

 

Transportation-Safety Situation

 

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

The quality of roads throughout Gabon varies. In Libreville and Port Gentil, the major roads are paved but are in poor condition. Road improvement projects have largely stalled due to budget difficulties. Minor roads within Libreville and Port Gentil and many roads outside of large cities are nothing more than dirt tracks, and conditions vary depending on rainfall. Interior roads are often winding, posing additional hazards.

 

Outside of the cities, many roads are inadequately maintained and become significantly more hazardous during the rainy season. Gabon has a system of highways that lead to the major metropolitan areas. Once travelers leave these major arteries, a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. It can be difficult to locate compatible spare tires outside of major cities; with tire blowouts a problem on poor roads, spare tires are recommended. Visitors should consider a spare tire or two, jack/tire iron, tire plug kit, and an air compressor as the minimum equipment when traveling outside of the major cities. Tow straps, medical supplies/food/water, and cell/satellite phone are recommended for trips. Visitors should avoid driving at night outside of Libreville and in areas with low population density. Rural and suburban areas alike are poorly illuminated and pose additional safety hazards due to pedestrians and animals crossing the road. The availability of gas and diesel at a destination should be considered before embarking.

 

Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers to visitors. Visitors should exercise extreme caution as both a driver and a pedestrian, as enforcement is virtually non-existent. Pedestrians rarely have the right-of-way. Road hazards include poor street lighting, failure by drivers to obey traffic signals, a lack of marked pedestrian crossings, livestock/animals on roadways, slow moving vehicles, large trucks, inebriated drivers, poorly maintained roads, and erratic stopping by taxis/mini-buses. Many local vehicles are not well maintained and some lack headlights. Large trucks sometimes park on the sides of roads without using emergency flashers or warning signs.

 

Visitors should always drive defensively. When driving or as a passenger in a taxi, your belongings should be kept out of plain view. While stopped in traffic, drivers should scan rearview mirrors to identify potential trouble. If idling at a stop light or sign, drivers should leave adequate maneuver room between vehicles to allow for a hasty departure if necessary. Drivers are cautioned to park only in well-illuminated areas, preferably in parking lots with a security guard.

 

Visitors can anticipate police checkpoints with a loose purpose of ensuring that vehicles and drivers are carrying the necessary paperwork. The reality is that these checkpoints are too often used by police or security forces to extort small amounts of money from drivers/passengers.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

 

Visitors should strongly consider other transportation options over a minibus or unregulated taxi. Every year, there are a number of serious and fatal accidents involving minibuses and taxis. Many of them lack proper safety equipment (seat belts, headlights), are overcrowded, and the drivers may be unlicensed. Drivers are often reckless, making frequent stops to pick up passengers and speeding from one stop to the next. For visitors who do take taxis, travelers are encouraged to hire those called by a hotel and if hailing one on the street to specify “Course” (exclusive use/not shared) to the driver.

 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

 

Travel by air within Gabon can be frustrating. Planes are often delayed and canceled, sometimes for days. Travelers are advised to pack a carry-on with required medicines, important documents, and valuables. Baggage frequently goes missing and may or may not ever be found. Local airlines are not required to pay restitution for lost bags.

 

Terrorism Threat

 

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIBREVILLE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

 

Gabon suffers from extremely porous borders. There exists the potential for trafficking routes to be used to facilitate terrorism.

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

 

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIBREVILLE AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

 

In 2017, Gabon is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections. These elections could be contentious given the opposition’s claim that the President stole the election.

 

Civil Unrest

 

There was widespread rioting and looting following the 2016 presidential elections. Libreville, Oyem, Port Gentil, and Lambarene experienced unrest due to election results. City streets in Libreville were impassable due to protestor-erected barricades of burning vehicles, tires, and debris. International flights had to re-fuel elsewhere, as fuel trucks were unable to service the airport. Some airlines canceled flights into Libreville. Grocery stores and businesses were burned and looted in the neighborhoods of Hauts de GueGue, Charbonnages, Cocotiers, Nkembo, Sotega, Venez Voir, Akebes, Glass, Awendje, Lalala, Beau Sejour, IAI, and the area known as the PKs (along the N1). Parts of Parliament were burned, over 1,000 people were reportedly arrested, and the government declared that three people died in post-election unrest, though the opposition claimed that the number was higher. Internet and SMS were cut completely in the days immediately following the election unrest. After a week with no Internet and SMS, it was turned back on from 0600-1800 each day. Full Internet connectivity was restored one month after the unrest.

 

Strikes and union actions are common and occur frequently. In 2016, Gabon faced protests by teachers, parents, and students over salaries, payments, class sizes, facilities, and scholarships. Judges, oil workers, and retirees have protested lack of payments for their salaries and pensions. Americans should avoid large crowds, political gatherings, and demonstrations. Political gatherings and demonstrations have the potential to turn violent; police and security forces typically disperse crowds using tear gas or other force.

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Environmental Hazards

 

During the rainy season (September-May), torrential downpours can cause severe damage to neighborhoods, dirt roads, and bridges.

  • In 2016, Libreville experienced bad flooding, leading to protests by those affected in the Angondje neighborhood.

 

Economic Concerns

 

Trafficking in wildlife and natural resources is a problem for local security forces and at times is carried out by well-armed foreigners.

 

Privacy Concerns

 

A 2016 article by France’s Journal du Dimanche claimed that Gabonese intelligence services had wiretapped EU election observers who were in Gabon for the 2016 presidential elections.

 

Drug-related Crimes

 

Gabon enforces its drug laws, and foreigners found in possession of illegal drugs should expect to be prosecuted and punished, including imprisonment. Marijuana is illegal in Gabon.

 

Police Response

 

The police and security forces often lack communications equipment, weapons, ammunition, and vehicles, all of which limits their ability to respond to routine and emergency calls. Many gendarmes and police stations have one vehicle and often rely on personal cellular phones to coordinate any police response. Police response is slow, and investigations are often never opened. Prosecutions are very slow, if they are even initiated.

 

There are frequent allegations of police corruption.

 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

 

Incidents of police or security force harassment or detention of foreigners are rare but do occur. U.S. citizens who become victims of police harassment should be polite and cooperative. U.S. citizens detained by police should ask that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately.

 

Crime Victim Assistance

 

In the event of an emergency, the local police are typically the first point of contact.

Police Libreville: +241.01.73.90.00.

Police Port Gentil: +241.07.29.63.89.

 

The U.S. Embassy Libreville American Citizens Services (ACS) Officer may be reached at +241.01.45.71.00. In the event of an after-hours emergency involving an American citizen, callers should dial +241.01.45.71.00 and request the duty officer.

 

Police/Security Agencies

 

The Gendarmerie, a branch of the Ministry of Defense, is the agency principally in charge of law enforcement.

The National Police are responsible for traffic enforcement and security at major events.

The Police Judiciare are responsible for conducting criminal investigations directly related to prosecution.

 

Medical Emergencies

 

There is limited adequate medical care. Traffic and poor road conditions make for unpredictable travel times to reach a hospital. Availability of doctors and access to hospital facilities is unreliable, medical equipment does not function or lacks trained operators, medicines and surgical tools may not be available, and sanitary conditions may be sub-standard. Emergency responders and medical personnel likely do not speak English.

 

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

 

Libreville

Polyclinique Chambrier:

Address: Montagne Sainte, B.P. 2230 Libreville

Tel: 241-01-76-14-68

La Polyclinique EL-Rapha

Address: Les Trois Quartiers B.P. 256 Libreville

Tel: 241-07-98-66-60 or 06-82-78-51

CHU Angondje Hospital

Address: Okala/Angondje

Tel: 241-01-45-90-00

Port Gentil

CHR Port Gentil (Govt Hospital)

Tel: 241-01-77-37-69

Clinique Mandji

Tel: 241-01-55-35-56

 

Available Air Ambulance Services

 

African Medicale Assistance : +(241) 07 41 11 11

 

Insurance Guidance

 

Medical insurance may not cover any procedures. You should be prepared to pay up to $400 cash in local currency for emergency services.

 

Travelers are advised to have medical evacuation insurance. In the event of a traumatic injury or medical emergency, temporary stabilization and medical evacuation, if possible, should be considered.

 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

 

A yellow-fever vaccination is required to enter Gabon by air. Malaria and serious infectious tropical diseases are endemic.

 

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

 

OSAC Country Council Information

 

The Embassy does not have an OSAC Country Council. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team to if you would like to be put in touch with the Regional Security Officer.

 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

 

The Embassy is located in the Sabliere neighborhood of Libreville. The U.S Embassy is across the street from the Hotel Onomo.

 

The Consular Section is open Tues, Wed, and Fri from 0830-1200. For an emergency appointment, contact the Embassy and request the American Citizen Services (ACS) Officer. After-hours, request the Duty Officer.

 

Embassy Contact Numbers

 

Embassy Operator: Phone: +241.01.45.71.00

Website: http://libreville.usembassy.gov/

 

Embassy Guidance

 

U.S. citizens traveling in Gabon 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

 

Gabon Country Information Sheet