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Republic of the Congo 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Congo, Republic of the; Africa > Congo, Republic of the > Brazzaville

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Brazzaville 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.

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

Please review OSAC’s Republic of the Congo-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The major risk of crime being committed against expatriates in the Republic of the Congo (RoC) is for economic gain. Several incidents of petty street-crime or burglaries against Americans have occurred. Criminal elements do not typically single out Americans but may view them as targets of opportunity depending on their dress, actions, behavior, and level of perceived vigilance. Petty crime often happens in public places (marketplaces, sports venues, popular bars/restaurants frequented by local-nationals) where there are large numbers of people.

The Marché Total and Bacongo neighborhoods of southern Brazzaville and the Moungali area of northern Brazzaville are high-crime areas. Recently, there has been an increase in youth gang activity in Brazzaville. The Embassy has documented a steady increase in violent crimes, often perpetrated by gangs of young males.

There is a spike in crime each year around the December holiday season.

The area of Centreville (downtown) is considered to be the safest part of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire and is where most expatriates live/work and where most major shops, restaurants, and hotels are located.

The RoC is primarily a cash-based economy. Euros and U.S. dollars can be exchanged at the airport and at some banks/hotels. ATMs are available but are unreliable. Only major hotels and two grocery stores (Park and Shop and Casino) accept the major international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. Local law prohibits exiting the country with the local currency, the Central African CFA (official symbol: XAF). The West African CFA is not accepted in RoC.

Areas of Concern

Pointe-Noire is affected by the same general concerns as Brazzaville with one major exception: the beaches. On the beaches, there are higher instances of petty/opportunistic-crime, often associated with violence, particularly after dark. The Embassy has designated one portion of the beaches in Pointe-Noire as permissible for Embassy employees to visit; it extends from the western limit of The Yes Club to the eastern limit, the VIP Escale Demex. The area is bordered by many higher-end hotels/restaurants that provide an increased sense of security. All other public beaches are off-limits to Embassy personnel. The Embassy recommends that you completely avoid all beaches at night.

Visitors should also pay close attention to events in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, as unrest in Kinshasa can often directly affect Brazzaville.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road infrastructure has improved in recent years. However, the physical road improvements have not been accompanied by campaigns to improve road-safety awareness, and fatal accident rates are increasing in areas with new highways. Extreme caution and defensive driving are urged on the highways. Nighttime driving on the country’s major highways should be avoided unless critically urgent.

Secondary roads outside of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire are often non-passable during the rainy seasons (September-December, February-May). Outside of Brazzaville, the RoC is replete with a varied mixture of rainforests and open savanna. Prior preparation and extreme caution must be exercised in these remote and potentially unforgiving areas. Ensure you have appropriate protective clothing, sufficient food, water, and medical supplies and a reliable form of communication (satellite phone, GPS) when visiting isolated areas.

Gasoline and diesel fuel are sometimes unavailable in the major cities and especially in themore isolated regions of the country.

Public Transportation Conditions

Travel by public transport (buses, local taxis) is strongly discouraged.

While there are no officially registered taxi companies, taxis in the major cities are required by municipal authorities to have an operating permit and to be painted a specific color (green-and-white in Brazzaville, blue-and-white in Pointe-Noire, red-and-white in Dolisie). Taxis are not metered so passengers should negotiate fares before using a taxi. It is customary for drivers in major cities to charge a supplemental fee to/from airports. Travelers using taxis should keep small denomination bills. Passengers should take note of the vehicle registration in case of any incidents or issues with taxi operators. Taxis do not undergo routine inspections and vary significantly in their state of disrepair. Always wear a seat belt and apply the vehicle’s door locks for added safety. Avoid using a telephone with the window down and place your personal hand-baggage between your legs for better protection. Although taxis are a convenient and relatively safe alternative for transportation in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the Embassy does not endorse the use of any local taxi operators.

The Embassy does not prohibit staff from using the train “La Gazelle,” which travels from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire with various stops along the way. A one-way trip usually takes approximately 15 hours, although this can vary significantly. Derailments are not uncommon.  

The commercial ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa may close with minimal notice. The port closes at 1600 hours and is open until 1200 on Sundays and holidays. A valid visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is required to cross the Congo River. Likewise, a visa for the Republic of the Congo is required when arriving in Brazzaville by boat.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Brazzaville’s Maya-Maya International Airport (BZV) received a new runway in 2010 and a new terminal in 2013.

The Embassy utilizes the following airlines for intra-Congo travel on a regular basis: ECAir (not operational due to financial issues), TAC, Equaflight and the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRAZZAVILLE 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

Although there have been no terrorist attacks in the RoC, Cameroon continues to experience attacks by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, particularly in the north.

The most important in-country area of concern relates to armed-militias operating in the Pool region and eastern parts of the neighboring Bouenza region.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

The RoC held highly contentious presidential elections in March 2016 and legislative elections are expected to be held before July 2017. Travelers should monitor the Department of State’s travel page for developments.

Civil Unrest

After the announcement of a controversial referendum on modifying the country’s Constitution, large-scale violence broke out in October 2015 when security forces prevented opposition supporters from attending rallies in Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville. The bulk of the violence was concentrated in the southwest neighborhoods of Brazzaville and in Pointe-Noire and Dolisie. The civil unrest paralyzed the affected portions of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire for two days and resulted in about 20 deaths in Pointe-Noire, about 20 reported deaths in Brazzaville, and hundreds of injuries and arrests.

The atmosphere in the RoC, already tense since the referendum on Constitutional reform in October 2015 and presidential elections in March 2016, grew worse on April 4, 2016, when there was an attack on Brazzaville that the government blamed on the Ninjas, a civil-war era militia. Government security forces launched an armed response in the Pool region, a heavily forested area near Brazzaville that is home to Frederic Bintsamou (‘Pastor Ntumi’), the mystical leader of the Ninjas. There continues to be a low-intensity security operation in the area with numerous attacks on civilian and military targets, threatening key roads and rail links to the vital economic center of Pointe-Noire. Travel to/through the Pool region is prohibited for U.S. Embassy personnel, and the Embassy strongly discourages U.S. citizens to avoid travel in this part of the country per a Security Message for U.S. Citizens.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Clashes between local-nationals and West African immigrants and shopkeepers occur from time-to-time, often sparked during periods of political uncertainty As far as the RoC domestic population is concerned, although strong ethnic fault-lines exist (mainly along a North/South divide) ethnic violence has not surfaced in recent years.

Post-specific Concerns

Critical Infrastructure

The RoC is not considered to conform to Western standards for workplace health, safety, security, and environmental issues. A primary example is observed with engineering and construction throughout RoC with few safety features on construction sites, other than those under the control of Western companies.

Cell phones and the Internet are private but subject to direct government control and monitoring. Internet access is extremely expensive and tends to be very slow, often affected by technical glitches and regular shutdowns. Nationwide Internet and SMS services were entirely shut-down by the government for a 10-day period during Constitutional referendum-related civil unrest in October 2015, and all communications were cut off during the presidential election in March 2016.

Economic Concerns

There is an abundance of pirated merchandise for sale, readily available from street vendors.

Personal Identity Concerns

Members of the LGBT community face heavy stigmatization.

Police Response  

The RoC security services, including the Army (Forces Armees Congolaises), National Police (controlled by the Ministry of the Interior), and Gendarmerie (a police force under the control of the Ministry of Defense), are highly visible on a day-to-day basis across Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. There are regular reports of law enforcement officers using excessive force and occasionally soliciting bribes and engaging in criminal activity. Police resources are limited, and response to emergency calls is often slow or non-existent.

Carry some form of formal identification. The Embassy recommends that travelers carry an authorized copy of their U.S. passport and Congolese visa rather than the originals.

Congolese law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely marked clearly. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.” The law also prohibits the exports of artifacts and other items of historical significance.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

It is relatively common for police to stop foreigners and accuse them of minor infractions (which may or may not be valid). Police typically do not want to write a ticket but rather request the person to pay a fine (juice) on the spot. The U.S. Embassy does not encourage anyone to pay fines.

The detention of U.S. citizens is rare, and the police have allowed U.S. citizens to contact the Embassy in the few instances of the arrest of an American. If you are arrested or detained, you have the right to request that Congolese authorities alert the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to use whatever means of communication available to notify the U.S. Embassy of your situation. One should not expect to receive preferential treatment or to expect that the same array of legal rights accorded one under the U.S. judicial system are necessarily applicable in Congo.

Crime Victim Assistance

The local emergency number is 118. 

U.S. citizens who are victims of a crime should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy Consular Section at +242-06-612-2000 or the Embassy duty officer after business hours at +242 05 526 3533. If your passport is stolen, the Embassy can help you replace it. When reporting a crime to the police, you should ask for an official written police report (CFA 15,000 charge) For violent crimes, the Embassy can help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members/friends, and help them send you money. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and provide you with a list of local attorneys, if needed.

Medical Emergencies

Health facilities are very limited and are considered adequate only for stabilization and emergency care. Hospitals in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire suffer from inadequate facilities, chronic underfunding, outdated equipment, and shortages of supplies/medications. All facilities require a cash deposit (dependent on the type of medical condition) before admittance and forbid medical release until all accrued charges are paid. There is a shortage of physicians and other qualified medical personnel. Some hospitals have ambulance services, but these are limited, unreliable, and require an on-scene cash payment. Psychiatric services and medications are very limited. Travelers must carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

CHU (Centre Hospitalier et universitaire) ICU unit 13, Avenue Marechal Lyautey

Dr. Fabrice Ottiobanda and Dr. Peggy Mawandza

Tel: 06-610-8512/04-404-7270 Tel : 06-690-9302

Clinic Pasteur, Djambala Street #88, close to Moungali roundabout

Dr. Landry Soussoumian (E.R.) and Dr. Deen Adebo (family practice)  

Receptionist Tel: 06-990-63-77

Netcare, Avenue Marechal Lyautey front university hospital

Administrator Tel: 06-679-5911

Military camp 15 aout (trauma hospital)

Switchboard:  +43 1 33 1100

SOS Air Rescue Africa

Tel: 00-27-800-127-600 OR 00-27-11-541-1350, OR 00-27-11-541-1000

 

AMREF “Flying Doctors of East Africa” (24 hours Emergency Control Center at Wilson Airport/Nairobi)

Tel: 00-254-20-315454, OR 00-254-20-315455, OR 00-254-20-60009 OR 00-254-20-602492, OR 00-254-20-600602, OR 00-254-20-600552 OR 00-254-20-600833, OR 00-254-20-600868

Mobile Phone: 00-254-733-628-422, OR 00-254-733-639-088, OR 00-254-722-314-239

Satellite Phone: 00-873-762315580

Radio: HF 9116 kHz OR 5796 kHz LSB

Call Sign: “Foundation Control”

Insurance Guidance

Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated to where adequate medical attention is available. Such medevac services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. Travelers should make sure their health insurance covers them while overseas and should strongly consider purchasing supplemental insurance that includes medical evacuation.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Mosquito-borne illnesses (malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya) are a major problem, and prevention of bites and proper immunizations are important. Use mosquito repellents containing at least 20% DEET or picaridin and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets if possible. There are extremely high malaria transmission rates throughout the year, and malaria chemoprophylaxis is recommended for even short stays in large cities. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in RoC or for up to one year after returning home, seek prompt medical attention. Tell the physician you have traveled into a malarial area and what antimalarial medication you have been taking.

Diarrheal diseases are prevalent and may be contracted even in luxury hotels in major cities. Follow scrupulous hygiene and safe food preparation. Wash hands thoroughly before eating, preparing food, and after use of sanitation facilities. Be very careful with food (especially raw vegetables and leafy salads) and water, including ice. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”

Be up-to-date on all childhood vaccinations. In addition, hepatitis A, typhoid, and rabies are common; all travelers should be immunized. Bites and scratches from dogs, bats, and other animals should be immediately washed with soap/water and evaluated to determine if further rabies immunization is warranted.

African trypanosomiasis is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. Wear light-colored (not blue, which attracts tsetse flies), heavyweight clothing.

Loiasis, a filarial infection transmitted by large tabanid flies (Deer or Mango Fly), is highly endemic in forested areas.

Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern.

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Embassy has an OSAC Country Council. The Regional Security Officer (RSO) is the main points of contact for meetings. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you would like to be put in touch with the RSO. You can also email the directly at Brazzaville OSAC Country Council directly. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The Embassy is located in Brazzaville on Denis Sassou N’Guesso Boulevard (formerly known as Maya-Maya Boulevard) and is on the same road as the airport.

Hours of operation are Mon-Thurs, 0730-1700, and Fri, 0730-1230.

Embassy Contact Numbers

The Embassy’s main number is +242 06 612 2000.
U.S. citizens needing assistance outside of business hours should contact the Embassy duty officer at +242 05 526 3533.
Website: https://cg.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in RoC 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

Republic of the Congo Country Information Sheet