Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Bangui 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 BANGUI AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Central African Republic-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Reliable official statistics on crime are not available in the Central African Republic (CAR). Embassy Bangui relies on reporting by the UN, other embassies/diplomatic missions, and NGOs to obtain limited statistics/reports of crimes.
Crime can be directly attributed to continued political instability. When coupled with poor infrastructure, ethnic/religious conflict, and a less than effective central government, there are few options for the country’s youth. Many individuals turn to militias and rebel groups to earn a living, often illegally.
Within Bangui, crimes against foreigners occur periodically. Neighborhoods where government leaders, business professionals, NGOs, and foreign diplomats, while to some degree safer because of the increased security presence, are still susceptible to being targeted by criminals. Home/compound invasions occur most often where security is the weakest, where poor exterior lighting exists, and/or where there is poor access control. Generally, criminals do not kill their victims, but the threat of force or the use of force is not uncommon. Attempts to resist criminals are often met with violence.
Affluent CAR citizens are reportedly the targets of crimes (home invasions, robberies, aggravated batteries). They are seen as the softest target with the likelihood of the least ramification against criminals.
Outside the capital, NGO staff members and other expatriates are regularly the victims of crimes (armed robbery, aggravated battery, homicide). Along the main supply route from Cameroon to Bangui, criminal activity, especially banditry, is constant.
Other Areas of Concern
During the dry season, there is more movement and thus more conflict between farmers (traditionally animist or Christian) and herders (traditionally Muslim). Areas in which criminal activity is prevalent change regularly and sometimes quickly.
All up-country travel by Embassy Bangui personnel must be approved by the RSO. Generally, such travel is coordinated with a protective team from the Embassy. While not directly targeted, personnel can find themselves in the wrong place/time.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions in CAR in general are poor. Virtually all roads are unpaved, with almost no maintenance. During the rainy season, most roads outside central Bangui become impassable due to flooding and the lack of drainage. Road travel times are often much longer than what one would expect due to the poor conditions of roads, disabled vehicles along the road, unpredictable traffic (oncoming traffic), and checkpoints. Many roads are with bandits, including banditry against UN convoys. Because of these conditions, it is advisable to travel only during the day and with other travelers. At night, it is exceptionally difficult to see other vehicles that may not have headlights or pedestrians. Traveling at night is generally prohibited for U. S. Embassy personnel. In addition, vehicles should carry food, water, a first aid kit, satellite communications, and tools to repair damaged vehicles or to extricate vehicles that become stuck. Within Bangui, it is difficult to find reliable mechanics and spare parts for automobile repairs. Outside of Bangui, it is virtually impossible.
Motorcyclists often disregard the rules of the road and place themselves/passengers in danger. Mini-buses and taxis are also common hazard. Often, all forms of transportation weave in/out of traffic, make frequent and unannounced stops, are overloaded, and rarely in good working order.
Traffic controls and street lights are limited in Bangui and non-existent in the rest of CAR. Traffic police may be found at busy intersections in Bangui but are poorly trained and are often ineffective. Many drivers ignore traffic laws and any attempt to enforce them. Traffic accidents are common, especially at intersections where traffic controls do not exist. Drivers should pay extra attention when entering intersections and check all sides of the vehicle, as motorcycles are unpredictable and may pass on either side of the vehicle.
Police and gendarmerie presence on roads outside of major towns is almost non-existent. Security checkpoints are occasionally established and can occur at any time. Diplomatic, UN, and NGO drivers may be stopped and harassed. There are reports that security officials at checkpoints have appeared intoxicated and that they sometimes demand payment (food, money) to pass.
It is preferable to park inside a compound where there is a security presence.
Public Transportation Conditions
There are limited options for public transportation. The use of mini-buses and motorcycles is prohibited for Embassy personnel. Avoid public transportation if possible due to the mechanical conditions of the vehicles, the disregard for traffic laws by the drivers, and the target you present when aboard such a conveyance.
The airport in Bangui does not operate after dark. There are insufficient landing/runway lights. In the dry season, dust/smoke from nearby fires may obscure the runway, cancelling flights.
Other Travel Conditions
Embassy personnel are generally restricted from traveling on the Oubangui River by boat.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BANGUI 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
Ineffective border controls may allow criminal and terrorist groups to seek temporary refuge in CAR, but there is no evidence that terrorists train or regularly operate in CAR.
Harassment of foreign nationals is common but is focused primarily on African nationals and employees of UN, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations working in contested areas. Harassment of UN staff is largely in relation to perceived effectiveness of operations and perceived favoring of one group over another. Non-CAR African nationals and members of NGOs are often seen as a victim for a crime of opportunity.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BANGUI AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
The CAR government is able, at best, to project power within the immediate area of Bangui.
Demonstrations and protests occur regularly. The demonstrations can escalate to violence quickly; rival factions can become aggressive toward one another and against the police. Police often respond in kind, exacerbating already tense situations. Visitors are cautioned to avoid large crowds, public gatherings, or demonstrations. These scenarios have the potential of becoming unruly, which can result in physical injury/death. Protests are not usually held in front of the U.S. Embassy or other diplomatic facilities, though they are sometimes held at the UN headquarters.
Inter and intra-ethnic violence is prevalent. Religious violence, which is often Muslim versus Christian, is a regular occurrence. Feeding this violence is a long tradition of militia groups rebelling against the government. Although the various groups have either been a party to a peace process or have expressed an interest in peace, violence by militias continues.
There are two major environmental hazards:
- During the rainy season, flooding can close roadways and make areas impassable for lengthy periods.
- Indiscriminate burning to clear land and to dispose of trash creates smoke to a level that can obscure airport runways around the country. This effectively closes air transportation.
Infrastructure is woefully underdeveloped. Roads are in disrepair. Bridges are washed out. Airports lack current technology.
Personal Identity Concerns
Cultural/religious practices may encourage discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Kidnappings for ransom do occur by militias, mainly outside of Bangui. There is little law enforcement can do to aid kidnap victims.
The CAR National Police and gendarmerie suffer from limited resources, a lack of training, illiteracy, and weak command/control that make basic policing services a challenge. Law enforcement and security services are irregularly paid, which encourages corruption and predation on civilians for a source of income.
There have been reports that some law enforcement officers are perpetrators of crimes. They use their weapons and uniforms in the commission of crimes, further weakening confidence in law enforcement.
The further one gets from Bangui, the more loosely laws are enforced and more subjectivity applied.
Avoid taking photos of government buildings or employees (police, military). Photos, in general, are not permitted around government facilities. Should you find yourself being detained because of photos, do not argue. It is best to agree and delete all photos. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Bribes of even a few dollars can make serious allegations disappear.
Law enforcement officers routinely make arbitrary arrests based on suspicion rather than actual evidence. The legal system is rudimentary and ineffective with regard to the provision of due process. There are few practicing attorneys in the country, especially outside Bangui.
There are no routine consular services, including American Citizen Services or passport services, available at Embassy Bangui.
Crime Victim Assistance
CAR law enforcement response to requests for assistance by the public is unpredictable. It should not be relied upon for security or medical emergencies requiring immediate attention.
The two primary law enforcement groups are the National Police and the Gendarmerie. Both groups are focused primarily in the larger towns and cities.
Medical care is extremely limited, particularly outside of Bangui. There are regional UN hospitals that may provide some level of care but not at the standard one would expect in a developed nation. There are few ambulance services, and none meet international standards. Primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training, supplies and equipment, and instances of incorrect and improper treatment regularly occur.
If you use prescription medication, you should ensure you have sufficient supplies to last you during your stay. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.” Most pharmacies have limited stocks of prescription drugs. Additionally, drugs in stock at local pharmacies may be counterfeit or of unknown origin.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Providers are limited. There has been some success with working with the French Embassy Medical Officer. His contact information is 7221 3530.
Embassy Bangui strongly recommends that travelers purchase overseas medical insurance that includes air ambulance/medical evacuation coverage before visiting CAR.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
In addition to the transportation problem, smoke aggravates respiratory conditions and pollutes the air.
Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended.
All travelers should also have an updated vaccination card including evidence of current yellow fever vaccination.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for CAR.
OSAC Country Council Information
OSAC Bangui was established in November 2015 and meets on a quarterly basis. The RSO serves as the main point of contact for meetings. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you would like to be put in touch with the RSO.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenue David Dacko, Bangui, Central African Republic
The Embassy is open Mon-Thurs 0730-1700 and Fri 0730-1130.
Embassy Contact Numbers
Switchboard: +236 2161 0200
IVG code 664 ext. 3302 (TOC)
Afterhours: +236 7244 1611 (TOC Landline)
+236 7579 6050 (TOC Cell)
1 301 985 8613 (U.S. TOC Landline)
Sat Phone: 8816 7633 6069 (TOC)
RSO: 1 202 340 2643 (US Cell)
+236 7542 3229 (Local Cell)
ARSO: 1 202 286 3352 (U.S. Cell)
+236 7528 3075 (Local Cell)
U.S. citizens traveling in CAR 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.
Central African Republic Country Information Sheet