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Cote d’Ivoire 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Cote d'Ivoire; Africa > Cote d'Ivoire > Abidjan; Africa > Cote d'Ivoire > Yamoussoukro

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Abidjan 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 ABIDJAN AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Cote d'Ivoire-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Crime (violent crime, carjackings, armed residential/street robberies, car theft) is prevalent. The majority of crimes against foreigners are non-violent crimes of opportunity (muggings, pickpocketing, theft of unattended possessions). Hotel rooms are prime targets for theft. Western victims of crime are seldom harmed when they comply with the criminal’s demands; resisting an armed assailant risks escalating an economically-motivated crime to a violent encounter.

Weapons are readily available and circulate freely throughout the country. There continue to be numerous incidents of highway banditry and other attacks in the countryside. During the holiday season, there is typically an increase in violent and opportunistic crimes.

In 2015, Abidjan experienced an uptick in crimes of opportunity committed by small groups of young men called microbes. The microbes usually operate in the more densely populated neighborhoods, roughing up pedestrians and stealing valuables.

Popular sports and soccer matches often present the possibility of petty crime or rioting.

Cybersecurity Issues

Financial and Internet-based scams are proliferating; the country has developed a reputation in West Africa for cybercrime. Scams typically target Internet users in developed Francophone countries but occasionally go after Anglophone users as well. One fraud involved the sale/transport of gold dust from West African countries. Other scams involve job offers, business ventures, or a face-to-face meeting with someone with whom the victim has been in correspondence.

Areas of Concern

Visitors should avoid travel to the Abidjan neighborhoods of Yopougon, Abobo, the Banco Forest, Adjame, and Koumassi except for specific business purposes during daylight hours. Avoid walking across the Charles de Gaulle and the Houphouet Boigny bridges connecting the Plateau and Treichville neighborhoods.

Any travel outside of Abidjan should be well planned and coordinated with family, friends, or colleagues. The U.S. Embassy generally does not restrict travel for its personnel within Grand-Bassam, Assinie, Yamoussoukro, and Bouake, except when specific threat information is received. Travel to the northern and western border areas presents some risks due to banditry along the roadways. Travelers should attempt to limit visit by road to these areas and should not utilize public transportation.

The security situation along the borders with Liberia and Ghana remains problematic, with occasional skirmishes between armed groups. The porous border areas permit the uncontrolled circulation of weapons and individuals.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Conditions

Road safety is a major concern. Impatient drivers frequently disregard traffic laws and drive too fast for road conditions. Taxi and minibus drivers are particularly aggressive, and traffic accidents occur frequently. The Ivorian government has invested in improving traffic conditions within Abidjan by building an additional toll bridge and new thoroughfares connecting growing residential areas. However, roads outside of Abidjan suffer from years of neglect and little maintenance. However, there still exist large intersections with no or non-working traffic lights and little predictable organization to the flow of traffic. Infrastructure improvement projects or temporary road closures often have a severe impact on traffic, particularly in Abidjan.

Outside of Abidjan, road conditions vary from excellent to poor. Stretches of well-paved highway can, without warning, be interrupted by large potholes and washed-out or flooded segments. While sizable potholes are common within and outside of Abidjan, heavy rains often wash out heavily-trafficked dirt roads in outlying areas. There is no lighting along the majority of main thoroughfares outside of Abidjan, and heavy rain can make unpaved roads impassable.

Nighttime driving is hazardous due to decreased visibility and road banditry.

  • In 2016, there were reports of individuals being robbed along major stretches of road outside of Abidjan. The vast majority of victims were Ivoirians traveling at night and were often in public transportation and commercial vehicles. Most armed robberies occurred at night, though some incidences happened during daytime.

    Cars frequently travel without functioning headlights. Even in urban areas with street lights, visibility is often poor. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from traveling at night outside of Abidjan or other major cities.

    Enforcement of traffic laws is highly irregular, and traffic police are known to elicit bribes. The presence of Ivoirian security forces on roadways upcountry at night is limited/non-existent. Uniformed security checkpoints are common on major roadways throughout Côte d’Ivoire and often increase in number and intensity following security incidents. There are many official and unofficial roadblocks/checkpoints on the major routes outside of Abidjan. Knowing who is manning a checkpoint is difficult, given the wide range of uniform styles. Criminals, rogue security forces, and suspected ex-combatants have erected illegal roadblocks to shake down or rob travelers. The Ivoirian government continues to battle the issue of unofficial checkpoint robberies and has created task forces from its security elements to police the issue. But, even legitimate checkpoints may be run unprofessionally.

    Persons cited for a traffic violation should request a receipt for any items confiscated or fines paid. It is legal to pay fines to police officers on the side of the road for small speeding violations not to exceed 2000 CFA (U.S.$4). It should be clearly printed on the ticket. Some traffic violations (driving without insurance) may result in the driver being detained.

    Transportation accidents involving large commercial or privately owned vehicles are common along roads connecting major cities. It is common to see overturned or broken down vehicles, which block throughways or create traffic situations. Often, these vehicles are overburdened with cargo and do not follow standard safety practices.

    Public Transportation Concerns

    Use of public transportation (taxis) is problematic. New taxi services arranged by phone or the Internet may offer secure transportation. The quality of the two main types of taxis (red metered taxis, the various colored communal taxis) varies considerably. Many taxis often take multiple passengers, which can create hazardous or confusing situations. The serviceability of buses and taxis is questionable due to lax and unenforced safety standards. Taxi drivers are often reckless, and some have been involved in passenger robberies.

    Aviation/Airport Conditions

    Visitors be aware of scams that occur at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport.

    One scam consists of someone offering expediting assistance through passport control and customs in exchange for payment in advance. Travelers are not required to pay police, customs, or immigration officers for any service.

    Another scam involves someone posing as a greeter/expediter/driver in the arrival area or at a hotel. At the airport, the scam artist may obtain the traveler’s name or organization by reading the placard of the legitimate greeter/expediter/driver and then positioning himself to guide the traveler to transportation where the traveler will be robbed. Another variation involves the scam artist posing as someone from an organization’s local affiliate. Visitors should make all travel arrangements in advance and devise a way to identify local support at the initial encounter.

    Terrorism Threat

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

    Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

    Sub-regional security threats exist (transnational crime, potential terrorism stemming from developments elsewhere in the region).

    The terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) largely originates from Mali. Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The government of Côte d’Ivoire has actively supported ECOWAS and the African Union operations against AQIM and other extremist groups in northern Mali and consequently has become a potential target of extremists.

  • In March 2016, gunmen killed 19 people in Grand-Bassam in an indiscriminate shooting along a beach-front area frequented by foreigners. Three terrorists were killed in the incident, and AQIM claimed responsibility.

Certain members of Côte d’Ivoire’s large Lebanese community are also known to provide financial support to Hezbollah.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

Despite worries about violence, elections in 2015 (presidential) and 2016 (legislative) passed peacefully and without major incident. There were a few isolated protests that were quickly broken up by law enforcement.

In January 2017, disgruntled soldiers mutinied to demand payment of bonuses and pay increases. Former rebels who had been integrated into the security services led the mutiny. This inspired other, smaller protests led primarily by disgruntled members of the security services and other government workers. They used roadblocks and gunfire to draw attention to their complaints but did not attack civilians. The protests generally were short-lived and sporadic. Aside from an exchange of gunfire between military units that resulted in two men being killed, the unrest did not result in any violent confrontations.

Civil Unrest

Travelers should continue to avoid demonstrations, protests, or large crowds, as they can turn into violent confrontations between groups or with security forces with little warning. Political gatherings and demonstrations have the potential to turn violent or for police and security forces to disperse the crowd using tear gas or other means of force.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Severe storms resulting in flooding and extended power outages are a concern. In low-lying areas, flooding is a major problem during the rainy season and can lead to blocked and damaged roads. Flooding in 2014 also resulted in extensive damage to poorly built homes.

There is often a general disregard for environmental standards, leaving land and water polluted. The government has made efforts to clean certain visible areas, but large sections of the lagoon and beaches near Abidjan remained littered with pollution and trash.

Economic Concerns

Economic espionage concerns are on par with other countries in Africa. If an economic-based crime is encountered, directly contact the Economic Police located in Plateau.

Drug-related Crimes

The extent of the illegal drug trade is not well documented; however, West Africa is a known narcotics transit point between South America and Europe. Drug seizures of cannabis, cocaine and heroin occur at the international airport and seaports, but a systematic counter-narcotics program is not in place. Cannabis is readily available (mainly from Ghana) and widely consumed. There are no indications of narco-violence in Côte d’Ivoire.

Police Response

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. Numerous checkpoints throughout Côte d’Ivoire may be used by police or security forces to extort money from drivers and passengers. U.S. citizens who become victims of police harassment should be polite and cooperative. U.S. citizens detained by the police should ask that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately.

Crime Victim Assistance

Visitors requiring police assistance are advised to appear in person at either the police station in their area or the police headquarters in Plateau. After doing so, contact the Embassy’s consular section (Tel: (225) 22 49 45 94).

Police/Security Agencies

Abidjan’s Prefecture of Police/ Police Headquarters Tel: (225) 20 22 16 33 and (225) 20 22 16 87.

Police are largely ineffective at deterring crime and need significant training. They lack communication equipment, weapons, and vehicles, severely limiting their capacity to respond. Many gendarmes and police stations outside of Abidjan have one vehicle for the entire security force and often must receive calls via cell phone.

The judicial system is ill-equipped to process and incarcerate criminals. Any response is slow and limited generally to writing a report.

There are frequent allegations of police corruption.

Medical Emergencies

While many medical services are available in Abidjan, care, protocols, and management of conditions are different than in the U.S. Hospitals often require advance payment for services. Most providers do not speak English. Doctors usually complete medical school in Côte d’Ivoire and specialized training in France. In general, ambulance response time can be very slow and severely impacted by traffic.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The recommended facility for emergency medical care is the Groupe Medical du Plateau, which has an adequate intensive care unit and two operating rooms. Its emergency room has three beds and is staffed 24/7. Groupe Médical du Plateau Tel: (225) 47 22 22 22 or (225) 20 22 20 29

The Polyclinique International St. Ann Marie (PISAM), located in Cocody, is the second choice for emergency or urgent care. This facility has adequate surgical and intensive care capacities and requires payment before services. The emergency room is staffed 24-hours a day. This facility owns two advanced cardiac life support ambulances. PISAM Tel: (225) 22 48 31 31

Several other public facilities could also be considered in the case of a mass casualty event, mainly the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire. These hospitals (in Cocody, Treicheville and Yopougon) are publically-run. They are accessible 24-hours a day. Immediate payment of medical services is expected prior to treatment. The estimated cost for a minor emergency is U.S.$300 or its equivalence in local currency.

Available Air Ambulance Services

An International SOS contractor, Medicis, is based at the airport. Medicis can arrange helicopter medevac from areas outside of Abidjan to the city and facilitate international evacuation. Its emergency facility is equipped with ACLS, and Medicis has one Abidjan-based ACLS ambulance for ground transport. Medicis Tel: (225) 05 95 55 07 or (225) 21 75 29 63 or (225) 21 75 29 60

CEGA Air Ambulance Tel: (44) 0 1243 621 525

Insurance Guidance

Visitors should obtain air ambulance insurance before arriving. Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated 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 can pay for the service in advance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Travelers are reminded that they must have a yellow WHO booklet bearing a valid stamp for yellow fever inoculation or risk being denied entry into Cote d'Ivoire until an inoculation can be administered.

Appropriate malaria prophylaxis is also strongly recommended.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Cote d'Ivoire.

OSAC Country Council Information

An OSAC Country Council was established in January 2012. The Regional Security Officer (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

U.S. Embassy Abidjan is located in the Riviera Golf section of Cocody on Rues des Ambassades.

The Consular Section is open for American Citizen Services Mon-Thurs, 0800-1230 and 1330-1600. The Consular Section may also be reached in non-emergency situations via email.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator (225) 22 49 40 00

Regional Security Office (225) 22 49 44 36

Consular Section (225) 22 49 45 94

Duty Officer (225) 06 60 77 04

Marine Post One (225) 22 49 44 50 or (225) 22-43-91-49

Website: https://ci.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Cote d’Ivoire 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

Cote d'Ivoire Country Information Sheet