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Democratic Republic of the Congo 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Congo, Democratic Republic of the; Africa > Congo, Democratic Republic of the > Kinshasa

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

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

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

Volatile security conditions prevail despite substantial support from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo.

Crime Threats

The vast majority of criminal incidents against Americans in Kinshasa are crimes of opportunity. Nearly all are for financial gain. The most commonly reported crimes are pickpocketing, theft (from persons, vehicles, and residences), and robbery.

  • In numerous instances throughout 2016, victims were surrounded by young males, who would hold the victim’s arms while others reached into their pockets and belongings to steal valuables. The other most common report was of young males opening unlocked car doors and stealing valuables while victims were stopped in traffic. In nearly all reported crimes of this type, victims had the doors unlocked or the windows down.
  • In 2016, reporting also indicating that hotel staff would access and steal from the safes within the rooms after surreptitiously defeating the electronic locking mechanism.

  • The public safety system cannot handle the substantial population of mentally ill individuals.

  • In 2016, there were multiple reports of members of the international community being harassed by individuals they described as mentally ill. In some of the cases, the victims were assaulted or had their vehicles damaged. In nearly all of the reported cases, the victims believed they were targeted as a result of being identified as a foreigner.

  • U.S. citizens have been the victims of more serious crime (armed robbery, armed home invasion, assaults). Many members of the international community have reported assailants posing as police or security agents. Weapons are controlled by security forces, leading to widespread speculation that armed crimes are often perpetrated by members of the police and military.

  • In November and December 2016, there were two confirmed reports of home invasions against American citizens involving multiple, armed assailants entering their dwelling, holding the occupants at gunpoint, and stealing their valuables.

    The U.S. government protects all of its official residences with a 24-hour security guard presence.

    International victims, including Americans, were more likely to be targeted when walking alone, during hours of darkness, and in proximity to establishments frequented by international travelers.

    Government actors and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence in 2016. Crimes of sexual violence were committed sometimes as a tactic of war to punish civilians for perceived allegiances with rival parties or groups.

    Cybersecurity Issues

    Cybersecurity and technology-oriented crime is not as pervasive or sophisticated as most other countries rated as a critical-threat for crime.

    Other Areas of Concern

    The overall security situation in many parts of the DRC, but especially in the east, can best be described as volatile and unpredictable. The government continues to target small armed groups throughout the DRC but mainly in the provinces of Orientale, North Kivu, and South Kivu.

    Areas in the eastern DRC saw an increasing trend of crime, violence, and activity by armed groups in the second half of 2016.

  • North Kivu is an area of particular concern, where reports of kidnappings have increased since late 2015. The area surrounding Beni has been the site of multiple, organized attacks on the population by armed groups, resulting in numerous murders of civilians. Sex-based crimes occurred largely in the conflict zones in North Kivu Province but also throughout the country.
  • Other areas of concern include South Kivu, where sporadic violence and kidnappings have occurred to a lesser extent, and in Tanganyika, where inter-ethnic conflict has resulted in numerous killings.


The borders, particularly with the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, are risky due to transnational crime, poaching, smuggling operations, and the presence of multiple, armed groups.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Driving in Kinshasa is extremely hazardous. Traffic laws are not observed by the majority of motorists and are seldom enforced by police. In many cases, motorists blatantly disregard traffic signals and direction from police due to a lack of enforcement and the absence of a professional and competent police force.

When vehicle accidents occur, especially involving foreigners, large and sometimes violent crowds can form.

  • In 2016, there were several reports of mob vigilantism after traffic accidents escalated. In one instance, two American diplomats were pursued and attacked by a large group of motorcyclists after an accident.

  • Public Transportation Conditions

    Public transportation in Kinshasa is considered to be very hazardous. In general, public transportation vehicles are inadequately maintained and lack even basic safety features. Public transit is essentially unregulated and often overcrowded. There have been numerous instances of foreigners being targeted for crime by other passengers. U.S. government employees are forbidden from utilizing public transportation.

    Aviation/Airport Conditions

    Kinshasa has benefitted from a new international airport, and there have been improvements in the professionalism and competence of the airport security screening staff and Direction Générale de Migration (Customs and Immigration) staff. Despite these improvements, officials do harass foreigners and attempt to use their position to exploit individuals unfamiliar with the DRC. Some security screening staff will remove currency from carry-on bags or ask travelers to surrender it. Travelers should keep a close watch over valuables, particularly when waiting in lines or undergoing screening. A lack of training and/or disregard for the customs laws of the DRC leads to sporadic and inconsistent enforcement of hand carried imports. Customs officials may attempt to seize items despite having no basis in law. Recourse in the situations depends on the other officials working in the vicinity.

    Other Travel Conditions

    Traveling on rivers and lakes is common and represents a major method of transportation. Boats are often poorly maintained, do not have adequate safety precautions, and are overburdened. Accidents were common in 2016 and resulted in multiple reported fatalities.

    Terrorism Threat

    THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KINSHASA 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

    U.S. government employees are instructed to remain vigilant and to report all suspicious activity because the DRC government’s perceived lack of ability to detect and deter terrorism. The DRC government has taken steps to improve their counter-terror capacity and is proactive and cooperative with the international community in initiatives to mitigate terrorism and related activities. DRC has voiced its support of the Global Coalition Against Terrorism. There is no evidence of operations against American interests in DRC by any listed State Department Terrorist Organization.

    Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

    2015 and 2016 saw reports of harassment from Americans and Westerners. It appears that harassment is more related to the perceived wealth of the individual than their nationality itself.

    Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

    Civil Unrest

    The threat of civil unrest is among the Embassy’s most prominent security concerns. The breakdown of civil order could occur at any moment, as evidenced by a series of violent anti-government demonstrations in Kinshasa in January 2015 and September and December 2016, the arrest of pro-democracy activists, and the continued harassment and occasional arrests of leading members of political opposition parties.

    Many cities experience periodic demonstrations by political opposition parties, students, workers unions, and civil servants. Some have turned violent. In recent years, the government has increased its capacity to employ non-lethal measures to control these demonstrations; however, human rights organizations scrutinize security organizations and often accuse them of heavy-handed tactics that cause unwarranted casualties.

    Religious/Ethnic Violence

    The greatest potential for political and ethnic violence exists in eastern Congo where trans-national self-interests between DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda fuel a multi-ethnic struggle to control national/tribal sovereignty, the loyalty of the local inhabitants, land rights, smuggling/legitimate trade routes, etc. Attempts to disarm and demobilize militias and other armed groups have had limited success. Many armed groups act with impunity and in their self-interests, violating human rights and, in some cases, forging alliances against legitimate security forces and International Peacekeeping Organizations. Small-scale armed disputes, criminality, and lawless behavior prevail throughout the region.

    Ethnic tensions in some areas have increased in 2016, leading to sporadic armed conflicts and attacks in several areas including North and South Kivu and in Tanganyika.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    Mt. Nyiragongo, an active volcano 18 kilometers north of Goma, threatens the safety and livelihoods of approximately 800,000 people. During Mt. Nyiragongo’s most recent eruption in 2002, lava flow destroyed part of Goma’s city center, prompting the evacuation of 300,000 people. Around 100 people died, and the eruption destroyed almost 80% of the commercial infrastructure. Since then, minor eruptions have taken place every few years. The ability of the scientific community to monitor eruption warning signs is diminished since armed groups have vandalized and stolen seismic and other scientific monitoring equipment.

    Critical Infrastructure

    The capability of the government to respond to emergency/crisis situations is limited. The lack of public safety infrastructure and the difficulties associated with obtaining competent and definitive medical care elevate the risk and consequences resulting from injuries and accidents. Injuries that would be serious but treatable in the U.S. are often fatal due to the combination of insufficient emergency response and a lack of accessible medical services.

    Economic Concerns

    Several Congolese individuals were sanctioned by the United States in 2016. Please consult the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control for specific information.

    Privacy Concerns

    In 2016, the government appeared to increase its ability to conduct different types of surveillance on individuals within the country.

    Personal Identity Concerns

    The Constitution includes a general provision that all citizens are entitled to equal protection, and it specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, citizenship, gender, social origin, age, disability, political opinion, language, culture, or religion. But, the government has failed to enforce these provisions.

    Sexual harassment occurs. Legislation passed in 2006 prohibits sexual harassment with a minimum sentence of one year, but there is little /no enforcement of the law.

    Relationships and identifying as having anything other than heterosexual orientation remain a cultural taboo, and harassment by security forces and judiciary occurred in 2015 and 2016. While no law specifically prohibits consensual sexual conduct between same-sex adults, individuals engaging in public displays of same-sex sexual conduct may be subject to prosecution under public indecency provisions, which society rarely applied to opposite-sex couples. The law prohibits same-sex relationship adoptions.

    Societal discrimination and abuse also occur against persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous persons, and persons with albinism. There were also reports of societal discrimination and violence against foreign minority groups.

  • Protestors attacked businesses owned by ethnic Chinese and Indians on two occasions in 2016.

  • Drug-related Crimes

    Drug use (cannabis), is common; however, evidence of a drug trade is not readily apparent to travelers in Kinshasa. Local law enforcement capabilities in narcotics detection and interdiction are severely limited. Occasionally, passengers are arrested attempting to smuggle in drugs though N’Djili International Airport.

    Kidnapping Threat

    The number of reported kidnappings in eastern DRC has significantly increased since November 2015. The increase is caused in part by the practice of businesses, NGOs, and family members paying ransoms to recover victims. Although the victims are primarily Congolese, there have been several instances of Westerners, including Americans, being kidnapped. Most kidnappings occur in rural areas during overland travel between established towns and villages in North Kivu.

    Police Response

    The police force in Kinshasa, and throughout most of the country, is generally ineffectual and dysfunctional. There is no reliable way to summon police assistance in Kinshasa. When the police do intervene, it is apparent that they are ill-equipped and poorly trained. Many lack a basic understanding of the laws that they are supposed to enforce. Consistency in administering laws and regulations is absent. In cases involving theft/robbery, police intervention and legal recourse are poor. Many interactions with the police are marked by demands for money, and corruption within the police is rampant.

    The Congolese are sensitive about foreigners taking pictures, especially around government or military installations. It is important not to take pictures of any government or military installations including the airport, the Congo River, or government buildings. It is also not advisable to take pictures of Congolese citizens unless you receive their permission. Embassy employees have been questioned and temporarily detained for taking pictures in public. 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

    Police and military checkpoints regularly stop and detain motorists, demanding bribes. In some instances, police or military members steal valuables. The best guidance is to avoid checkpoints, especially in less secure areas of the city.

    On numerous occasions, declared and credentialed American diplomats have been detained and searched by security forces who show complete disregard for international norms and the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

    The police and military are equally likely to deny consular access to private Americans, who should make every effort to assert their right to consular notification and access if detained or arrested.

    Crime Victim Assistance

    American citizens who are in need of assistance should contact ACS at the United States Embassy. ACS can also be reached at +243 97-261-6145 or +243 81-884-4609.

    Medical Emergencies

    Medical facilities in Kinshasa are limited.

    Contact Information for Available Medical Services

    The Centre Privé des Urgences (CPU) is located on the corner of Avenue du Commerce and Avenue Bakongo on the first floor of CH building. CPU is open 24-hours, but membership is required. Tel: 089-895-0305.

  • Centre Medicale de Kinshasa (CMK)is located on the corner of Avenue Wagenia and Chef Nkokina; Tel: 089-895-0300 or 089-982-6504.


Insurance Guidance

U.S. Embassy policy toward its own employees is to stabilize the patient and medevac, usually to South Africa.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Kinshasa or 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, 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa, Gombe district.

The Embassy is open Mon-Thurs, 0730-1715; Fri, 0730-1230. The offices are closed on legal and Congolese and American holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

The Regional Security Office may be contacted at +243-81-556-0151

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in the DRC 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

DRC Country Information Sheet