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Burkina Faso Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

It is best to take certain precautionary measures before traveling to the landlocked Western African nation of Burkina Faso (population 19 million) - one of the poorest countries in the world - due to uncertain health conditions and recent political instability.

AREAS TO AVOID

Most Western governments advise against all travel along the border region with Mali, which stretches northwest for around 80 km (50 mi), due to the presence of extremist Islamic militants in Mali, which occasionally carry out cross-border raids into the Burkinabe territory.

Any travel to the W Park, located at the southeast border with Niger and Benin, is also formally advised against.

Although the British Foreign Office advises against all but nonessential travel to the rest of the territory, French authorities only advise against nonessential travel to within 30 km (20 mi) of the red zone, between the towns of Dori (northeast), Ouahigouya, and Douna (southwest) and the region between the Nigerien border to Kantchari (via Diapaga).

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Burkina Faso's political history is turbulent after experiencing numerous periods of instability, including coups, military, authoritarian, and revolutionary regimes, as well as popular rebellions.

In late October 2014, the country was rocked by demonstrations and a social movement that aimed to prevent President Blaise Compaoré, who had been in office since 1987, from altering the constitution to allow himself to run for president again in 2015. This unrest led to Compaoré's resignation on October 31, 2014, following large-scale riots that broke out throughout the country. Interim President Michel Kafando and his transitional government led by Prime Minister Isaac Zida subsequently ruled the country until the presidential elections organized in 2015.

As the electoral campaign was due to start, however, members of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) - who had been in charge of security for former President Compaoré - seized power on September 16, 2015. A popular uprising against the RSP quickly broke out in the streets of the capital Ouagadougou and in other cities of the country, including Bobo-Dioulasso, the country's second-largest city; at least 12 deaths were reported. This latest development was met with a mobilization of the national army, which, despite regional actors' attempts to mediate, forcefully overthrew the RSP one week later. The interim government was reinstalled on September 23 and the RSP was disbanded on September 25.

The security situation has greatly improved since September 2015, with subsequent electoral campaigns and elections carried out peacefully. As a result of the coup attempt, both presidential and legislative elections were postponed until November 29, 2015. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of the Movement of People for Progress (MPP) party was elected president in the first round with 53 percent of the vote and was inaugurated on December 29 in Ouagadougou. His party garnered the majority of seats in the National Assembly during the legislative elections, which took place simultaneously.

Actions against the government were still reported during and after the municipal elections organized on May 22, 2016, including against recently elected provincial mayors. In addition, security forces foiled a coup attempt on October 8, 2016. Former presidential guards are suspected of having planned the failed coup.

Sociopolitical issues remain a concern. Strikes and/or protests are regularly organized, especially by members of the opposition, medical workers, magistrates, and journalists. They typically demand better working and living conditions and condemn the government's mismanagement and frequent resort to intimidation.

It is recommended to stay abreast of the sociopolitical affairs and to stay away from all gatherings.

TERRORISM

The Sahel region, along the border with Mali, has seen a sharp increase in terrorism since 2015. Soum province in the Sahel region has experienced a resurgence of attacks since December 2016, notably against security forces but also against schools that do not base their teaching on the Quran.

On a similar note, in response to regular incursions of jihadist militants and other armed groups in the region in recent months, local authorities issued a curfew on March 6, 2017 (in effect from 17:00 to 06:00), and Burkinabe authorities have reinforced security along the borders with Mali and Niger.

On August 13, 2017, the capital Ouagadougou was hit a second time by a terrorist attack targeting the restaurant Aziz Istanbul and the Hotel Bravia, both located on Nkrumah Avenue, previously targeted in 2016. Eighteen people were killed in the attack, which has not been claimed by any particular group. As a result, security measures have been increased along the avenue. On January, 15th, 2016, an attack in Ouagadougou targeting the Splendid Hotel left at least 29 people dead, including 14 foreigners. Four assailants opened fire on the Café Cappuccino before taking 126 people hostage at the Splendid Hotel; both establishments are often frequented by Westerners and United Nations employees. This attack has been claimed by Al-Mourabitoun - a faction affiliated with Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - which was also responsible for the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali in November 2015.

Travelers should be particularly vigilant in the northern areas of Burkina Faso (the Sahel Reserve) and all along the border with Mali (within an area 80 km [30 mi] from the border) due to the presence of jihadists groups in the region.  

KIDNAPPING

The risk of kidnapping by Islamist groups remains high in the frontier region with Mali, which the French authorities have formally advised against all travel to since the abduction of a Romanian national in June 2015 in the Tambao region (Oudalan province). As of July 2017, the victim is still being held hostage by his kidnappers.

On January 16, an Australian couple was kidnapped in the Baraboulé region (Soum province) by AQIM militants; the woman was released one month later, while her husband is still being held hostage.

Due to the French military intervention in Mali (since January 2013) and France's involvement in the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, French nationals present in Burkina Faso are at a greater risk of kidnapping and are advised to be particularly vigilant regarding suspicious behaviors.

CRIME

Crime rates, while relatively low, are not negligible in the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, where they are actually rising.

Because of their supposed wealth, foreigners are sometimes targeted by pickpockets and bag-snatchers; tourists can also face strong pressure to pay after taking photos in public. In Ouagadougou, crime rates tend to be higher in the areas near the UN traffic circle and Kwame N'Krumah Avenue; these locations should be avoided.

Burglaries are occasionally reported in residential areas, such as Ouaga 2000, Koulouba, and the Bois area.

Generally speaking, it is best to avoid walking in Burkinabe cities at night; although Burkina Faso is a relatively safe country, certain areas can become less so after nightfall. Foreigners are advised to be discreet, to keep valuable items out of sight, and to never resist if being attacked. Always drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.

Furthermore, illegal road blocks are sometimes erected by criminals targeting motorists, particularly in the east of the country.

Koglweogo self-defense militias created by villagers and urban residents are known to operate in the absence of security forces, in order to combat thieves and people who erect roadblocks. These self-defense militias have their own penal code and are known for their controversial methods of operation; suspects arrested by the Koglweogo are often tied up and hung from trees, tortured, and whipped until they confess to a crime and pay a fine for their release. In May 2017, these militias went beyond their "mandate" - to protect the population - in an attempt to impose taxes on the residents of the village of Tialgo, in the Sanguié province. Clashes followed, forcing security forces to ban these militias in both Sanguié and Boulkiemdé provinces.

HEALTH 

Public health infrastructures are insufficient and generally unreliable. It is strongly advised to subscribe to health insurance plan prior to leaving for the country, and ensure that the plan covers repatriation.

Mosquito-borne diseases are present in Burkina Faso. A vaccination certificate against yellow fever is compulsory for travelers older than nine years old arriving from an at-risk country. Vaccination is not compulsory for other travelers but recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, dengue fever epidemics can affect the country. Malaria was responsible for over half of the deaths within the French community in Burkina Faso in 2016 due to wrong diagnostic or late care. Your general practitioner can prescribe you with medicine against malaria; it is imperative to take preventive measures against mosquito bites (use of repellent, long sleeves, etc.).

Tap water is not drinkable; diarrheal diseases (cholera) are chronic in Burkina Faso. It is recommended to only drink bottled water, to be careful about your diet, and to wash your hands several times a day.

In order to avoid any parasitic contamination, it is advised to avoid bathing and washing clothes in stagnating water. It is formally advised against walking bare foot.

It is imperative to take all measures to protect yourself from AIDS, which affects a large part of the adult Burkinabe population.

Vaccination against measles and meningitis is strongly recommended; numerous cases are reported in the country. The risk of contracting meningitis is particularly high in Burkina Faso, considering that the country is located in the "meningitis belt". Most cases are reported between February and June, particularly in the Zambo department (southwest).

NATURAL RISKS

The rainy season spans from June to October. During this time, there is often major flooding, including in Ouagadougou. Over 10,000 people (including four deaths) were affected by torrential rain from June to August 2016.

TRANSPORTATION

The poor state of the country's road infrastructure, which worsens during the rainy season, makes driving a challenge in Burkina Faso. It is particularly challenging to drive on the widely-used highway between Ouagadougou and Pô. Traveling by car in-between cities can be quite dangerous. Hazardous driving habits by the locals (speeding, overtaking, vehicles badly-maintained, heavy loads, drunk driving, etc.) increase the risk. Traveling by night is strictly advised against due to the lack of street lighting and road signs. In the event of a road collision, it is advised to remain on site until emergency services arrive.

Outside of urban areas, all travel should be conducted during the day, in a convoy of several ATV vehicles (4x4) and with sufficient water, food, and fuel reserves. It is also advised to make sure that the vehicle is fitted with spare pieces (tires, cables, etc.) and is equipped with appropriate means of communication (two-way radio, satellite telephone, etc.). Travel between Bobo Dioulasso and Ivory Coast, as well as Fada and Benin or Togo is strongly advised against due to accidents being regularly reported. Be extremely vigilant when traveling to Niger; in convoys, it is best to be accompanied by the police.

Highway bandits are present in the country, particularly in secluded area in the east, are usually armed, and potentially violent. Never resist if assaulted: assailants tend to resort to violence, which is sometimes deadly. Deaths during assaults have been reported in the past.

Using public transportation is advised against, with the exception of yellow taxis, which offer reliable services.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Authorities regularly impose water cuts, particularly since the water shortage crisis that started in 2013; the situation has recently become more acute, due largely to the growing population in Ouagadougou (+6 percent in 2015) combined with the abnormally high temperatures that were reported in February 2016. As of May 2016, the government implemented a rotating water rationing program in Ouagadougou, whereby rolling 12-hour water cuts are to be anticipated until further notice in the following neighborhoods: Bangpoore, Bassinko, Gounghin Nord, Hamdalaye, Kamboinsin, Kilwin, Kologh Nossin, Kossodo, Larlé, Markoussi, Naaba, Ouidin, Pabre, Rimkieta Bissighin, Signoghin, Somgandé, Tampouy, Tanghin, Toessin, Toudebweogin, Yagma, and Gounghin industrial zone.

The phone network is not very reliable, especially outside of urban areas.

LEGAL

The export of traditional art pieces (masks, antiquities, religious objects, etc.) is under a very strict legislation; an authorization from the Ministry of the Culture is mandatory.

It is forbidden to take photographs of government buildings and military sites. Certain buildings require a permit to be photographed.

Homosexuality is illegal.

Climate

The majority of country belongs to what is commonly known as the Tropical Sudanese Zone;  the north of the country, on the other hand, falls in the Sahel Zone. The country experiences two distinct seasons: the dry season - which lasts approximately eight months - and the rainy season (winter) which lasts from mid-June until mid-October. March, April, and May are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures more or less permanently over 40°C. Between November and February a northerly wind, the Harmattan, brings cooler and drier air. Conditions during these months are temperate and pleasant, with daytime temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and cooler nights.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +226 International Medical Center (24/7): (00.226) 70.20.00.00 Police: 17 Fire Dept.: 18 Gendarmerie: (00.226) 80.00.11.45 / 50.30.62.71 In case of highway robbers attack: 10.10

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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