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Country Reports

Cameroon Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to Cameroon (population 23,3 million) should be aware that the security situation in the country has deteriorated significantly over the past several months, due in large part to regional tensions and an elevated risk of terrorism.

AREAS TO AVOID

Due to the precarious security situation prevailing in some regions of the country, most western governments advise their citizens against traveling throughout Cameroon. Travel to all areas directly bordering Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic (CAR) is formally advised against due to the presence of the jihadist group Boko Haram and because of several armed group incursions across the borders.

Western governments formally advise against all travel to the Far North region, as well as the Mayo Louti department in the North region due to the high risk of terrorism and abductions. The Bakassi peninsula (southwest) and the Korup National Park should also be avoided due to their relative isolation and the presence of traffickers.

Nonessential travel to the rest of the North (capital: Garoua) and Adamawa (capital: Ngaoundéré) regions is also advised against. Although the risk of a terrorist attack is lower in these locations compared to Far North, tensions are rising and concerning criminal incidents are regularly reported (e.g. roadblocks, discovery of arms caches, infiltration of unregulated weapons from outside sources).

Travelers are advised to take into account the high threat of terrorism throughout the entire country; extra vigilance should be exercised in urban centers. Travelers in Yaoundé and Douala are advised to be particularly alert and aware of their surroundings (e.g. suspicious persons, oddly parked vehicles, out-of-place objects).

Sailing and anchorage are formally advised against in the Gulf of Guinea due to the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery.

TERRORISM

Near-daily attacks carried out by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram (now known as the Islamic State's West Africa Province [ISWAP] after pledging alliance to Islamic State [IS] in early 2015) in the extreme north of the country highlight the persistence and diversity of threats (attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings, etc.). Cameroon was hit for the first time by a suicide attack in July 2015. Since then, several suicide bombings have occurred in the country, killing more than 200 people in the Far North region. Since 2001, a total of 867 attacks have been reported across the country.

The terrorist threat affecting the country is even more significant because the Cameroonian army is part of the Combined Joint Task Force (Force Multinationale Mixte; FMM) - a military force composed of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin - since the end of September 2015, in an effort to control Boko Haram's advance. Although the FMM has led various offensives against Boko Haram with the help of the French troops from the Barkhane operation, as well as from American soldiers, attacks continue on a regular basis in the Far North. On August 21, 2016, a suicide bombing in Mora lead to three deaths. 

KIDNAPPING

Foreign nationals, as well as to a lesser extent, local official persons, face a high threat of kidnapping in the northern, far north, and Adamaoua regions, and at the border with the CAR, due in part to the implication of some occidental countries (France, United States, United Kingdom) in the struggle against terrorism as well as in the war in Iraq and Syria. Several kidnapped victims held hostage by Boko Haram or Islamist faction Ansaru, or armed bandits, have allegedly been killed, either by their assailants or as they attempted to escape.

SECURITY

Besides the terrorist threat, the security situation prevailing in some regions of the country must be taken into account. Cameroon borders several countries affected by significant conflicts; in addition to the presence of many refugees, victims of conflicts linked to Boko Haram, and those related to the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), the infiltration of uncontrolled armed groups (poachers, bandits, traffickers of all kinds, etc.) should be taken into account. Violent clashes regularly take place between security forces and armed groups.

As a result of the tensions affecting the northwestern and southwestern Anglophone regions of Cameroon, travelers are advised to exercise extreme levels of caution in the abovementioned areas, to refrain from going out at night, and to avoid all protests. In the advent of a general strike, or ''ville morte'' action, the cities of Bamenda, Buea, Limbé, and Kumba should be avoided.

The security situation in the South-West has deteriorated due to poacher activity, especially in the Bakassi peninsula.

CRIME

Although crime rates in Cameroon remain reasonable, travelers should keep in mind that foreign nationals, affluent locals, and diplomatic dignitaries are typically targeted by criminals. The slow reaction time of security forces heightens the risk of financially-motivated criminal behavior. Assaults primarily aimed at stealing valuables can be violent and may sometimes result in murders. As such, individuals should be on guard against criminal activity, primarily muggings, assaults, and carjackings.

Great caution is recommended in major cities (e.g., Yaoundé, Douala, Ngouandere, Bafoussam) where burglaries and nighttime assaults are frequent. Remain vigilant while traveling on trains, buses, or taxis when stuck in traffic, especially after nightfall. A Chinese national was killed in the residential neighborhood of Bali, Douala, in June 2016. When renting an apartment or a villa, French authorities advise individuals to "hire a guard from a private security company." The American embassy issued an alert pointing out high crime rates (especially theft) in the neighborhood of Bastos in Yaoundé.

It is advised to avoid poor areas in the city of Yaoundé, such as the Briquetterie and Mokolo markets, and in Douala's Akwa and Bonaberi districts.

Travelers should also be particularly vigilant in coastal cities (e.g., Kribi, Limbe) as well as near the Ekom waterfalls (between Bafang and Nkongsamba) and when traveling to the "mounts of Manengouba and Twins Lake" regions. Take greater caution in Limbe due to several muggings reported in hotels.

Daytime and nighttime assaults are common on secluded roads outside urban areas. Fake roadblocks are erected by individuals - sometimes wearing military uniforms - to stop and rob passengers of their valuables. Such attacks are particularly common early in the month or on market days.

Crime rates tend to rise toward the end of the year and around August.

It is recommended to keep valuables (e.g., purses, cell phones, watches, jewelry, camera) out of sight and not to carry large sums of money. Never offer resistance if attacked.

On a separate note, remain cautious of financial scams on the internet and bank card rip-offs, which are regularly reported throughout the country.

PIRACY

Sailing and anchorage are formally advised against in the Gulf of Guinea due to the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery. On a related note, it is strictly forbidden to sail within 500 meters -up to two to three nautical miles in certain areas - from an offshore oil rig. As of mid-2016, numerous incidents have been reported in this area including two boat hijackings, 28 people being taken hostage, 16 cases of kidnapping, and ten attacks, making it the most affected region by piracy in terms of numbers and severity.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Sociopolitical risks remain an issue, especially considering 40 percent of the population makes less than USD 2 per day. High consumer prices of essentials are a major source of concern among the population. Moreover, the economy has been weakened by the large influx of refugees from the CAR and Nigeria, which has increased the overcrowding issue in Cameroon's largest cities.

Numerous points of tension exist in Cameroonian society; general strikes and large-scale demonstrations regularly take place, and have occurred on a regular basis since the beginning of 2017, particularly in Douala and Yaoundé.

Since November 2016, the northwestern and southwestern Anglophone regions have experienced major sociopolitical tensions. General strikes ('ville morte' actions) and violent protests often take place and are severely repressed by security forces. As of June 2017, the government has lifted the 90-day internet ban in the restive Anglophone regions. The Anglophone community, particularly lawyers and students, have denounced what they perceive as continued marginalization and the use of French in courtrooms and public schools. The Anglophone civil society consortium of Cameroon has called for a referendum on the establishment of two federal states to cater to the Francophone and Anglophone communities of Cameroon. Other activists are calling for an independent state.

It is advised to stay away from all gatherings, as violence may flare up without warning.

President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982 and his ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM, French: Rassemblement démocratique du Peuple Camerounais, RDPC) has dominated the political stage for several decades. Biya, 83 years old, was reelected in 2011 for a sixth consecutive term. The next presidential election is to take place in 2018. For now, Biya refuses to address the question of his own candidacy or rising issues such as constitutional amendments. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to organize anti-government protests.

Although freedom of religion and secularism are constitutionally protected, international observers worry about growing religious violence. Fundamentalist Islam and 'Born Again' Pentecostal churches are on the rise in Cameroon, which threatens to change the established religious landscape - 35-40 percent Christian, 15-20 percent Muslim, 45 percent animist - and increase religious intolerance. Combined with communal clashes, fundamentalism and religious intolerance constitute a growing risk in the north among leaders of the Muslim community, sometimes resulting in localized violence.

TRANSPORTATION

The country suffers from degraded road infrastructure; the highway linking Yaoundé and Douala is one of the world's deadliest roads.

The danger of road accidents is increased by the non-observance of other drivers of the highway code, the non-maintenance of vehicles, and the lack of medical care facilities. Due to the lack of public lighting all night travel should be avoided.

Outside major cities, all travel should be conducted during the day, with an all-terrain vehicle (4x4) with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. It is also advised to ensure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and has effective means of telecommunication. It is advised to avoid carrying large amount of money; yet keeping a small amount of cash to satisfy an attacker in the event of an assault is recommended.

Highway bandits are often encountered in rural areas and tend to target luxury vehicles occupied by just one passenger as well as convoys supplying markets.

Travelers wishing to use roads linking Ngaoundere to Yaounde via Garoua-Boulaï and those linking Garoua and Ngaoundere to Moundou (Chad) via Touboro must do so with an armed escort. The same recommendation applies for road travel through Yokadouma in southeast of Cameroon.

Numerous tourists take the night train linking Yaoundé to Ngaoundéré. The service is correct and safe. Likewise, Camrail company opened a new line between Yaoundé and Douala called "Intercity". In any event, it is advised to be watchful of pickpockets and thieves.

Sailing and anchorage are formally advised against in the Gulf of Guinea due to the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery.

NATURAL RISKS

The country - especially its southern regions - also suffers from two major rainy seasons (from March to June and from August to September), often leading to blocked roadways and major damages in affected areas. In June 2016, heavy rains caused major floods in Douala.

Mount Cameroon is an active volcano. Deadly gas can exude from the surrounding Nyos and Monoum volcanic lakes. Gas discharging measures have been implemented over the past decade to reduce toxic fumes.

HEALTH 

Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase a health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Yellow fever is endemic in the Far North but is also occasionally reported in other parts of the country. An international vaccination certificate is required to enter the territory for all travelers over one year of age; if not provided, entry to the territory may be declined. The risk of malaria is high throughout the country, particularly in the North. It is recommended to take individual protections measures against mosquito-bites and suitable treatment.  

H5N1 virus (bird flu) is present in several region of the country, including in the capital, Yaoundé. An outbreak of bird flu was detected in May 2016 in Yaoundé. No human cases were reported, however, it is recommended to limit contact with poultry sold on markets.

Tap water is not drinkable. Diarrheal diseases are frequent in the country. It is recommended to only drink filtered bottled water, to make sure food is properly cooked, and to wash hands several times a day.

To avoid any risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid bathing or washing clothes in stagnant water. It is not advised to walk barefoot.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.

It is recommended to get a vaccine against meningitis as numerous cases of those diseases were reported. The risk of meningitis is particularly high in Cameroon as the country is located in the "meningitis belt". 

LEGAL

Homosexuality is punishable by the law.

It is forbidden to photograph some buildings (government buildings, military sites, airports, ports, etc.). Local authorities may ask for a fee to photograph some areas.

It is illegal to buy, sell, or capture protected wild animals or to trade some of their organs (ivory) without a license, under threat of fine or imprisonment.  

Climate

The year in Cameroon is divided into two equal seasons, the rainy season - which last from April until November - and the dry season, November to April. The Harmattan, a dry and dusty wind, blows across the country from November until February. Keep in mind that between July and October certain roads can become impassible due to muddy conditions.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +237 Police-Emergency: 17 (or 117 from a foreign mobile) in Yaoundé, Douala and Garoua Gendarmerie: 13 (or 113 à from a foreign mobile) from Central, Littoral, West and Northwest provinces Security in Douala: 33 43 6572

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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