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Country Reports

Central African Republic Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to the Central African Republic (4.9 million inhabitants) should take note of the precarious security and health situations in the country.  

AREAS TO AVOID

While the British government warns its citizens against all travel to the Central African Republic, the French government only formally advises against travel to the eastern half of the country, from the Nana-Grébizi and Ouaka prefectures. Clashes between rival armed groups and other forms of violence are common in the area. The French government advises against nonessential travel to the rest of the country with the exception of the capital Bangui.

SECURITY

Since the 2016 general elections, the security context remains extremely fragile throughout the Central African Republic.  Unrest, acts of banditry, and abductions are still regularly reported.

Instances of violence have risen since June 2016 throughout the country, and have notably increased since May 2017. A number of areas still face problems of insecurity due to tensions between armed groups. Violent clashes between rival rebel factions are frequently reported in the towns of Bambari (central), Bria (northeast), and Zemio and Bangassou (southeast), as well as in other areas in the country, resulting in vast internal displacement and significant casualties. Moreover, new militias have emerged since the beginning of 2017, which have acquired considerably large stockpiles of arms. Confrontations between the militias and UN forces are regularly reported.

Furthermore, despite the regional intervention by security forces, the east and the southeast of the country remain vulnerable to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - a Ugandan militia led by Joseph Kony - which often carries out attacks against the local population.

The situation in the capital Bangui (and particularly in the Muslim neighborhood, PK5) remains tense. Exchanges of fire, pillaging, and murders are numerous and sporadic.

Mining regions across the country remain unsecured due to the presence of militias that took control during the previous conflict.

Despite a ceasefire accord signed in Rome on June 19, 2017 between the government and 13 rebel groups, which notably provided political representation in government to some rebel groups, violence and tensions persist throughout the country. This agreement was violated the day after its signing, when fatal clashes erupted in the city of Bria.

CAR remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for NGO employees and UN peacekeeping forces. All are regular targets of violent attacks.

KIDNAPPING

Instances of abduction are frequently reported in the provinces, as well as in Bangui, where a number of foreign citizens and locals have been abducted since 2015.

Cases of abduction carried out by LRA members is said to have doubled in 2016; 344 people were reportedly abducted in the first half of the year - the highest number since 2010.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISK

The history of the Central African Republic has been marked by chronic instability and sudden regime changes. Séléka's coup d'état in March 2013 plunged the country into an unstable security situation, marked by violence, which brought about the quasi-destruction of the country.   

The majority Muslim Séléka rebels and the Christian Anti-Balaka militia have clashed for almost three years, throwing the country into chaos. Despite the installation of a transition government led by Catherine Samba-Penza, the election of Faustin Archange Touadéra (who won with 63 percent of the vote) in February 2016, and the establishment of the new government and a parliament, instability remains continues to plague vast majority of the country outside state control (with the exception of Bangui and its surrounding environment). 

Visitors should keep abreast of the sociopolitical climate and avoid all demonstrations and protests.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS

Over the past three years, the civil war has brought about the displacement of more than a million people. Pre-existing economic difficulties have been worsened as a result. As one of the least advanced countries in the world, the Central African Republic is isolated and has the lowest level of human development as established by the United Nations Program for Development.    

Despite the election of a new government, the Central African Republic remains, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at risk of humanitarian crisis. Given the degradation of the security situation since June 2016, and even more so as of May 2017, humanitarian concerns remain and forced displacements continue. According to the OCHA, more than two million people are currently in a situation of extreme hunger.  

Due to the ongoing security situation, it is difficult for foreign humanitarian workers to gain a concrete evaluation of the situation and to deliver emergency supplies to the population. In the north of the country, four international NGOs (Solidarités International, INTERSOS, DanChurchAid, and Person in Need Relief Mission) have decided to temporarily suspend their activities after falling victim to numerous attacks by armed groups (looting, robberies, assaults on personnel).

Despite the security situation, the progressive reconstruction of state infrastructure has permitted the implementation of development projects, resulting in a largely positive economic outlook for 2017 (GDP growth of 4.7 percent, according to the IMF) 

CRIME

The risk of crime remains high in the country. Crimes committed in the street are common in the city center in Bangui; armed gangs operate in residential neighborhoods.

It is advised to remain vigilant at all times and to avoid displaying valuables. It is furthermore recommended to avoid going out at night and to avoid isolated neighborhoods. Drive with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. Beware of check-points. Foreign citizens may be targeted on account of their presumed wealth. Criminals are often armed; resistance should not be offered in the event of a violent attack.

HEALTH

Travelers should take out an insurance policy covering medical costs abroad as well as medical evacuation prior to their departure.

Health services are highly limited in the Central African Republic and almost nonexistent in rural zones. In Bangui, a number of hospitals exist but care must be exercised in case of illness or accident - medical evacuation is preferable. Hospitals have been targeted in the past by civil conflicts, affected by power cuts, cuts to and contamination of the water supply, and expired products stored at improper temperatures, etc. Outbreaks of diarrhea and hepatitis have occurred in hospitals.

The health situation in the country has been qualified as disastrous by the United Nations, especially given the presence of a large number of tropical diseases in the country.

A yellow fever outbreak has affected the country and is particularly present in rural areas. Travelers are required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate in order to enter Central African territory. Malaria is also present in rural areas and a rise in the number of cases regularly occurs during the rainy season (May to October). Individuals traveling to the region should take all necessary precautions against mosquito bites. Cases of Lassa fever are frequently reported.

Monkeypox is endemic in CRA. There is no specific vaccine to prevent against this epizootic viral disease transmitted through bites or the blood of rodents. However, smallpox immunizations can offer some cross-protection against the disease.

Tap water in the Central African Republic is not drinkable. Diarrheal disease is chronic, particularly during the rainy season (May to October). It is highly advisable to drink only purified bottled water, avoid eating raw or undercooked foods, and to wash your hands several times a day.

In order to avoid bacterial contamination, avoid bathing or washing clothes in stagnant water. It is also recommended to avoid walking barefoot.

Take all necessary precautions to protect against the AIDS virus, which affects a significant part of the adult population in the country and is the principal cause of mortality.

The Central African Republic is situated along the 'meningitis belt' and, as such, is frequently struck by meningitis outbreaks between February and June. A vaccination exists against this potentially-fatal illness.

TRANSPORTATION

Much of the country's road infrastructure is obsolete, insufficient, partially degraded, or even nonexistent.

The three main paved roads starting in Bangui are in poor condition. One leads to Mbaïki (100 km [60 mi]), another to Sibut (200 km [120 mi]), and a large part of the route toward Bouar and Cameroon. During the rainy season (May to October), the roads often become impassable.

The danger of road travel has increased due to the lack of adherence to road regulations, the poor condition of many of the vehicles, and the lack of health facilities. The absence of street lighting and traffic lights makes traveling at night inadvisable. Road accidents resulting in fatalities may provoke riots.

Outside of major cities, travel by road should be only take place during the day in a sports utility vehicle (4x4), with a driver, preferably in convoy. Individuals should also travel with extra water, food, and fuel. It is advisable to ensure that your vehicle is equipped with replacement parts (spare tires, cables, etc.) as well as telecommunications devises. Individuals should carry identification papers at all times (passport and visa). During travel in the capital, it is advisable to communicate the details of one's travel arrangements to a trusted confidant.     

Intercity travel via road can prove dangerous. Official and unofficial roadblocks are frequent. Furthermore it is recommended to remain vigilant when traveling in isolated regions; cases of armed theft, carjacking, and the presence of bandits have been reported across the country.    

The airlines MINAIR, Via Air, and Lapara offer flights to the cities in the center of the country, as long as the region is secure. There are daily flights operated by several international airlines from Douala (Cameroon). Air France operates a weekly, direct flight.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Due to the degradation of the energy network in the previous conflict, there are frequent power and water cuts in the country.

Mobile telephone signals cover the Bangui area as well as a significant part of the interior of the country.

NATURAL RISKS

The rainy season (which lasts 6 months) causes widespread floods, material damage, and deaths.

LEGAL

It is not permissible to photograph certain structures (official buildings, airports, military sites, oil terminals, prisons, power stations, etc.), as well as security forces. Any behavior which damages the country's reputation (begging, obscenities) is also prohibited. For professional photographers, it is possible to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Tourism.  

One should always carry official papers (photocopy of passport, residence permit) in case of being arrested by the police.

Satellite telephones must be declared to the agency in charge of regulation of telecommunications (ART) in Bangui or in other regions. The fee for this declaration is USD 80 (75 euros).

A tax of FCFA 10,000 (USD 16), payable on exiting the country, is in place for all individuals leaving the country via Bangui airport.

Climate

The climate in the north of the country is Sahelian (tropical and semi-arid). The climate in the south is tropical, hot, and humid. The rainy season begins in May and ends in October.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +236 Bangui Central Police Station: 21 61 13 00

There are no emergency services in the CAR.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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