Congo Country Report
President Denis Sassou Nguesso and his Congolese Labour Party (Parti Congolais du Travail: PCT) will continue to dominate politics after three decades in power; Sassou won a new five-year mandate in March 2016. The government's crackdown on an armed insurgency in the Pool district is likely to continue, increasing the risk of collateral loss of lives. Despite a financial crisis raising risks of payment delays, international debt commitments are likely to be upheld given the IMF agreed in April on a financing package currently under negotiation. Salary delays and other frustration with the government could mean large protests, prompting security forces to respond with force, increasing political instability risk further.
Notwithstanding investments such as a new airport prior to the 2014 oil price crash, the country's infrastructure remains relatively poor. Development is stymied by government political interests, lack of funds, and poor administrative capacity. A recent revision of the Pointe-Noire Autonomous Port's master plan has improved port operations; however, bureaucratic inertia caused by a still-unwieldy civil service means lengthy delays. Corruption is a problem, particularly in the natural resources sectors. Although the government is enthusiastic about attracting further foreign investment, these conditions are unlikely to improve in the next two years.
Notwithstanding the civil war of the 1990s, Congo has no history of religious or ethnic motivated terrorism. However, President Sassou Nguesso's March 2016 re-election led to urban riots and low-intensity fighting in the Pool region between security forces and former Ninja militias opposed to Sassou Nguesso's re-election. Protests and riots often lead to a major crackdown by the government, which retains an unchallenged monopoly on arms.
Fighting between former Ninja militias opposed to the March 2016 re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso and security services in the Pool region south of Brazzaville is likely to continue, although with low intensity in the six-month outlook, despite an agreement between the parties to seek a peaceful solution. The fighting now involves occasional attacks with small arms on security forces' patrols in the region and is unlikely to develop into full-blown civil war due to the overwhelming dominance in arms and manpower of security forces.
Although the government has consolidated authority across the country after President Sassou Nguesso's contested re-election in March 2016, protests risks, especially against the rising cost of living and outstanding wages, remain high. The opposition will attempt to co-ordinate major protests, which risk escalating into uncontrolled riots. The government's security forces will respond forcefully, triggering frustrated urban residents to likely resort to violence against security forces and government buildings. Unrest will be limited to Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, and a few cities in the southern regions where the opposition has most of its support.
Vaccines Required to Enter the Country
Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all travelers over nine months of age upon entry to the country. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.
Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).
Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
The north of the country has a tropical rain forest climate. Weather is hot and humid with regular rainfall between October and May. In the south (Brazzaville included), the climate is tropical with a rainy season running from September to June and an average temperature of 77 to 86 °F. Rainfall sometimes heightens the risk of floods, landslides, and mudslides, even in urban areas. At the end of 2015, floods wreaked havoc in several districts of Brazzaville.
Avoid bathing in the Congo River and its tributaries because they are very dangerous; also avoid waterfalls.
The single greatest risk to travelers may be travel by car due to the poor state of the country's road infrastructure, particularly during the rainy season (October to May in areas south of the equator), despite the recent construction of paved highways connecting major population centers (from Brazzaville to Ouesso; Owando to the Gabon border; and from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire). Dangerous local driving habits also pose a significant risk on the road.
Hazardous driving habits (speeding, overtaking, vehicles badly-maintained, heavy loads, drunk driving, etc.) make it a challenge to drive on highways. The Pointe-Noire - Dolisie highway is particularly dangerous due to logging truck traffic. In the event of a road collision involving physical injury to a local individual, it is strongly advised to immediately go to the Consulate or to the nearest police station, as there is a high risk of attracting a crowd and hostile reaction by the local population.
It is advisable to avoid travel after nightfall, including within Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. In rural areas, always travel in a convoy with a minimum of two vehicles (preferably SUVs) equipped with appropriate means of communication (two-way radio, satellite telephone, etc.). Share your itinerary with a trusted third party and be aware that roadside emergency services are nonexistent in rural areas. In the case of traffic accidents, drivers can be violently attacked or lynched. In the event of an accident, it is best not to stay in the area and rather report the incident to your consulate or the nearest police station.
A railway service now operates between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire with several trips per week.
When using taxi services, it is advisable to only ride with licensed taxi drivers. Licensed taxis are recognizable by their colors (green and white in Brazzaville, blue and white in Pointe-Noire). Taxis are not always fitted with a meter; it is best to negotiate the price of the fare before entering the vehicle. Taxi drivers generally charge more for journeys to and from the airport. Finally, they rarely have change.
All Congolese airlines are blacklisted by the European Union due to ageing equipment and lack of maintenance. Flying with Congolese airlines should be avoided. Equajet is the only airline taking part to the IOSA program (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and its validity expired on June 27, 2016. Equatorial Congo Airlines (ECAir) and Trans Air Congo are known for better safety standards.
A ferry links Brazzaville to Kinshasa. Connections between the cities can be suspended without warning, especially during political troubles. A visa is mandatory to enter the DRC, as it is to enter Congo.
Safety standards in the work place are rarely respected.
Internet and telecommunications networks are available through private providers but are under the control and management of the government. Such services are very expensive and very slow. During the October 2015 constitutional referendum, all telecommunication services were blocked by the government.
Fuel and water shortages are possible, including in Brazzaville.
The Republic of the Congo is situated along the equator and the climate in the majority of the country is equatorial, e.g. permanently hot and humid.
The central region is subjected to heavy rain throughout the year with temperatures steady around 26°C.
However, the north and the south of the country have two distinct rainy seasons (October-December and January-May) as well as a dry season. Regions at high elevations often receive significant snow storms. The climate is more temperate, alpine, at intermediate elevations. There is also a small zone with an oceanic climate; the presence of the cold Banguela current at the mouth of the Congo River considerably lowers air temperatures and levels of rainfall (which hardly ever passes 80 cm) in the region.
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