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Country Reports

Congo Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

With some notable exceptions, the Republic of the Congo (population 4.62 million) is, generally speaking, a relatively safe destination. Visitors should nonetheless remain alert for certain potential risks throughout the country.

AREAS TO AVOID

Some Western diplomatic authorities currently advise against nonessential travel to the south-central departments of Pool and Bouenza, particularly the cities of Missafou, Mindouli, and Mfouati. The security context is marred by instability due to an upsurge in road attacks by bandits, as well as armed attacks on private and public transportation and landmarks. The British authorities formally advise against any travel to the districts of Boko, Kindamba, Kinkala, Mayama, and Mindouli in the Pool region, as well as in the Mouyondzi district of the Bouenza region. Nonessential travel to the Ngabe district, in the Pool area, is discouraged.

Furthermore, nonessential travel near the Central African Republic (CAR) border area (within a 50 km [30 mi] distance) is also inadvisable. This is also true of Bétou and the areas north of the city near the border with Cameroon, in the northern part of Sangha department. Rogue rebels, criminals, or people seeking to leave the country are likely to cause unrest in these areas. British authorities formally advise against all travel to the northern Likouala province, located on the border with CAR and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In Brazzaville, French authorities recommend that their citizens stay away from Mpile military camp and the British authorities advise against nonessential travel to the Brazzaville region, with the exception of the city itself.

SECURITY

Clashes between locals, West African immigrants, and local shop owners are frequent. Monitor the situation; even though Congo has not been affected by ethnic violent since the 1997-2003 civil war, social and ethnic tensions remain.

The intensity of violent clashes has drastically increased since September 2016 in Pool department, especially around the city of Kinkala. Former "Ninja" fighters - who fought the government between 1998 and 2003 - and fervent supporters of Reverend Ntumi have been accused of mounting attacks against civilians and military personnel in charge of securing the region, which have led to several uprisings. Recurrent rebel attacks have targeted public and private transportation as well as landmarks, and skirmishes with the army occur regularly. An alarming report by the Congolese human rights organization OCDH denounced the deteriorating human rights situation across the country, particularly in Pool, which has been under a state of emergency since the 2016 presidential elections. Additionally, a humanitarian crisis is ongoing in the department, where severe malnutrition has been reported. Since April 2016, more than 80,000 people have fled to neighboring departments.

On December 23, 2017, the government signed a ceasefire agreement with Reverend Ntumi to bring peace to Pool department. According to the terms of the agreement, Ntumi will cease hostilities and allow for the state to reassert its authority in the department. The government has in turn promised to re-establish the freedom of movement in Pool and facilitate the return of residents who had fled the region. An ad hoc commission will be set up to monitor the process.

Individuals present in Congo are advised to monitor the national security environment as well as the security situation in neighboring DRC. Violent incidents or clashes between protesters and security forces during demonstrations can impact security in Brazzaville.

CRIME

The city of Pointe-Noire (the economic capital) is experiencing a surge in criminality (robberies, pickpockets, assaults) sometimes armed. In the rest of the country, and especially in Brazzaville (administrative capital), risks related to crime are moderate, and especially in the central districts of Brazzaville where the majority of foreign nationals are located. Pickpocketing is common in public places and roadside robberies occur as well, though on a less frequent basis. These risks increase considerably after nightfall and during the year-end holiday season, when many Congolese are experiencing financial difficulties.

It is not advisable to travel alone on foot in the country, especially after dark. Additionally, the Brazzaville neighborhoods of Talangaï, Kintélé, Bakongo, Makélékélé, Total Market, and Moungali, as well as the Wharf and Cité neighborhoods of Pointe-Noire, should be avoided. Isolated beaches can also be dangerous. As a general rule, avoid wearing anything valuable in plain sight; in a car, drive with windows rolled up and doors locked.  

Finally, there is a risk of armed roadside robbery, especially in the Pool department. Uniformed personnel have also used extortion in the past at roadblocks and checkpoints.

Never resist if being attacked and try to remain as calm as possible.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Denis Sassou Nguesso has been president since 1997. Some controversial political developments have prompted the intervention of security forces, such as the October 2015 constitutional referendum and the March 2016 presidential election, in which the incumbent president was re-elected in a disputed contest. The security situation in Brazzaville and the Pool region became much more unstable during these two periods, as supporters of opposition groups clashed with police forces, and still remains poor. Foreign nationals are advised to regularly monitor the situation on the news, always inform a trusted party of any travel to Pool department, and stay clear of protests.

Socioeconomic protests may take place, especially during fuel shortages, which are frequent in the country (a major shortage took place in June 2015). Falling oil prices have hurt the country's public finances due to its economic dependence on the commodity. Since September 2016, a series of protests and strikes have been organized by civil servants and students to demand better working conditions and the payment of arrears (e.g., salaries, scholarships).

The legislative elections that took place on July 16 and 30, 2017, marked the victory of the ruling Congolese Labor Party (PCT). Some incidents were reported in Brazzaville during the electoral process. The next presidential elections are scheduled to be held in 2021.

Avoid all protests in the country as they are likely to lead to clashes with security forces and cause traffic problems.

TRANSPORTATION

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.

HEALTH

Due to challenging health conditions, it is strongly advised to subscribe to a health insurance plan prior to leaving for the country, and ensure that the plan covers repatriation.

The entirety of the country is affected by malaria, present all year long but especially dangerous during the wet season (from April to October north of the equator, from October to May in the south). Congo's prevailing strains are highly resistant to chloroquine and the use of a malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers. Furthermore, yellow fever is present in the country and a pre-departure vaccination certificate (valid for ten years) is required on arrival. Be advised that the Congo has also frequently suffered from chikungunya outbreaks.

The country faces also risks from other arboviruses (diseases transmitted by insects like mosquitoes and ticks), particularly in rural and / or forested areas, including trypanosomiasis (in the Bouenza, Pool, Plateaux, Likouala, Sangha, and Cuvette departments), Loa Loa filariasis (in forests), onchocerciasis (along the Congo and Djoué rivers), schistosomiasis (in rivers), and leishmaniasis (in rural areas).

It is important to take adequate precautionary measures (wear loose fitting clothing that covers arms and legs, use insecticide-treated nets, and avoid swimming in stagnant water, etc.).

Tap water is not safe for consumption. To prevent contracting diarrheal disease (cholera, etc.), it is recommended to only drink bottled water and never consume ice, juices, raw vegetables, or unpeeled fruit. Be sure to wash hands frequently.

Furthermore, the Congo suffers from a high rate of HIV-AIDS infection; 2.8 percent of the adult population is HIV positive.

Frequent outbreaks of rabies (notably in Pointe-Noire), meningitis, and hemorrhagic fever (in the northwest, especially in wooded areas and in the cities of Mbomo and Kelle Itoumbi.

Hospital infrastructure lacks the capacity to cope with public health issues. Only a select few institutions in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire are able to provide basic care. Serious medical problems or emergencies require medical evacuation.

INFRASTRUCTURE

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. 

NATURAL RISKS

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.

LEGAL

Foreigners must always be able to prove their identity, therefore it is recommended to keep a passport on your person at all times, as well as store a copy in a safe place.

Congolese law prohibits photographing certain infrastructure such as ports, bridges, roads, checkpoints, government buildings, etc. When in doubt, it is better to refrain from taking photographs in public places.

Climate

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.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +242 Police: 665 4804

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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