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 south of Brazzaville 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 should the IMF agree a financing package currently under negotiation. Frustration with the government could mean large protests, prompting security forces to respond with force, increasing political instability risk further.
Notwithstanding recent investments 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 subsequent fighting in the Pool region between security forces and former Ninja militias opposed to Sassou'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, though with low intensity in the six-month outlook. The fighting has now changed to occasional attacks with small arms on security services 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. Although the government's security forces will respond forcefully, frustrated urban residents are somewhat likely to 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.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and over one year of age.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Meningococcal Meningitis: For prolonged stays, or in case your travels will put you in close contact with a local population affected by an epidemic of the disease (for children over the age of two years).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
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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