Côte d'Ivoire Country Report
Although still recovering from a series of crises and painful events that shook the country over the past two decades, Côte d'Ivoire continues to stabilize and boasts improved security conditions. Despite these gains, travelers to this West African nation (population 23 million) should be aware of certain risks still present in the country.
AREAS TO AVOID
Some Western governments advise against nonessential travel to the border region with Liberia due to the presence of transnational armed groups that formed, in part, during the Ivorian and Liberian civil wars. This zone includes the cities of Tabou, Taï, and Grabo, in which the military was targeted and attacked by armed men in mid-January 2015.
Travel to the city of Bouaké and its surroundings requires some caution, due to the fact that the region was home to the Forces Nouvelles militia during the last political crisis.
Côte d'Ivoire has become prone to terrorist attacks due to its participation in the counter-terrorist United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and its support of French counter-terrorist operations, with a large number of French troops stationed in the country.
The terrorist attack at the Grand Bassam seaside resort on March 13, 2016 (19 killed; 22 injured) confirmed this threat. Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, directly threatening Côte d'Ivoire and France's allies in Western Africa. Additionally, this attack demonstrated the terrorist threat at "soft" targets (bars, restaurants, beaches, cultural centers, etc.) frequented by the Ivorian upper-class, expatriates, and foreign travelers. Despite security measures having been reinforced in Abidjan since late 2015 and again since March 2016, the terrorist risk in the economic capital remains significant.
Consequently, travelers to Côte d'Ivoire are advised to exercise caution in areas deemed particularly likely to be targeted in an attack (markets, places of worship, diplomatic buildings or consulates, military sites, areas heavily frequented by Westerners, etc.) and to be cautious at all times.
While crime rates are relatively low throughout the country - especially compared to regional standards - they have increased over the past years in Abidjan. The majority of crimes are financially-motivated and the most common crimes are pickpocketing and theft from hotel rooms. Muggings, carjackings, and residential burglaries are also relatively common. Although every public area and means of transportation can be affected by crime, Abidjan's Adjamé, Abobo, Attécoubé, Koussami, Marcory, Treichville, and Yopougon neighborhoods, as well as the Banco forest, are the most hard-hit, especially at night. Violent gangs, referred to as ''microbes,'' operate day and night across various neighborhoods of Abidjan. They often dress as beggars and carry weapons. Therefore, individuals present in Abidjan are advised to be vigilant, avoid ostentatious dress, never travel by foot, and avoid traveling alone to these neighborhoods.
Generally speaking, heightened vigilance is required when exiting bars, restaurants, banks, and ATMs. Similarly, walking along the Général-de-Gaulle and Félix-Houphouët-Boigny bridges above the Ébrié lagoon is advised against. Never offer resistance if confronted or attacked as your assailant may be armed.
The large number of security checkpoints and roadblocks - some illegal, especially in rural areas - increases the risk of extortion by security forces, although incidents have been declining in frequency in recent years. Rural areas are prone to criminal roadblocks erected by highway bandits, especially in the west and north of the country. The road linking Yamoussoukro to Korhogo is particularly impacted by highway bandits. In secluded rural areas, all travel should be carried out in a convoy of at least two vehicles.
Financial crime is also commonly reported throughout the country. It is preferable to pay by cash when possible and, when paying by card, always keep it in sight. Online attempts at financial extortion are also common; emails from Côte d'Ivoire asking for banking details should be opened and dealt with with caution.
Additionally, passport and identity theft are common; it is recommended to keep copies of travel documents in a safe place. In the event of a theft, notify your nearest consulate.
Although the sociopolitical context has significantly stabilized since the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis, it remains quite precarious and political tensions can emerge with little notice.
The latest presidential elections took place on October 25, 2015, in which incumbent President Alassane Ouattara was reelected for a second five-year term. The next elections are planned for 2020; President Ouattara announced that he will not stand for a third term in office, which would have required constitutional changes.
In the meantime, the future of the Ivorian political stage depends on the successful disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration into the Ivorian society of former members of rebel groups.
A new draft constitution was adopted by referendum on October 30, 2016, with 93.42 percent of electors voting YES, although the participation rate was only 42 percent of the eligible population. In December 2016, parliamentary elections were also held, granting a majority to the governing party (Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace; RHDP).
In the meantime, the Ivorian political situation is heavily influenced by of the trial of Laurent Gbagbo - currently being tried before the International Criminal Court for his role in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis violence - the national reconciliation process, and the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration of former rebel group members.
Beyond these recent crises, social unrest is common in Côte d'Ivoire, especially on university campuses where students and lecturers regularly protest against a lack of resources, delayed scholarship payments and research funding, and accommodation issues. Moreover, demonstrations to denounce the high cost of living are increasingly common across the country. Power outages occur on a weekly-basis, including in Abidjan, and can give way to particularly violent protests and demonstrations organized by unsatisfied users.
In addition, the country suffered from a wave of violent protests by public sector workers and the army in January/early February 2017.
The army mutinies reduced security in various cities across the country, notably in Abidjan and Bouaké in January and in Adiaké in February 2017. The situation stabilized temporarily following an agreement between the mutineers and the government but angry protests by gendarmes, police officers, prison guards, and firefighters followed, notably in Yamoussoukro, Abidjan, and Bouaké. The situation was contained until another wave of mutinies plagued the country in mid-May 2017, when ex-rebel soldiers that had been integrated into the army as well as non-integrated demobilized combatants demanded bonus payments. The situation normalized following an agreement with the government; however, tensions remain high. On July 9, demobilized combatants blocked northern access to the city of Bouaké before being dispersed by security forces.
A public sector strike and associated demonstrations, some of which turned violent, affected the entire country throughout January 2017, before an agreement was ultimately reached with the government. Social mobilization movements have continued since then, including a civil servant strike in May, as well as strikes by prison staff, private education workers, and petroleum sector employees.
Major health risks are present in Côte d'Ivoire but there are several good quality hospitals in Abidjan. Having said that, patients often have to pay for services up front before being granted admission to such medical facilities; it is best to contact your medical insurance provider before receiving medical care. In all cases, foreign nationals are advised to take out medical insurance covering care overseas and emergency repatriation prior to departure.
Mosquito-borne diseases are present. The entire country is affected by malaria. Dengue fever is also present and a dengue epidemic is currently (July 2017) affecting the city of Abidjan. Yellow fever is endemic; an international vaccination certificate is required for entry into the country. The risk of contracting these diseases increases during the rainy season (May to November) as stagnant water creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Take measures to protect yourself against mosquito bites (use insect repellent, mosquito netting, long sleeved shirts and pants, etc.).
To protect against the risk of parasitic contamination, it is recommended to avoid bathing or washing clothes in stagnant water and to avoid walking barefoot outdoors.
Additionally, HIV-AIDS is endemic and inflicts 3.5 percent of the adult population, which is also severely affected by tuberculosis.
Outbreaks of rabies and meningococcal meningitis can occur.
Finally, diarrheal diseases are ever-present; outbreaks of cholera are most common in the dry season (from December to May and from July to October along the coast and in the central regions; from November to May in the savanna).
Poor weather conditions - such as torrential rain and consequent flooding is observed in the south, especially in Abidjan, particularly during the rainy season (May to November) - can disrupt travel to, from, and within the country. Torrential rains resulted in several deaths and serious damage in Abidjan in May 2017. Summer rains often result in flooding (e.g. along the banks of the Bandama River), mudslides, and road closures, particularly in the south of the country. During periods of heavy rain, is it advisable to avoid poorer neighborhoods where inadequate construction standards put building occupants at risk.
From November to March, the Harmattan wind emanating from the Western Sahara blows through the country, carrying with it large amounts of dust, which can lead to severe air traffic disruptions and respiratory issues.
The road network remains unstable in Côte d'Ivoire despite intense infrastructures development programs; only 10 percent of all roads are paved. Driving habits are erratic and the lack of street lighting and standard ambulance/emergency medical services in rural areas increase risks related to road travel.
According to American consular authorities, several foreign nationals have been targeted in particularly violent attacked in 2015 as they were traveling on major thoroughfares outside Abidjan. This sort of attack tends to increase in likelihood after nightfall and on market days.
In rural and secluded areas, travel by night should be limited. It is best to travel in a convoy made up of at least two vehicles. Additionally, in the event of a car accident resulting in bodily damage, it is advised to go directly to the nearest police station instead of staying at the scene to avoid hostile behavior by locals.
It is forbidden to take photographs of what the government deems to be sensitive infrastructure, such as radio stations, televisions stations, official buildings (e.g. the presidential palace), and Abidjan's bridges and airport.
In the south of the country, below the horizontal line passing through Yamoussoukro, the climate is equatorial and very wet. The rainy season extends from May until November with a bit of a respite around July and August. The rest of the year conditions continue to be humid, with overcast skies and rain not uncommon; temperatures during this period remain stable, between 29°C and 32°C. The climate is more tropical in the north of the country, with a fairly intense rainy season lasting from May until September.
The most pleasant time to visit the Ivory Coast is between November and March when the country enjoys blue skies, drier conditions, and cooler nights. The Harmattan, a wind from the Sahara, blows, sometimes strongly, across the country, bringing with it drier and dustier conditions.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +225 in Abidjan Police Headquarters: 20 22 08 22 Central Police Station: 20 21 00 22 / 20 22 42 27 / 20 21 77 92 Gendarmerie: 20 21 88 83 Reanimation: 185 UAS Abidjan: 22 44 31 47 / 22 44 44 45 in Yamoussoukro Police Station: 30 64 11 63 / 30 64 00 24 Gendarmerie: 30 64 00 22 Hospital (C.H.R.): 30 64 00 33
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Côte d'Ivoire: Residents clash with police in Bloléquin (west) Feb. 17
TIMEFRAME: from 2/19/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/23/2018, 11:59 PM (Africa/Abidjan).
COUNTRY/REGION: Ivory Coast
Côte d'Ivoire: Gunfire reported near Bouaké January 9 /update 1
TIMEFRAME: from 1/5/2018, 12:00 AM until 1/7/2018, 11:59 PM (Africa/Abidjan).