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U. S. State Dept. Updates Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Warning, Nov. 25, 2014

Map of Democratic Republic of the CongoWashington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 25, 2014.  The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. DRC or Congo-Kinshasa,).  U.S. citizens should avoid all but essential travel to the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, northeastern Orientale, and northern and central Katanga, where instability and sporadic violence continues. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and continued insecurity in eastern DRC makes it difficult to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. This replaces the Travel Warning dated April 23, 2014 to update information on security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The security situation in eastern DRC remains unstable. Armed groups, bandits, and elements of the Congolese armed forces, primarily located in the North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces, as well as the northern and central parts of Katanga province, and the eastern part of Maniema province, are known to kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, steal vehicles, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians can be indiscriminately targeted. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operates near the border with Central African Republic, and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) continues to assist the Congolese government with the protection of civilians and efforts to combat armed groups.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country and especially near government buildings and installations in Kinshasa. These roadblocks should be avoided when possible. If stopped at a roadblock, open the driver’s side window slightly in order to communicate. Requests for bribes in such instances are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refused to pay. In the past year, several U.S. citizens were illegally detained by government forces, or were robbed of their valuables while being searched.

The DRC has few viable highways or railways. Although boat transport is widely used, vessels are often overloaded and/or poorly maintained; accidents are commonplace and often fatal. Domestic air travel on Congolese or other local airlines in the DRC is not recommended.  Note the U.S. Embassy prohibits the travel of its personnel on most airlines flying domestic routes in the DRC due to safety and maintenance concerns. This prohibition does not apply to international flights inside the DRC on foreign-owned-and-operated carriers.

Travelers should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to the DRC for applicable vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis. Ensure that medical insurance includes medevac coverage. See the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for further information. Malaria is common throughout the DRC and prophylaxis is recommended. There may be outbreaks of potentially deadly infectious diseases, such as yellow fever, measles, cholera and the Ebola virus, each of which can occur without warning and often without swift reporting by local health authorities. Diarrheal diseases are prevalent throughout the country.

Avoid all public demonstrations and areas where crowds have gathered because even peaceful events can become violent and turn deadly. Closely monitor local and international news from reliable sources. English-language news can be found on BBC at 92.6 FM. Radio Okapi broadcasts in French on 103.5 FM at 0700, 0800, 1200, and 1800 hours, and provides updates throughout the day. In emergencies, the Belgian Embassy operates a French-language radio broadcast system at FM 98.8. 

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the DRC despite this Travel Warning are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa for information on the latest Embassy security guidance, and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information.  Please be sure to keep information in STEP current, including proposed date of departure.  It is important when enrolling or updating information to include multiple phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate communication in the event of an emergency.

U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs. The Consular Section entrance is located on Avenue Dumi, opposite Saint Anne’s Church. The Embassy Consular section can be reached by telephone, including for after-hours emergencies, at +243-81-556-0151; callers within the DRC should dial 081-556-0151. All telephone lines in the DRC, cellular as well as landlines, are unreliable. Security information for U.S. citizens in DRC is posted on Embassy Kinshasa’s website.

For further information, consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the current Worldwide Caution, located on the Department of State’s website. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, a regular toll line at-1-202-501-4444 for callers from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current travel warnings and travel alerts.  Follow us on Twitter and the bureau of consular affairs page on Facebook as well.

Source: state.gov

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