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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Cameroon

Cameroon: Republic of Cameroon
Capital: Yaounde
Population: 16,184,748
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
Languages: 24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)
Religions: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
Borders: Central African Republic 797 km, Chad 1,094 km, Republic of the Congo 523 km, Equatorial Guinea 189 km, Gabon 298 km, Nigeria 1,690 km

Cameroon is a developing country in west central Africa. Facilities for tourism are limited. The capital is Yaounde, while Doula, the country�s largest city, is its main port and commercial center. Official languages are French and English, though French predominates in most of the country. English may be used in Cameroon�s two Anglophone provinces and the larger cities. Staffs of major hotels in Cameroon�s large cities are usually bilingual.

U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and be aware of their surroundings at all times. It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of a minor or non-existent violation of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court.

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling in Cameroon. All foreigners are potential targets for theft with possible attendant violence. Petty crimes, crimes against persons, thefts from vehicles and of vehicles are the most common criminal activities. Armed banditry is a growing problem throughout all ten provinces in Cameroon. To curb banditry, security personnel may request persons to show their passport, residence card, driver's license and/or vehicle registration at random checkpoints. Certified copies of these important documents should be kept in a secure location separate from the originals.

The risk of street and residential crime is high, and incidents of violent crime are on the rise throughout the country. Reports of carjackings and burglaries remain high, particularly in Yaounde and Douala. Carjackings have also been reported on rural highways, especially in the northern provinces and regions near Cameroon�s border with the Central African Republic. Crimes against property, such as carjacking, have often been accompanied by violent acts. Travelers are advised to remain aware of their surroundings at all times and to follow routine security precautions such as locking car, hotel, and house doors. Travel after dark is extremely risky and should be avoided.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Cameroonian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cameroon are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Medical facilities in Cameroon are extremely limited. Even in large cities, emergency care and hospitalization for major illnesses and surgery are hampered by the lack of trained specialists, outdated diagnostic equipment and poor sanitation. Medical services in outlying areas may be completely nonexistent. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services. Pharmacies in larger towns are well stocked, but in other areas many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry their own supply of needed prescription medicines with them.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning road conditions in Cameroon is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate for a particular location or circumstance.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning road conditions in Cameroon is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate for a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Fair to Poor 
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor 
Availability of roadside assistance: Non-existent

Cameroon's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are poorly maintained and unsafe at all times of the year. Vehicles are poorly maintained and there is no mechanism or requirement to inspect for road-worthiness. During the rainy season, many roads are barely passable with four-wheel-drive vehicles. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards (especially at night) and road safety rules are always ignored. There are few road and traffic signs; speed limits are neither posted, nor enforced. Buses and logging trucks travel at excessively high speeds and are a constant threat to other road traffic. Drivers are strongly advised against nighttime travel. Poorly lit roads, hazardous vehicles and armed bandits pose a threat to motorists outside major towns, especially in the northern provinces and near the border with Central African Republic.

Local law states that vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until the police arrive and a police report can be made. If an accident results in injury, drivers should be aware of the possibility that a �village justice� mentality may develop. If an angry crowd forms, drive directly to the U.S. Embassy or another location where you can receive assistance. Contact the local police once you are safely away from danger.

Cameroon has no equivalent 911-type service or roadside emergency telephone numbers. American citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy if emergency assistance is needed.

While photography is not officially forbidden, security officials are sensitive about photographs taken of government buildings, military installations, and other public facilities, many of which are unmarked. Photography of these subjects may result in seizure of photographic equipment by Cameroonian authorities. Due to the threat of harassment and the lack of signs designating sites prohibited for photography, photography should be limited to private homes and among friends. U.S. citizens are advised to seek proper permission before taking a photograph of a specific subject or location.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

March 10, 2004

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