COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a developing nation in central Africa. The official language is French. The capital city, Brazzaville, and Pointe Noire, the second-largest city, are typical small central African cities. Civil conflict in 1997 and again in 1998-99 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country. The last rebel group still engaged in armed struggle signed a cease-fire accord with the government in March 2003. Facilities for tourism are very limited.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
As a result of past conflicts, there is extensive damage to the infrastructure in Brazzaville and in the southern part of the country, and the government is working to reconstruct roads and buildings. Fighting broke out in March and June of 2002 when rebel groups launched attacks first in the Pool region, and later, at the Brazzaville airport. The fighting in Brazzaville was quickly contained and the rebels were repulsed. In March 2003, the rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord, which remained in effect as of March 2004, although there was some violence in Brazzaville in December 2003.
The war in neighboring Congo-Kinshasa has led to insecurity in border areas in northern Congo-Brazzaville along the Ubangui River. Travel to these regions is not recommended. Night travel outside of town and cities should be avoided.
U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
In the Republic of Congo, petty street crime targeting foreigners is rare. Muggings and pickpocketing happen infrequently near the port in Pointe Noire, and in areas where groups of street children gather. Travelers should note that in the case of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited and therefore, they may wish to leave all valuable items at home.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
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 Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Congo-Brazzaville are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy
fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the U.S., for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical facilities are extremely limited. Some medicines are in short supply, particularly outside the larger cities. Travelers should carry their own supply of properly labeled medications.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
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 Congo-Brazzaville is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Non-Existent
Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-May. Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited. Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Poorly marked checkpoints, sometimes manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist in many areas of the countryside. Passenger travel on the railroad is discouraged, as there are frequent reports of extortion by undisciplined security forces and robberies by criminal elements along the route.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Congo-Brazzaville by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Congo-Kinshasa's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers and has put many Congolese carriers on non-use status for their personnel. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa stops running late afternoon, and it may close completely with minimal notice. If ferry service is functioning, a special exit permit from Congo-Brazzaville's Immigration Service and a visa from a Congo-Kinshasa's embassy/consulate are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa.
PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS ^
Photographs of government buildings or military installations should not be taken without permission. Photographs of national forests, parks, ports, electricity production, etc. may be taken with permission of the appropriate ministry and authority (e.g., Ministry of Territorial Administration for infrastructure, Ministry of Forestry for national parks, etc.). When photographing human beings in remote areas where populations adhere to traditional beliefs, it is best to request permission first. If permission is refused, the photo should not be taken.
Please also refer to the separate
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
May 7, 2004