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Congo

Issued by US Department of State

Oct 20, 2006

This revised Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) provides an update on the security situation. It further notes that the Department has authorized the departure of family members of Embassy personnel who wish to leave during the upcoming presidential run-off election period. American citizens who choose to remain in Kinshasa despite this Travel Warning should evaluate their security situation and consider departing. This Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo issued August 24, 2006.

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in light of recent unrest following the first round of the presidential elections. On August 20-22, sustained gunfire occurred in the Gombe neighborhood of Kinshasa where many expatriates reside, resulting in the deaths of 23 persons. Americans who heard gunfire near their home or workplace were advised at the time to stay in an internal room and/or away from windows. The unrest resulted in cancelled international and domestic flights as well as temporary closure of the ferry service to Brazzaville. v There is a potential for violence through October 29, when the presidential run-off elections are scheduled. There is also potential for violence after the elections, when results are announced, and during the installation of the new government in mid-December 2006. U.N. peacekeeping forces, as well as European Union military troops (EUFOR) and military police (EUPOL), are assisting Congolese National Police to ensure order. However, as a precaution, the Department has authorized the departure of family members of Embassy personnel who wish to leave the capital. American citizens who opt to remain in Kinshasa despite this Travel Warning should evaluate their security situation and consider departing.

Travel in the eastern provinces, especially in rural areas, remains unsafe due to continued sporadic attacks by uncontrolled militias. Despite advances in the peace process following the 2003 formation of a transitional government, periodic fighting continues in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri, and northern Katanga, and other areas of eastern Congo.

Though U.N. observer forces are deployed throughout the country, unofficial armed groups and active duty troops in parts of the country are known to pillage, carjack and steal vehicles, kill extra-judicially, rape, kidnap, and carry out military/paramilitary operations. The large number of rebel and government soldiers to be decommissioned as a result of the peace process is also a security concern. Travelers have been detained and questioned by ill-disciplined security forces at numerous military roadblocks throughout the country. Government-imposed curfews, not currently in effect, could be reinstated upon short notice if the security situation deteriorates. Visitors should restrict their travel, particularly at night, to areas of Kinshasa with which they are familiar. In the event of political disturbances, they should avoid the parts of the city where the disturbances occur, especially at night. During periods of violence, the number of checkpoints in Kinshasa increases. The checkpoints bring traffic delays and demands for payment of bribes in order to be allowed to proceed.

Travelers to the DRC routinely experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial "special fees." Visas are not available at ports of entry. All resident foreigners, including Americans, are required to register at the office of the Direction General de Migration (DGM) in the commune of their place of residence. Travelers should note that border closures of between 24-48 hours are expected for election day, and are possible on other days of local importance. These closures frequently occur without much advance notice.

Americans should avoid all public demonstrations and areas where crowds are gathered, exercise extreme caution, closely watch and listen for local and international news from reliable sources. Radio Okapi broadcasts in French on 103.5 FM at 0700, 0800, 1200 and 1800 as well as "flash" updates throughout the day. English-language news can be found on BBC at 92.7 FM. In times of emergency, the Belgian Embassy operates a French-language radio broadcast system at FM 98.8. Changes in security conditions may occasionally restrict the travel of U.S. Mission personnel.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the DRC despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to register with the Embassy in Kinshasa or through the State Departments travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs; entrance to the Consular Section is on Avenue Dumi, opposite Ste. Anne residence. The Embassys 24-hour number is 243-81-225-5872; callers within DRC should dial 081 225-5872. All Embassy telephone numbers are cellular phones as landlines are unreliable. The Embassy website is http://kinshasa.usembassy.gov.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's most recent Consular Information Sheet for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, both located on the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security is available toll free at 1-888-407-4747, or at regular toll rates at 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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