CIGNA Expat Health Insurance

Congo Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Sep 01, 2009

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa).  This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated February 5, 2009, to reflect continued instability in North Kivu province and the surrounding area, as well as a critical crime threat in Kinshasa.

The Rwandan government forces that entered the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in January at the invitation of the DRC government have withdrawn, and all U.S. Government personnel working in the region have returned.  Still, government soldiers, as well as rebel fighters, remain a security concern.  These armed groups, located especially in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, northern Katanga, and Bas-Congo, are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted.  Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country.  Requests for bribes in such instances are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people refusing to pay.  In the last six months, the Embassy has recorded a number of serious instances where U.S. citizens were detained illegally by government forces.  The isolation of the area makes the provision of consular services difficult.  

Kinshasa remains a critical crime threat area, and U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crime, including armed robbery by groups posing as law enforcement. 

Public health concerns pose a hazard to U.S. citizen travelers due to outbreaks of deadly viruses and other diseases, which can occur without warning and often are not rapidly reported by local health authorities.  In January, in the province of Western Kasai, an Ebola fever outbreak occurred in which 11 people died and more than 120 were exposed to the virus.  Information on personal protection for international travelers, including children, can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/.

Enforcement of aviation safety standards in the DRC is uneven, with frequent incidents and accidents.  The U.S. Embassy has prohibited official travel by U.S. government employees and contractors on all DRC-owned and -operated commercial airlines due to safety and maintenance concerns.  International flights on foreign-owned and operated carriers are not affected by this prohibition.

U.S. citizens should avoid all public demonstrations and areas where crowds have gathered, exercise caution, and closely monitor local and international news from reliable sources.  Radio Okapi broadcasts in French on 103.5 FM at 0700, 0800, 1200, and 1800 and provides 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 Department’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov.  By registering, U.S. 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; the Consular Section entrance is located on Avenue Dumi, opposite Saint Anne’s church.  The Embassy’s telephone number, including for after-hours emergencies, is 243-81-225-5872; callers within the 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/.

8. U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Worldwide Caution, 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 from within the United States and Canada, or at regular toll rates at 1-202-501-4444 for callers from other countries, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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