CIGNA Expat Health Insurance

Congo Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Apr 21, 2010

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 September 1, 2009 to reflect continued instability in North Kivu province and the surrounding area, the ongoing risk of possible unannounced flare-ups of violence in other parts of the country, and the critical crime threat in Kinshasa. 

Government soldiers, as well as rebel fighters, remain a security concern. These armed groups -- located especially in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, and Bas-Congo provinces, as well as the northern part of Katanga province -- are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted.

In two separate incidents in early April 2010, one in Equateur province in the western DRC and one in South Kivu province in the east, foreigners were kidnapped by armed militia groups.  In South Kivu province, eight International Red Cross workers were kidnapped by a group called the Mai Mai Yakutumba, a group that controls its own territory in the region and was formed to resist Rwandan Hutu forces that fled into DR Congo after the 1994 genocide.  The region has been the scene of violent clashes that have resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians in recent months. 

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous official and unofficial 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 who refuse to pay. In the last six months, the Embassy has recorded several instances in which 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. 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 web site 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 web site is http://kinshasa.usembassy.gov/.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information Sheet for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State's web site. 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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