Traveling Luck for Congo (Brazzaville)

Republic of the Congo is located in Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon.

Congo (Brazzaville) has borders with Angola for 201km, Congo (Kinshasa) for 2410km, Central African Republic for 467km, Cameroon for 523km and Gabon for 1903km.

Land in Republic of the Congo is coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, northern basin.

Congolese or Congo land covers an area of 342000 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Montana

As for the Congolese or Congo climate; tropical; rainy season (March to June); dry season (June to October); persistent high temperatures and humidity; particularly enervating climate astride the Equator.

Congolese (singular and plural) speak French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread).

Congolese or Congo National Map

Congolese or Congo Map

Regions of Congo (Brazzaville)

Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government took office in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, and ushered in a period of ethnic and political unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003, but the calm is tenuous and refugees continue to present a humanitarian crisis. The Republic of Congo was once one of Africa's largest petroleum producers, but with declining production it will need to hope for new offshore oil finds to sustain its oil earnings over the long term.


Congo (Brazzaville) Country Profile

The economy is a mixture of village agriculture and handicrafts, an industrial sector based largely on oil, support services, and a government characterized by budget problems and overstaffing. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing a major share of government revenues and exports. In the early 1980s, rapidly rising oil revenues enabled the government to finance large-scale development projects with GDP growth averaging 5% annually, one of the highest rates in Africa. The government has mortgaged a substantial portion of its oil earnings through oil-backed loans that have contributed to a growing debt burden and chronic revenue shortfalls. Economic reform efforts have been undertaken with the support of international organizations, notably the World Bank and the IMF. However, the reform program came to a halt in June 1997 when civil war erupted. Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, who returned to power when the war ended in October 1997, publicly expressed interest in moving forward on economic reforms and privatization and in renewing cooperation with international financial institutions. Economic progress was badly hurt by slumping oil prices and the resumption of armed conflict in December 1998, which worsened the republic's budget deficit. The current administration presides over an uneasy internal peace and faces difficult economic challenges of stimulating recovery and reducing poverty. Recovery of oil prices has boosted the economy's GDP and near-term prospects. The Republic of Congo may be eligible for an IMF-World Bank heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative in early 2006, provided it meets the strict fiscal and monetary targets set out for it under a new three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) with the IMF.

Congolese or Congo natural resources include petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, gold, magnesium, natural gas, hydropower

about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them

Congolese or Congo religion is Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2%.

Natural hazards in Republic of the Congo include seasonal flooding.

Travel Advice on Congo (Brazzaville)

Congo (Democratic Republic)

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Local Travel section.  We advise against all travel to the province of Bas Congo.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to eastern and north eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  This includes entering DRC from Uganda and Rwanda.  This is due to continued insecurity and lawlessness in these areas.  There is sporadic fighting between the Congolese army and insurgents in North Kivu.

  • Since 31 January 2007, there have been clashes between Political grouping (BDK) and government troops in Bas Congo in which there have been a number of deaths. We therefore advise against all travel to the province of Bas Congo.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the rest of DRC at present, as there is a risk of tension and insecurity following the elections in July and October 2006 and during the formation of the new government.  There remains a risk of instability and the situation could deteriorate at short notice.

  • You should continue to remain vigilant at all times.  For immediate, specific information about planned demonstrations or any other events which affect the local security situation, you should register with the British Embassy (see contact details below).

  • Ndjili International Airport in Kinshasa is liable to close at short notice if the security situation in town deteriorates.  You should check with your airline before travelling.

  • The threat from terrorism is low.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in DRC is for robbery, including by individuals posing as plainclothes police.  You should also beware of gangs promising you cut price gold and diamonds.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

The collapsed economy, non-payment of military and public service salaries, and very high unemployment has led to a high level of crime.  You should be alert to the risk of street crime and armed robbery at all times, including being targeted by armed gangs when driving.  Foreigners are at particular risk of street robbery in Kinshasa, often in the vicinity of hotels and supermarkets.  Some gangs use girls to lure the unwary into traps; others promise cut-price gold and diamonds or pose as police to rob foreigners, including in daylight.  There is also a risk of arbitrary arrests of foreigners by security authorities who demand payment for release.

After a spate of armed attacks in 2004  on vehicles travelling on the main Kinshasa to Matadi road, including one during daylight hours military roadblocks apply on the Kinshasa-Matadi road from 18:00 to prevent traffic from circulating after dark.  You should take sensible security precautions, i.e. do not walk in the streets alone or after dark.  Safeguard and avoid displaying valuables and cash.  Deposit them in a hotel safe, where practical.  Keep copies of documents including passport separately.  On the road, you should keep doors locked and windows shut while driving.  Do not drive off the main thoroughfares or park in unsupervised areas.

Political Situation

DRC Country Profile.

Five years of civil war in DRC officially ended on 29 June 2003, when the Congolese parties to the conflict signed accords sharing military and political responsibilities in a transitional government.  Democratic elections were held on 30 July and 29 October 2006 and the newly elected President was inaugurated on 6 December 2006.  A new government is now being established.

We advise against all travel to eastern and north-eastern DRC and against all but essential travel to the rest of DRC (see Local Travel Section). During the election period there was armed conflict in Kinshasa, which resulted in civilian casualties.

During the months following the elections, it is possible that there will be more public demonstrations related to the political process, which could flare up into trouble with little warning.  Protests have in the past spilled over into attacks on international targets.  You should avoid crowds and popular gathering points, and contact the Embassy if there are signs of trouble.

Local Travel

We advise against all travel to eastern and north-eastern DRC.  This includes entering eastern DRC from Uganda or Rwanda (some gorilla-trekking operators in these countries cross into DRC).  Continued insecurity and lawlessness in these areas also means that the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Burundi can close at short notice.  You should consult the British Embassies in Kinshasa and Kigali if in doubt.

The north-eastern district of Ituri, near the frontier with Uganda, remains an area of continued inter-factional conflict.  Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, violence continues.  There are frequent armed clashes and attacks on civilians across eastern DRC, in Ituri, the Kivu provinces and northern Katanga.

Clashes between forces loyal to a dissident general and the Congolese army supported by UN troops have been reported throughout December 2006 and January 2007 in North Kivu, eastern DRC. The situation in this region remains unstable.

Since 31 January 2007, there have been clashes between Political grouping (BDK) and government troops in Bas Congo in which there have been a number of deaths. We therefore advise against all travel to the province of Bas Congo.

Road safety

An international driving permit is required. To drive in DRC and car hire with international companies is possible in Kinshasa.

There is no reliable public transport system in DRC.  Over-crowded and unroadworthy vans serve as buses in Kinshasa.  There are few taxis, available from the large hotels, and these do not meet western safety standards.  Outside of Kinshasa and other main cities, most roads are barely driveable even with a 4x4, especially during the rainy season (September to May). . An international driving permit is required.

Air safety

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.

Following a number of crashes involving Congolese-registered aircraft in 2005 and 2006, you should be aware of doubts about the airworthiness of some Congolese and other regionally registered aircraft.  British government employees have been advised that there are safety concerns about all DRC domestic airlines and that Hewa Bora may carry fewer risks than other local DRC airlines.  But this airline - like all Congolese airlines - does not fully meet ICAO and other international safety standards.

River safety

You should be aware that the boats and ferries, which serve the rivers and lakes, are poorly maintained.  Strong currents, shifting sandbanks and poor maintenance contribute to low safety standards.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Taking photographs in public places risks arrest and detention.  Journalists should not conduct interviews or film without the necessary local permits.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

All British passport holders need a valid visa to travel to DRC.  This must be obtained before travelling.  You should contact the Congolese representation in the UK.  A Rwandan or Ugandan immigration stamp in your passport should not prohibit admission, but you may still experience difficulties on arrival in the DRC if you do have them.  
You are advised not to bring satellite phones, GPS receivers or military clothing into the DRC as this could lead to difficulties with the security authorities.  
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is mandatory.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.

The Centre Prive d'Urgence (CPU) clinic in Kinshasa is able to cope with basic health problems and to stabilise a patient after most serious accidents. However, medical evacuation to South Africa (or elsewhere) would be advised as soon as possible. Outside Kinshasa, western standard medical facilities are practically non-existent.  You should ensure that you have comprehensive medical and travel insurance, to include specifically the very high costs of evacuation by air ambulance.  Minimum turnaround time of evacuation by air ambulance is 10 hours.

HIV/AIDS and malaria are prevalent.  More than three-quarters of British travellers who contacted malaria worldwide in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets.  However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in-country or in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in DRC.

Since mid-May, an outbreak of contagious pneumonic (pulmonary) plague has been affecting areas of Orientale Province, particularly Ituri district, in eastern DRC.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 42 deaths from pneumonic plague between July and October 2006, in northern Oriental province.  Teams from the WHO and Médecins Sans Frontieres are working to contain the outbreak.
Cholera is endemic in DRC.  The border at Chiengi was closed by the Zambian Government after an outbreak of cholera in the area,  It has since reopened.  You should observe routine food and hygiene measures, drinking water should be filtered and boiled or bought in brand bottles with unbroken seals.  Food purchased from local street vendors may not meet adequate hygiene standards.
Rabies is endemic in the DRC.  You should be aware that medical treatment for it is not readily available outside Kinshasa.  The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals and transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or contact of saliva with broken skin and can be fatal once symptoms manifest themselves.  All travellers who have possibly been exposed to the rabies virus, whether by bites, scratches or other exposure, should seek medical advice without delay (even if pre-exposure vaccine was received).  This also applies to travellers in low risk areas in case other animal transmitted infections are present, or the animal may have strayed across the border from an endemic country.  More information can be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre website at:  http://www.nathnac.org.
An outbreak of Hepatitis E in Equateur province in October 2006, has resulted in 13 deaths in three months.  The WHO are investigating.
There are reports of an outbreak of meningitis in Bagata in Bandundu Province (the province adjoining Kinshasa) – with 10 reported deaths since mid-January 2007.  The Congolese authorities are investigating.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Since May 2006, the Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes in the northeast of the country (near Goma) have been showing signs of renewed volcanic activity.  On 27 November 2006, Nyamulagira erupted.  If you are in the area (against our travel advice) you should follow local advice.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help.
The lack of reliable air transport to the east and continued insecurity in the east may prevent the British Embassy in Kinshasa from being able to extend normal levels of consular assistance to British nationals anywhere in the eastern half of DRC.

If you do decide to visit or work in DRC you are strongly advised to have your own evacuation plan, to regularly review its viability in the light of changing circumstances, and to provide details of it to the British Embassy at ambrit@ic.cd.

We strongly recommend that if you are visiting or are resident in the DRC that you register with the British Embassy in Kinshasa. You can do so in person or, if you prefer, via our secure online registration service at: Consular Online Registration. Notwithstanding our inability to guarantee consular assistance and advice against travel in the east, we would strongly recommend you to register and give us your contact details if you intend to visit there, so that we can pass on information that may be of use to you concerning the security situation in the area.  You should also consider having the visa for the Republic of Congo if you are planning to stay in Kinshasa for a considerable period of time.

The British Embassy in Kinshasa offers only a Temporary Passport service. These are valid for up to one year only. The Embassy provides a full replacement passport service via the British High Commission in Nairobi. This can take up to six weeks, unless you are prepared to meet courier costs.

DRC has a GSM network on which most dual-band (or better) UK mobile phones will work. Coverage is not complete. If in doubt, contact your UK service provider. Local ‘pay as you go’ SIM cards are available.