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Travel Warning: Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Originally released June 24, 2005, this information is current as of Monday, November 28, 2005. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid a certain country.

This Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) reiterates the Department of State’s warning to U.S. citizens against traveling there in light of recent unrest and the potential for more unrest in the near future. This Travel Warning supersedes that of March 30, 2005.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite efforts to advance the peace process following the 2003 formation of a transitional government, periodic fighting continues in North and South Kivu, Ituri District, and other areas of eastern Congo. Wide-scale civil unrest broke out in May and June 2004, with rioting and looting in many cities, including the capital Kinshasa, and resulted in United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeper and civilian casualties. There were also civilian and police casualties during demonstrations in several areas of Kinshasa in January 2005 and in Mbuji Mayi in May 2005. The challenges of implementing national elections raise the possibility of further civil disturbance over the next several months. The extension of the transitional government beyond June 2005 has prompted some opposition groups to call for large-scale demonstrations in Kinshasa and throughout the country on or about June 30, 2005.

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, stir up ethnic tensions, 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 may be 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 where they are familiar. In the event of political disturbances, they should avoid the parts of the city where the disturbances occur, especially at night. There are increased police patrols and checkpoints throughout Kinshasa as the government seeks to maintain order and quell any disturbances by those opposed to extending the transition. This often results in long traffic delays and the payment of “fines” to be allowed to pass.

Travelers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo 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 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. Foreigners may be asked to show their “jeton” (registration ticket) at security checkpoints and when departing the country.

Travel in the eastern provinces, especially in rural areas, remains unsafe due to continued sporadic attacks by uncontrolled militias. Land borders with Rwanda may temporarily close with little or no notice.

Americans should avoid all public demonstrations and areas where crowds are gathered, exercise extreme caution, closely watch and listen for news from reliable sources, and continuously review their personal security posture. Changes in security conditions occasionally restrict the travel of U.S. Embassy personnel.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 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, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate 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 Embassy’s 24-hour number is 243-81-225-5872; callers within DRC should dial 081 225-5872. Cell phones are best as landlines are often 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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