Travel Warning – Central African Republic March 25, 2008

Published by Chris Harvey March 28, 2008

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

March 25, 2008

This Travel Warning provides an update on the security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR).  American citizens traveling to or residing in the CAR should exercise extreme caution.  This supersedes the Travel Warning for the CAR issued August 9, 2007.

American citizens who travel to or reside in the Central African Republic (CAR) should exercise extreme caution, especially outside the capital city of Bangui.  Armed rebel groups, bandits, and poachers present real dangers and the Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country.

The U.S. Department of State advises American citizens who are not affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts to avoid travel to northwestern and northern CAR, particularly the areas bordering Chad, due to insecurity caused by banditry and clashes between government and rebel forces.  In addition, the embassy recommends that Americans traveling outside the capital not travel with any armed escort, as an armed escort may cause problems with local authorities or draw fire from rebel troops.  In the northwestern prefecture of Ouham and Ouham-Pende, roadblocks by rebels and by government forces pose a serious and continuing threat to aid workers and travelers.  Fighting between rebels and government forces continues sporadically, and efforts to broker a peace agreement or ceasefire between the parties have not succeeded to date.  An expatriate aid worker was killed in an attack on a well-marked vehicle north of Bocaranga in June 2007, and local citizens continue to be kidnapped and held for ransom on a regular basis.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies operating in that area share information on security incidents and the NGOs generally abide by the UN travel restrictions.  U.S. Government employees on temporary duty and other contract visitors to the U.S. Embassy are allowed to visit the northwestern or northeastern CAR prefectures only on a case-by-case basis and with specific authorization of the Chief of Mission.

Rebels and armed men are also present in the northeastern Vakaga prefecture, and pose a threat to all travelers in that area.  A peace agreement with one group of rebels is in place, but splinter groups and other armed men pose a threat to travelers.  The firing on a medical convoy of well-marked NGO vehicles, which led to one patient’s death in March 2008, resulted in the temporary suspension of most humanitarian activities in the Vakaga prefecture outside Birao.

Highway bandits (“coupeurs de route” in French, “zaraguinas” in Sango) pose a serious threat to travelers throughout the country.  Two World Health Organization physicians were murdered by unidentified assailants outside Bossembélé in April 2006.  There have been repeated attacks on Central African and expatriate travelers on the Berberati-Carnot-Baoro-Bouar-Bozoum road.

Poachers and armed men also pose a threat to game hunters in the north central CAR, in and around the Parc National de Bamingui-Bangoran.  A French hunter was murdered and three others wounded in an attack on a hunting party outside the town of Ndele in April 2007.  The poachers in this area are heavily armed, often with automatic weapons, and outside local and national government authority.

There are approximately 300 peacekeeping troops from neighboring member countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) that move in and out of the capital.  CAR military and civilian security forces, sometimes with French military assistance, staff checkpoints throughout the city.  Central African security forces (and people posing as such) at those checkpoints frequently harass local and expatriate travelers for bribes or small amounts of money (described as “coffee” in French).  American citizens should avoid public demonstrations, as even those intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangui has just four American officers and can provide only limited services to U.S. citizens at this time.

U.S. citizens in the CAR are strongly urged to register on the State Department’s web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov.  Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 2161-0200; fax (236) 2161-4494.  Americans may also obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N’djamena, Chad, at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54; web site http://ndjamena.usembassy.gov/.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s most recent Consular Specific Information Sheet for Central African Republic and the Worldwide Caution, which are located on the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov.  Up-to-date information on safety and security is also available at 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers from other countries, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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