Congo: Republic of the Congo
Congo: Republic of the CongoPROFILE
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Compiled from the June 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.
Area: 342,000 sq. km (132,000 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New Mexico.
Cities: Capital—Brazzaville (pop. 800,000). Other cities—Pointe-Noire (450,000), Dolisie (150,000).
Climate: Tropical. Tropical jungle in the North (country seasonally split—half lies above the Equator; half below the Equator).
Terrain: Coastal plains, fertile valleys, central plateau, forested flood plains.
Nationality: Noun and adjective—Congolese (sing. and pl.).
Population: (July 2007 est.) 3,800,610.
Annual growth rate: (2007 est.) 2.639%.
Ethnic groups: 15 principal Bantu groups; more than 70 subgroups. Largest groups are Bacongo, Vili, Bateke, M’Bochi, and Sangha. Also present is a small population (less than 100,000) of Pygmies, ethnically unrelated to the Bantu majority.
Religions: Traditional beliefs 50%, Roman Catholic 35%, other Christian 15%, Muslim 2%.
Languages: French (official), Lin-gala and Munukutuba (national).
Work force: About 40% of population, two-thirds of whom work in agriculture.
Independence: August 15, 1960.
Constitution: New constitution adopted in nationwide referendum on January 20, 2002.
Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—bicameral legislature made up of a Senate and a National Assembly. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Accounts and Budgetary Discipline, Courts of Appeal (Title VIII of the 2002 constitution), and the Constitutional Court (Title IX of the 2002 constitution). Other—Economic Council and Human Rights Commission.
Political subdivisions: 10 departments, divided into districts, plus the capital district.
Political parties: More than 100 new parties formed (but not all function) since multi-party democracy was introduced in 1990. The largest are the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), Congolese Labor Party (PCT), Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI), Coalition for Democracy and Social Progress (RDPS), Coalition for Democracy and Development (RDD), Union of Democratic Forces (UFD), Union of Democratic Renewal (URD), Union for Development and Social Progress (UDPS). Following the June-October 1997 war and the 1998-99 civil conflict, many parties, including UPADS and MCDDI, were left in disarray as their leadership fled the country. By 2002, many of the leaders had returned, with several notable exceptions—including former Presidents Pascal Lissouba and Joachim Yhomby-Opango.
Suffrage: Universal adult.
GDP: (2006 est.) $5.093 billion.
Real GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 6%.
Per capita income: (2003) $700.
Structure of production: (2001) Government and services—40.3%; petroleum sector—38.9%; agriculture and forestry—10.5%; utilities and industry—6.0%; other—4.3%.
Agriculture: Products—manioc, sugar, rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, forest products. Land—less than 2% cultivated.
Trade: (2006 est.) Exports—$5.996 billion (f.o.b.) petroleum (89% of export earnings), lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds. Imports—$1.964 billion (f.o.b.) capital equipment, construction materials, foodstuffs.
Congo's sparse population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. Thus, Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with 70% of its total population living in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the 332-mile railway that connects them. In southern rural areas, industrial and commercial activity suffered as a consequence of the civil wars in the late 1990s. Except in Kouilou province and Pointe Noire, commercial activity other than subsistence activity came nearly to a halt. A slow recovery began in 2000.
Before the 1997 war, about 9,000 Europeans and other non-Africans lived in Congo, most of whom were French. Only a fraction of this number remains.
First inhabited by Pygmies, Congo was later settled by Bantu groups that also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those states. Several Bantu kingdoms—notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke—built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms—trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded. The area came under French sover-eignty in the 1880s. Pierre Savorgnon de Brazza, a French empire builder, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold's International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin. Between 1882 and 1891, treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the river's right bank, placing their lands under French protection. In 1908, France organized French Equatorial Africa (AEF), comprising its colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the federal capital.
Economic development during the first 50 years of colonial rule in Congo centered on natural resource extraction by private companies. In 1924-34, the Congo-Ocean Railway (CFCO) was built at a considerable human and financial cost, opening the way for growth of the ocean port of Pointe-Noire and towns along its route.
During World War II, the AEF administration sided with Charles DeGaulle, and Brazzaville became the symbolic capital of Free France during 1940-43. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies. Congo benefited from the postwar expansion of colonial administrative and infrastructure spending as a result of its central geographic location within AEF and the federal capital at Brazzaville.
The Loi Cadre (framework law) of 1956 ended dual voting roles and provided for partial self-government for the individual overseas territories. Ethnic rivalries then produced sharp struggles among the emerging Congolese political parties and sparked severe riots in Brazzaville in 1959. After the September 1958 referendum approving the new French Constitution, AEF was dissolved. Its four territories became autonomous members of the French Community, and Middle Congo was renamed the
Congo Republic. Formal independence was granted in August 1960. Congo's first President was Fulbert Youlou, a former Catholic priest from the Pool region in the southeast. He rose to political prominence after 1956, and was narrowly elected President by the National Assembly at independence. Youlou's 3 years in power were marked by ethnic tensions and political rivalry. In August 1963, Youlou was overthrown in a 3-day popular uprising (Les Trois Glorieuses) led by labor elements and joined by rival political parties. All members of the Youlou government were arrested or removed from office. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Debat.
Under the 1963 constitution, Massa-mba-Debat was elected President for a 5-year term and named Pascal Lis-souba to serve as Prime Minister. However, President Massamba-Debat's term ended abruptly in August 1968, when Capt. Marien Ngouabi and other army officers toppled the government in a coup. After a period of consolidation under the newly formed National Revolutionary Council, Major Ngouabi assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo to be Africa's first “people's republic” and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labor Party (PCT).
On March 18, 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated. Although the persons accused of shooting Ngouabi were tried and some of them executed, the motivation behind the assassination is still not clear. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Colonel (later General) Joachim Yhomby-Opango to serve as President of the Republic. Accused of corruption and deviation from party directives, Yhomby-Opango was removed from office on February 5, 1979, by the Central Committee of the PCT, which then simultaneously designated Vice President and Defense Minister Col.
Denis Sassou-Nguesso as interim President. The Central Committee directed Sassou-Nguesso to take charge of preparations for the Third Extraordinary Congress of the PCT, which proceeded to elect him President of the Central Committee and President of the Republic. Under a congressional resolution, Yhomby-Opango was stripped of all powers, rank, and possessions and placed under arrest to await trial for high treason. He was released from house arrest in late 1984 and ordered back to his native village of Owando.
After two decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Congolese gradually moderated their economic and political views to the point that, in 1992, Congo completed a transition to multi-party democracy. Ending a long history of one-party Marxist rule, a specific agenda for this transition was laid out during Congo's national conference of 1991 and culminated in August 1992 with multi-party presidential elections. Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new President, Prof. Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992.
Congolese democracy experienced severe trials in 1993 and early 1994. President Lissouba dissolved the National Assembly in November 1992, calling for new elections in May 1993. The results of those elections were disputed, touching off violent civil unrest in June and again in November. In February 1994, all parties accepted the decisions of an international board of arbiters, and the risk of large-scale insurrection subsided.
However, Congo's democratic progress was derailed in 1997. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou-Nguesso camps mounted. When President Lissouba's government forces surrounded Sassou-Nguesso's compound in Brazzaville with armored vehicles on June 5, Sassou-Nguesso ordered his militia to resist. Thus began a 4-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville. In early October, Angolan troops invaded Congo on the side of Sassou-Nguesso and, in mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou-Nguesso declared himself President and named a 33-member government.
In January 1998, the Sassou-Nguesso regime held a National Forum for Reconciliation to determine the nature and duration of the transition period. The forum, tightly controlled by the government, decided elections should be held in about 3 years, elected a transition advisory legislature, and announced that a constitutional convention would finalize a draft constitution. However, the eruption in late 1998 of fighting between Sassou-Nguesso's government forces and a pro-Lissouba and pro-Kolelas armed opposition disrupted the transition to democracy. This new violence also closed the economically vital Brazzaville-Pointe Noire railroad, caused great destruction and loss of life in southern Brazzaville and in the Pool, Bouenza, and Niari regions, and displaced hundreds of thousands of persons. In November and December 1999, the government signed agreements with representatives of many, though not all, of the rebel groups.
The December accord, mediated by President Omar Bongo of Gabon, called for follow-on, inclusive political negotiations between the government and the opposition. During the years 2000-01, Sassou-Nguesso's government conducted a national dialogue (Dialogue Sans Exclusif), in which the opposition parties and the government agreed to continue on the path to peace. Ex-President Lissouba and ex-Prime Minister Kolelas refused to agree and were exiled. They were tried in absentia and convicted in Brazzaville of charges ranging from treason to misappropriation of government funds. Ex-militiamen were granted amnesty, and many were provided micro-loans to aid their reintegration into civil society. Not all opposition members participated. One group, referred to as “Ninjas,” actively opposed the government in a low-level guerrilla war in the Pool region of the country. Other members of opposition parties have returned and have opted to participate to some degree in political life.
A new constitution was drafted in 2001, approved by the provisional legislature (National Transition Council), and approved by the people of Congo in a national referendum in January 2002. Presidential elections were held in March 2002, and Sas-sou-Nguesso was declared the winner. Legislative elections were held in May and June 2002. In March 2003 the government signed a peace accord with the Ninjas, and the country has remained stable and calm since the signing. Internally displaced persons are returning to the Pool region. President Sassou-Nguesso allowed Kole-las to return to Congo for his wife's funeral in October 2005 and subsequently asked that Parliament grant Kolelas amnesty. Parliament complied with Sassou-Nguesso's request in December 2005.
Before the 1997 war, the Congolese system of government was similar to that of the French. However, after taking power, Sassou-Nguesso suspended the constitution approved in 1992 upon which this system was based. The 2002 constitution provides for a 7-year presidential term. There is a parliament of two houses, whose members serve for 5 years.
Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 2/1/2008
Pres.: Denis SASSOU-Nguesso
Prime Min.: Isidore MVOUBA
Min. at the Presidency in Charge of National Defense, Veterans, & Disabled War Veterans: Jacques Yvon NDOLOU, Maj. Gen.
Min. at the Presidency in Charge of the Presidential Cabinet & State Control: Simon MFOUTOU
Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Subregional Integration & the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD): Justin Bailey MEGOT
Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Cooperation, Humanitarian Action, & Solidarity: Charles Zacharie BOWAO
Min. of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, & Women's Affairs: Jeanne DAMBENZET
Min. of Civil Service & State Reform: Gabriel ENTCHA-EBIA
Min. of Commerce, Consumption, & Supplies: Yvonne Adelaide MOUNDELE-NGOLLO
Min. of Communications in Charge of Relations With Parliament: Alain AKOUALAT
Min. of Construction, Town Planning, Housing, & Land Reform: Clause Alphonse NSILOU
Min. of Culture, Arts, & Tourism: Jean-Claude GAKOSSO
Min. of Economy, Finance, & Budget: Roger Rigobert ANDELY
Min. of Equipment & Public Works: Florent NTSIBA, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Foreign Affairs, Intl. Cooperation, & Relations With Francophone Countries: Basile IKOUEBE
Min. of Forestry Economy & Environment: Henri DJOMBO
Min. of Health & Population: Emilienne RAOUL
Min. of Higher Education & Scientific Research: Henri OSSEBI
Min. of Industrial Development, Small & Medium-Size Enterprises, & Handicrafts: Emile MABONZOT
Min. of Justice & Human Rights & Keeper of the Seals: Aimi Emmanuel YOKA
Min. of Labor, Employment, & Social Security:
Min. of Maritime & Continental Fishing: Philip MVOUO
Min. of Mines, Energy, & Hydraulics:
Min. of Petroleum Affairs: Jean-Baptiste TATI LOUTARD
Min. of Planning, Territory Improvement, & Economic Integration: Pierre MOUSSA
Min. of Posts & Technology, in Charge of New Technologies: Gabriel Entrcha EBIA
Min. of Primary & Secondary Education in Charge of Literacy: Rosalie KAMA
Min. of Security & the Police: Pierre OBA, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Social Solidarity, Humanitarian Action, Disabled War Veterans, & Family Affairs:
Min. of Sports & Youth: Marcel MBANI
Min. of Technical Education & Professional Training: Pierre Michel NGUIMBI
Min. of Territory Admin. & Decentralization: Francois IBOVI
Min. of Tourism & Environment: Andri Okombi SALISSA
Min. of Transports & Privatization in Charge of Government Action Coordination: Isidore MVOUBA
Dir., Central Bank: Ange Edouard POUNGUI
Ambassador to the US: Serge MOMBOULI
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:
The Congo maintains an embassy in the United States at 4891 Colorado Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20011 (tel: 202-726-5500). The Congolese Mission to the United Nations is at 14 East 65th Street, New York, NY 10021 (tel: 212-744-7840).
The Congo's economy is based primarily on its petroleum sector, which is by far the country's major revenue earner. The Congolese oil sector is dominated by the French oil company TotalFinaElf. In second position is the Italian oil firm Agip. ChevronTex-aco (in partnership with TotalFi-naElf) is the primary American oil company active in petroleum exploration or production. Murphy Oil has signed a contract but has not begun exploration or production. Congo's oil production is expected to decline over the next 15 years with fields yielding less. However, based on an agreement with Angola signed in 2002 to jointly administer certain Congo-Cabinda border areas, Congo's production could rise if exploration is successful. Murphy Oil signed a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with Congo in 2003 for two deepwater off-shore permits. Congo hopes to offset declining production in other fields with these new PSAs.
The country's abundant northern rain forests are the source of timber. Forestry, which led Congolese exports before the discovery of oil, now generates less than 7% of export earnings. Wood production came to a standstill during the war years but has recommenced, and new concessions were leased in 2001.
Earlier in the decade, Congo's major employer was the state bureaucracy, which had 80,000 employees on its payroll—enormous for a country of Congo's size. The World Bank and other international financial institutions pressured Congo to institute sweeping civil service reforms in order to reduce the size of the state bureaucracy and pare back a civil service payroll that amounted to more than 20% of GDP in 1993. The effort to cut back began in 1994 with a 50% devaluation that cut the payroll in half in dollar terms. By the middle of 1994, there was a reduction of nearly 8,000 in civil service employees.
Between 1994-96, the Congolese economy underwent a difficult transition. The prospects for building the foundation of a healthy economy, however, were better than at any time in the previous 15 years. Congo took a number of measures to liberalize its economy, including reforming the tax, investment, labor, timber, and hydrocarbon codes. In 2002-03 Congo privatized key parastatals, primarily banks, telecommunications, and transportation monopolies, to help improve a dilapidated and unreliable infrastructure. By the end of 1996, Congo had made substantial progress in various areas targeted for reform. It made significant strides toward macroeconomic stabilization through improving public finances and restructuring external debt. This change was accompanied by improvements in the structure of expenditures, with a reduction in personnel expenditures. Further, Congo benefited from debt restructuring from a Paris Club agreement in July 1996.
This reform program came to a halt, however, in early June 1997 when war broke out, and the return of armed conflict in 1998-99 hindered economic reform and recovery. President Sassou-Nguesso has moved forward on improved governance, economic reforms, and privatization, as well as on cooperation with international financial institutions. President Sassou-Nguesso also has made speeches outlining the need for good governance and transparency in the Congo, particularly during his 2003 and 2004 National Day Addresses.
Before June 1997, Congo and the United States ratified a bilateral investment treaty designed to facilitate and protect foreign investment. The country also adopted a new investment code intended to attract foreign capital. The country has made some commendable efforts at political and economic reform, but despite these successes, Congo's investment climate has challenges, offering few meaningful incentives for new investors. High costs for labor, energy, raw materials, and transportation; a restrictive labor code; low productivity and high production costs; and a deteriorating transportation infrastructure have been among the factors discouraging investment. Five years of civil conflict (1997–2003) further damaged infrastructure, though the privatization of some statal and parastatal enterprises has generated some interest from U.S. companies.
In March 2006, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) decision point treatment for Congo, noting that Congo has performed satisfactorily on an IMF-supported program and developed an interim Poverty Reduction Strategy. The IMF and World Bank also noted, however, that Congo needed to address serious concerns about governance and financial transparency in order to qualify for completion point and irrevocable debt relief. Specifically, Congo needs to bring the internal controls and accounting system of the state-owned oil company (SNPC) up to internationally recognized standards; prevent conflicts of interests in the marketing of oil; require SNPC officials to publicly declare and divest any interests in companies having a business relationship with SNPC; and implement an anti-corruption action plan with international support. Any resources that are freed by interim debt relief granted to Congo must be used for poverty reduction under a reform program closely monitored by the international financial institutions.
For the two decades preceding Congo's 1991 national conference, the country was firmly in the socialist camp, allied principally with the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc nations. Educational, economic, and foreign aid links between Congo and its Eastern bloc allies were extensive, with the Congolese military and security forces receiving significant Soviet, East German, and Cuban assistance.
France, the former colonial power, maintained a continuing but some-what subdued relationship with Congo, offering a variety of cultural, educational, and economic assistance. The principal element in the French-Congolese relationship was the highly successful oil sector investment of the French petroleum parast-atal Elf-Aquitaine (now called TotalFinaElf), which entered the Congo in 1968 and has continued to grow.
After the worldwide collapse of communism and Congo's adoption of multi-party democracy in 1991, Congo's bilateral relations with its former socialist allies became relatively less important. France is now by far Congo's principal external partner, contributing significant amounts of economic assistance, while playing a highly influential role. However, there is a growing interest in attracting American investors.
Congo is a member of the United Nations, African Union, African Development Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC), International Coffee Organization, Economic Community of Central African States ECCAS/CEEAC), INTERPOL, the Nonaligned Movement, and the Group of 77. Congo holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council during 2006–2007. In January 2006, President Sassou-Nguesso was elected Chairman of the African Union.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Congo were broken during the most radical Congolese-Marxist period, 1965–77. The U.S. Embassy reopened in 1977 with the restoration of relations, which remained distant until the end of the socialist era. The late 1980s were marked by a progressive warming of Congolese relations with Western countries, including the United States. Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso made a state visit to Washington in 1990, where he was received by President George H.W. Bush.
With the advent of democracy in 1991, Congo's relations with the United States improved and were cooperative. The United States has enthusiastically supported Congolese democratization efforts, contributing aid to the country's electoral process. The Congolese Government demonstrated an active interest in deepening and broadening its relations with the United States. Transition Prime Minister Andre Milongo made an official visit to Washington in 1992, where President Bush received him at the White House.
Then-presidential candidate Pascal Lissouba traveled to Washington in 1992, meeting with a variety of officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman J. Cohen. After his election in August 1992, President Lissouba expressed interest in expanding U.S.-Congo links, seeking increased U.S. development aid, university exchanges, and greater U.S. investment in Congo. With the outbreak of the 1997 war, the U.S. Embassy was evacuated. The Embassy was closed, and its personnel became resident in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 2001 Embassy-suspended operations were lifted, and Embassy personnel were allowed to travel to Brazzaville for periods of extended temporary duty from the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. As a result, U.S.Congo bilateral relations were reinvigorated. In 2003 and 2004 this practice continued, and a site for construction of a new Embassy was acquired in July 2004. Relations between the United States and the government of President Denis Sas-sou-Nguesso are strong, positive, and cooperative.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Last Updated: 2/19/2008
BRAZZAVILLE (E) BDEAC Building, 4th Floor, Brazzaville, ROC, APO/FPO Unit 31550, APO/AE 09828-1550, 242-81-14-80/81, Fax 243-81-5324 (Kinshasa), Workweek: M-F/0730-1630, Website: brazzaville. usembassy.gov.
|DCM OMS:||Vacant (Kinshasa)|
|AMB OMS:||Ina Erickson|
|CDC:||Karen Hawkins Reed (Resident In Kinshasa, Drc)|
|CON:||Vacant (See ECO:)|
|PAO:||Vacant (See Dcm)|
|GSO:||Vacant (See Mgt)|
|DAO:||Ltc. Ltc Scott Bryson (Kinshasa)|
|FMO:||Vacant (See Mgt)|
|ICASS:||Chair Vacant (See Mgt)|
|IRS:||Kathy J. Beck (Resident In Paris|
|POL:||Vacant (See AMB Or DCM)|
|State ICASS:||Vacant (See DCM)|
Consular Information Sheet
January 4, 2008
Country Description: The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a developing nation in central Africa. The official language is French. The largest cities are the capital, Brazzaville, on the Congo River, and Pointe Noire on the coast. Civil conflict in 1997 and again in 1998-99 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country.
The last rebel group still engaged in armed struggled signed a cease-fire accord with the government in March 2003. Facilities for tourism are very limited.
Entry Requirements: A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Additional information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Congo, 4891 Colorado Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011, telephone (202) 726-5500, or from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Congo to the United Nations, 14 E. 65th St., New York, NY, 10021, telephone (212) 744-7840. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.
Safety and Security: As a result of past conflicts, there is extensive damage to the infrastructure in Brazzaville and in the southern part of the country, and the government is working to reconstruct roads and buildings. Fighting broke out in March and June of 2002 when rebel groups launched attacks first in the Pool region, and later, at the Brazzaville airport.
The fighting in Brazzaville was quickly contained and the rebels were repulsed. In March 2003, the rebels and the government signed a ceasefire accord, which remains in effect, although there was some violence in Brazzaville in December 2003.
Tensions in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo have led to insecurity in border areas in the north of the Republic of the Congo along the Ubangui River. Travel to these regions is not recommended. Night travel outside of cities should be avoided. In March 2007 stray small arms fire originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo landed in Brazzaville during a conflict in Kinshasa, making security awareness a key consideration for all visitors.
U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
The Department of State suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville in 1997. The Brazzaville U.S. Embassy interim offices are located in the B.D.E.A.C (Central African Development Bank) building in Brazzaville. A new embassy compound is under construction and slated to open in 2009. While Brazzaville is still not fully open for normal operations, Embassy staff is present in Brazzaville to provide information and guidance to American citizens. Staff can be contacted through the Embassy's interim offices. The reduced staff in Brazzaville has limited ability to provide emergency services and non-emergency services generally take a few days to coordinate through Embassy Kinshasa.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's web site, where the current World-wide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and other Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
Crime: In the Congo, petty street crime targeting foreigners is rare. Incidents of mugging and pick pocketing happen frequently near the ports in Pointe Noire and Brazzaville, and sometimes in the Congolese neighborhoods surrounding Brazzaville's city center.
Criminal elements are known to target middle-class and affluent residences without 24-hour guards for burglary. Roadblocks and robberies by armed groups targeting travelers occur in the Pool region south of Brazzaville. Police resources are limited and response to emergency calls is often slow (15 minutes or longer). Travelers should note that in the case of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited and therefore, they may wish to leave all valuable items at home.
Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Some medicines are in short supply, particularly out-side the larger cities. Travelers should carry their own supply of properly labeled medications.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in the Congo, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the Republic of Congo are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone). Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers’ Health web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/trav
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about out-breaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Republic of the Congo is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-May. Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited. Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Poorly marked checkpoints, sometimes manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist in many areas of the countryside.
Taxis are considered an acceptable mode of transport because of availability and low cost. Registered public transportation vehicles are painted green with white striping. Security is not generally an issue with taxis but buses are often over-crowded and thus less secure. Both taxis and buses are mechanically unreliable.
Road travel in general is hazardous due to high speeds, aggressive driving, poorly maintained vehicles and general disregard of pedestrians and cyclists. Roads are narrow, dangerously potholed, frequently wash out during rainy season, and are often full of debris and crowded with pedestrians. Emergency services are limited.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Republic of the Congo, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Republic of the Congo's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.
Special Circumstances: Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. Monday through Saturday and 8 A.M. to 12 P.M. Sunday, but it may close completely with minimal notice. A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo's Immigration Service and a visa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo's embassy/consulate are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa. Passenger travel on the railroad is discouraged, as there are frequent reports of extortion by undisciplined security forces and robberies by criminal elements along the route.
The Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency. Traveler's checks can be cashed for a fee at some hotels. Two hotels in Brazzaville, and several in Pointe Noire, accept major credit cards, but prefer payment in cash. Prices are usually quoted in CFA or Euros. Other businesses do not normally accept credit cards. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, and one bank in Brazzaville has an ATM.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for internal travel. For a complete list of prohibited items, please contact the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.
Local security forces in areas outside Brazzaville and Pointe Noire may detain foreigners to solicit bribes. Detention of U.S. citizens, particularly in remote areas, may not always be promptly reported to the U.S. Government by Congolese authorities. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
In general there are no restrictions on photography; however photographs of government buildings or military installations, port facilities or the airport should not be taken. When photographing human beings in remote areas where populations adhere to traditional beliefs, it is best to request permission first. If permission is refused, the photo should not be taken.
Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Republic of the Congo are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.
Registration and Embassy Locations : Americans living or traveling in the Republic of the Congo are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Republic of the Congo. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa or at the interim offices in Brazzaville. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The Embassy in Brazzaville has interim offices located in the B.D.E.A.C Building, 4th Floor, Place du Gouvernement, Plateau de Centre Ville, Brazzaville. The cellular telephone number during regular business hours (7:30 am until 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday) is 242-81-14-81; email is [email protected] The Embassy in Kinshasa is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Gombe; tel. 243-(0)81-225-5872 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad into the Congo), and the mailing address from the U.S. is Brazzaville Embassy Office, American Embassy Kinshasa, Unite 31550, APO AE, 09828-1550. Entrance to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is on Avenue Dumi, opposite Ste. Anne residence. The Consular Section of the Embassy in Kinshasa may be reached at cellular tel. 243-(0)81-884-4609, 243-(0)81-884-6859 or 243-(0)81-225-5872; fax 243-(0)81-301-0560. For after-hours emergencies, use 243-81-225-5872. (Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is often unreliable). Web sites are http://brazzaville.usembassy.gov and http://kinshasa.usembassy.gov.
The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.
Disclaimer : The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.
Important Note: American citizens adopting from the Republic of Congo will need to travel to both the Republic of Congo and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the similarity of names, these are two different countries, each with a U.S. Embassy. The adoption will take place in Republic of Congo, in keeping with the laws and procedures out-lined in this flyer. The U.S. immigrant visa interview for the child will take place at the U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, since that office processes immigrant visa cases for children from both countries. American citizens considering adopting from the Republic of Congo should ensure in advance that they have any/all visas and other travel documentation for both countries.
It should also be noted that there are currently no physicians or medical clinics in Congo Brazzaville authorized to perform the mandatory medical clearance examination for prospective adoptive children. All medical clearance examinations must be performed in Kinshasa where the current wait time for such appointments is approximately 4–6 weeks. The Embassy in Kinshasa will assist prospective adoptive parents with obtaining an expedited medical exam but cannot guarantee the availability of expedited processing.
Patterns of Immigration: Recent statistics reflect that only seven orphans from the Republic of Congo have received U.S. immigrant visas within the last five fiscal years.
Adoption Authority: The Civil Magistrate's Court has jurisdiction over adoptions. Mailing addresses do not exist as there is no reliable mail service. Local attorneys have current contacts in the courts.
Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Prospective adoptive parents (prospective adoptive parents) may be married, single, widowed or divorced. For the last three categories, the adoptive parent must be at least 35 years old. In the case of couples, they must have been married for at least five years, be living in the same household, and at least one spouse must be over 30 years old. All prospective adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate to the court that the child will benefit from the adoption and that they have no criminal record or other characteristics that would make them unsuitable as parents. The age difference between the parent(s) and the child must be at least 20 years, except in the case of adoption of a spouse's child, where the age difference need only be 10 years. The court does consider exceptions to the age difference requirement on a case-by-case basis. In the cases of children over 15 years old, the child must agree to the adoption. Where the adoptive child is not an orphan, parental or family agreement is necessary (please note, however, that in order to qualify for immediate immigration to the United States, the adoptive child must meet the definition of orphan as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended).
Residency Requirements: Pro-spective adoptive parents do not need to be permanent or long-term residents of the Republic of Congo.
Time Frame: The court process normally takes several weeks. Processing a Congolese passport application for the child (needed for international travel as well as the U.S. immigrant visa process) takes an additional one to two weeks. Once the adoptive child's immigrant visa has been approved, it is usually issued within 48 to 72 hours. Prospective adoptive parents therefore should not make reservations to depart the ROC on the same day as the immigrant visa interview.
Prospective adoptive parents should remember that all visa processing is done in Congo Kinshasa and all parties must be physically present in Kinshasa for the visa interview.
Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.
Adoption Fees: 10,000 CFA (about $20) is due with the initial adoption request and a fee of 46,000 CFA (about $92) is due once the court decision is given. Lawyer fees can range from $1,000 to $2,500. Fees can be kept to a minimum if, prior to the first consultation, adopting parents secure any required documents such as birth, death, marriage and relevant court records on their own.
Adoption Procedures: First, the letter of request to adopt and the child's birth certificate is submitted to the office of the President of the Magistrate's Court. The court will conduct an investigation and render a decision regarding the adoption at a public hearing.
- Letter of request to adopt;
- Proof of adequate financial resources;
- Proof of country of residency;
- Birth certificate of the child; and
- Parental authorization or, in the case of an orphan, court authorization.
Embassy of the Republic of Congo
4891 Colorado Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20011
Telephone: (202) 726-5500
U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.
Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in the Republic of Congo may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville. Questions about orphan immigrant visa processing for children from the Republic of Congo should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.