Further protests are planned for Sunday across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While it is hoped these will be peaceful, recent protests have turned violent quickly.
People in the DRC are protesting because President Kabila has refused to step down despite passing the end of his term, and he has repeatedly delayed elections. In response to planned protests just before the new year, the government ‘ordered telecommunications providers to cut internet and texting services.‘ At least eight people, including a police officer, were killed in the protests.
Last Friday police fired warning shots at a protest in Kinshasa. The following day, the military began an operation against militants called the Allied Democratic Forces in the east of the country. The ADF are believed to be responsible for an attack that killed 15 Tanzanian UN peacekeepers in December.
The security situation in the DRC remains precarious and volatile. What follows is the FCO summary of advice.
From the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office –
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the provinces of Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Kasaï Oriental, Haut-Uele, Haut Lomami, Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema and Tanganyika, areas to the west and east of Kananga including Tshikapa and Mwene-Ditu (as shown on the map), and within 50km of the border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the cities of Goma and Bukavu and to the districts of N’djili and Kimbanseke in Kinshasa. In 2017, there has been an increase in military and police stop-and-search checkpoints in parts of Kinshasa, especially after dark.
There have been calls for peaceful political events to be held across the DRC on Sunday 21 January. You should remain vigilant and be aware of disruptions to journeys around Kinshasa and other large cities. Internet and phone services may be interrupted. You should monitor local news and media.
You should remain vigilant and keep to a minimum any travel around Kinshasa and other large cities. Travel to and from N’Djili airport may be disrupted as a result of protests. Public demonstrations can turn violent quickly. Leave quickly and don’t attempt to watch or photograph it. Monitor local media and this advice for any further updates.
Since July 2017, there have been increased reports of several towns in the South Kivu province of eastern DRC being attacked by or having come under the control of armed groups. There are reports of serious clashes between Congolese Armed Forces and militia groups around Uvira in South Kivu Province. The FCO advises against all travel to this region.
The political and security situation remains uncertain following the national electoral commission announcement that elections will now take place in December 2018. There have been continued calls for general strikes (‘ville morte’), civil disobedience and public protests towards the end of 2017 and beyond.
Public gatherings and demonstrations can be called with little or no notice and can quickly turn violent in DRC. You should:
- follow local media for news of any planned protests
- avoid travelling around Kinshasa and other large cities on and around days of planned protests including travel to and from N’Djili airport, areas where demonstrations may take place, large sporting or music events, universities, political party headquarters, the parliament and the offices of the electoral commission
If a demonstration or disturbance takes place, leave quickly and don’t attempt to watch or photograph it.
In the event of serious unrest, commercial flights may be suspended, roads blocked and borders closed, making it difficult to leave the country. Internet connections and mobile phone networks may have reduced services or be cut off. Schools may be closed. Previous periods of unrest have seen an increased military and police presence in Kinshasa and other major cities, with stop-and-search checkpoints appearing in some areas, especially after dark.
The body of the former opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is expected to return to the DRC from Belgium at some point in the future. You should expect large crowds in Kinshasa on that day. Access to N’Djili airport may be limited. Monitor local media and this advice for further updates.
Consider making contingency plans in the event of demonstrations, including keeping a stock of essential supplies and up-to-date travel documents and visas. See how to prepare for a crisis overseas and information on how to contact the British Embassy.
There are limits to the assistance the FCO can provide in a crisis, depending on the security and transport situation. You shouldn’t assume that the FCO will be able to provide assistance to leave the country in the event of serious unrest.
The security situation in eastern DRC remains unstable. The continued presence of armed groups, military operations against them, intercommunal violence and an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries all contribute to a deterioration in the political, security and humanitarian situation. There are continued reports of kidnappings, including of staff from international NGOs.
Tourists in eastern DRC have been known to be left very vulnerable as a result of trying to travel independently without escorted transport, and the risk of kidnap or injury as a result of armed or criminal activity remains high.
While British government staff do visit Goma, they aren’t always in the area, and as with anywhere outside of Kinshasa the British Embassy’s ability to offer consular assistance is severely limited.
The lack of infrastructure throughout the country and continued insecurity in eastern DRC often prevent the British Embassy in Kinshasa from being able to extend normal levels of consular assistance to British nationals anywhere in the DRC other than Kinshasa.
Before travelling, you should read this travel advice carefully, keep up to date with the latest security situation and subscribe to e-mail alerts for updates to this travel advice. Any updates to travel advice will also be posted on the UK in DRC’s Facebook page and twitter channel.
Street crime and robbery, including by individuals posing as plain clothes police, is common. You should avoid using any taxis in DRC. If you must take a taxi, use a privately booked one. Don’t hail taxis in the street. Beware of gangs promising you cut price gold and diamonds. International non-governmental organisations in Kinshasa and Goma have been targeted. Take extra care at night. See Crime
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism
from Travel Advice Summary, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/democratic-republic-of-the-congo
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