On Thursday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) electoral commission announced that the elections will be delayed by another week. The vote will now be held on Sunday 30th December.

Unrest is likely to continue in the coming days, and more deaths – potentially many more deaths – are expected. Multiple governments have warned their citizens to leave the country, as border closures are likely. We have pulled together recent developments, travel advice and news coverage. 

The DRC has a very difficult and bloody history, as the huge and mineral rich country is racked by corruption, poor infrastructure, poverty, disease, and violence. 

If this election were to pass peacefully and successfully, it would be the first democratic transfer of power since the nation of 80 million gained independence from Belgium in 1960. However, this seems unlikely to happen. President Kabila became leader following the assassination of his father in 2001. He was due to step down in 2016, but has been clinging to power through various means. Many people have been killed in the subsequent protests and rallies relating to his decision. 

Recent developments

Violence and evacuations

There are concerns that violence will escalate. Mobile networks and the internet may be limited or shut down in the case of unrest. Earlier in the week, the US Government ordered non-emergency personnel and their families leave the country. A curfew is in place for the remaining employees, who are forbidden from travelling between 19:00 and 06:00.

Potential border closures

Before the election was delayed, the US Embassy in Kinshasa warned that all land and maritime borders may be closed from Saturday 22nd – Monday 24th December, and that there are further reports that all borders were to close for 24 hours in Saturday. It is unclear at this time whether this closures will go ahead, whether they will be delayed as well. International flights were expected to continue during the shutdown. Border closures will lead to crowds and delays, potentially further exacerbating the security situation.

Ebola outbreak

As a further complicating factor, the ebola outbreak continues to spread. The latest report from the World Health Organisation is available here.

Travel advice

  • Review your travel risk management plan, so you know exactly what to do in an emergency. Make sure you check in regularly with your security team and agree in advance what will happen if you miss a check in time. If you do not have a formal arrangement with a security provider, strongly consider finding someone qualified to provide assistance. 
  • Minimise your travel, especially around large cities or areas of previous unrest. The Irish authorities are advising against travel to/from N’djili (Kinshasa) International airport.
  • You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events. Do not attempt to film or photograph any gatherings.
  • Be aware that violence is very likely, and can occur without warning.
  • Be aware that if the security situation deteriorates, commercial flights will likely be suspended and border crossings could be closed. You should consider leaving the country now, in order to avoid this outcome.
  • Make sure you have important contact information stored in a secure offline location. Know who to call and when.
  • Internet and mobile phone networks may be reduced or shut off entirely. Make sure you have a back up communication plan in place. 
  • Monitor local media and social media. Check in with your embassy regularly. 
  • Set aside some supplies of food and bottled water. Make sure you know where your first aid kit is and review the contents.
  • Keep your devices charged. Do not travel without a fully charged device. 
  • If you have to travel, make sure you travel during daylight hours only.
  • Check in regularly with friends and family. Agree check in times in advance and set up a plan for what to do if you miss a check in time. 
  • If something does happen, contact the local embassy as soon as it is safe to do so.

Official travel advice

A very brief overview of official travel advice for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Click through on the links to read the advisories in full.

US State Department Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • Eastern DRC and the three Kasai provinces due to armed conflict.
UK’s 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 (except the city of Goma – see advice), South Kivu (except the city of Bukavu – see below), Maniema and Tanganyika in eastern DRC
  • areas to the west and east of Kananga, including Tshikapa and Mwene-Ditu (see advice)
  • within 50km of the border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the DRC, including the capital city, Kinshasa.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo overall – reconsider your need to travel
  • Provinces of Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé – do not travel
New Zealand’s Safe Travels Do not travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including the provinces of Haut-Uele, Haut Lomami, Ituri, Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Maniema, Tanganyika, North and South Kivu and within 50 kilometres of the border with the Central African Republic. This is due to the unstable security situation, ongoing armed conflict and violent crime.

Avoid non-essential travel to your security elsewhere in the DRC due to the potential for civil unrest and violent crime.

Government of Canada Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) – AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

Avoid non-essential travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to the current political and security situation. If your presence is not essential, you should consider leaving ahead of the December 23, 2018 presidential elections.

Eastern and northeastern areas of the DRC – Avoid all travel

Kasaï provinces – Avoid all travel

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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