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Travel Security Advice for Cameroon Print

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Cameroon is a developing country in central Africa. Although there are many natural and cultural attractions in Cameroon, facilities catering to American/European style tourism are quite limited. The capital is Yaoundé, though Douala, the country's largest city, is its main port and commercial center. Official languages are French and English, though French predominates in most of the country. English may be used in Cameroon's two Anglophone regions of Southwest and Northwest, as well as the larger cities. The staff of major hotels in Cameroon’s large cities is usually bilingual. In February 2008, social and political discord led to civil unrest, although the immediate threat of violence has now receded. For general information on Cameroon, read the Department of State Background Notes on Cameroon .

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport, visa, evidence of yellow-fever vaccination, and current immunization records are required, and travelers may be denied entry if they lack the proper documentation.

Cameroon does not recognize dual nationality and considers American citizens of Cameroonian descent to have lost their Cameroonian citizenship. American citizens should enter Cameroon using their U.S. passport, and should be sensitive to possible hostility on the part of Cameroonian officials regarding their changed citizenship. See "Cameroonian- Descent Americans" under Special Circumstances.

Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon , 2349 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington D.C. 20008, tel.: (202) 265-8790, fax: (202) 387-3826.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

In February 2008, Cameroon experienced significant civil unrest in half of its ten regions, most notably in the port city of Douala. Demonstrators clashed violently with police and then military personnel, resulting in the reported deaths of forty persons and arrest of over 1,600 individuals. The unrest was marked by widespread road blockages, attacks on public and private vehicles, looting, burning of government and other buildings, and roaming crowds of malcontents. This disturbance created shortages of fuel, food and other supplies throughout the country, and was ended through the deployment of military units and the use of significant force.

Following the restoration of order, the government has made some efforts to address fuel and food prices that were among the key grievances of the demonstrators. However, economic conditions, notably the high unemployment rate, remain difficult without the prospect for rapid improvement. Political tensions continue, most recently due to general disappointment with the composition of the electoral commission appointed by the President in December 2008. Although a rapid resumption of violence is considered unlikely, Americans living in or visiting Cameroon are encouraged to stay abreast of local political and social developments that could signal additional difficulties for the country.

Embassy employees have been instructed to refrain from travel outside of city limits after dusk, and to be cautious in their movements in centrally located areas within cities and towns. Private American citizens are urged to follow the same guidelines and are strongly advised against nighttime travel. Armed highway bandits (most notably in border areas); poorly lit and maintained roads; hazardous, poorly maintained vehicles; and unskilled, aggressive and/or intoxicated drivers all pose threats to motorists. Attacks and accidents are most common outside major towns, especially in the regions bordering Chad and the Central African Republic, but occur in all areas of the country.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR). On occasion, conflict between insurgents and government security forces in CAR has spilled across the border into Cameroon, affecting outposts in both Adamawa and East Provinces. Humanitarian and religious workers in eastern Cameroon are strongly encouraged to coordinate their efforts with the Embassy and the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Yaoundé.

In February 2008, an attack by rebel insurgents on Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, forced the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Chad and sent up to 50,000 refugees across the border into the town of Kousseri in Cameroon. Americans in Cameroon considering crossing into Chad should review the U.S. Department of State's Travel Warning for Chad .

Following a ruling from the International Court of Justice, Cameroon assumed full control of the Bakassi Peninsula in August 2008. Cameroon faces substantial challenges in administering this remote area which is poor, has divided loyalties, and has close ties to criminal elements in the Niger Delta. In November 2008 an organization called the “Bakassi Freedom Fighters” seized a vessel belonging to a French oil services company off the coast of the Bakassi peninsula and held the crew hostage for almost two weeks. Although the hostages were subsequently released unharmed, the same organization has made credible threats of more violent attacks in the future. Since Cameroon assumed control of the area, there have been multiple attacks on Cameroonian military forces and clashes between armed groups and Cameroonian security forces. It is very difficult to reach the Bakassi area, but travelers considering a trip should exercise extreme caution as the area is considered very unsafe and is currently off-limits for Embassy and United Nations personnel. Piracy and criminality in this region is widely blamed for a dramatic bank robbery in the tourist town of Limbe in September 2008 in which robbers in two boats drove onto the main beach, stormed ashore, and used automatic weapons and explosives to drive off security forces and break into multiple banks. Similar attacks have occurred as far away as Malabo and Bata, Equatorial Guinea, and a suspected attempt was disrupted in the Cameroon tourist town of Kribi. Americans visiting any coastal areas in Cameroon should be alert to the threat of piracy and move inland if they detect a potential threat. Travelers who are caught up in such an attack should comply immediately with any demands made by the aggressors and avoid any action that could be interpreted as an attempt to escape. See our fact sheet on International Maritime Piracy .

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website , where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, 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. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Crime is a serious problem throughout Cameroon and U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling in Cameroon. Internet-based crime is escalating rapidly, and Americans, including insurance companies and other institutions, should be extremely skeptical of any financial transactions that involve sending money for goods or services not yet delivered (see below). The Embassy has identified scams involving adoptions, insurance claims, hiring service workers such as nannies to work in the United States, and purchasing pets. In February 2008, two Europeans were kidnapped by criminals posing on the Internet as businessmen seeking to establish a palm oil export business. Although several perpetrators were arrested and the individuals were not harmed, the incident highlights a dangerous confluence of Internet-based and violent crime. Crimes against property, such as carjacking and burglaries, have often been accompanied by violent acts and have resulted in fatalities. All foreigners are potential targets for theft with possible attendant violence. Armed banditry has been a problem throughout all ten regions in Cameroon. Armed bandits have erected road barricades on major routes that link rural towns to provincial headquarters, and have taken as many as 100 cars in a single attack. To curb banditry, security personnel may request persons to show their passport, residence card, driver's license, and/or vehicle registration at random checkpoints. Certified copies of these important documents should be kept in a secure location separate from the originals. Security personnel have been known to ask for bribes but normally allow expatriate travelers to continue after delaying them for a period of time. The U.S. Government does not condone bribery or corruption of any kind.

There have been a number of criminal incidents involving public transportation; use of public taxis can be dangerous. In January 2008, a U.S. Embassy employee using public transportation in the Northwest Province was the victim of highway robbers, who robbed the passengers (including a local mayor) and roughed up those who did not have enough money. Public taxis in Cameroon function more like the U.S. bus system with drivers stopping along the road to pick up additional passengers as long as there is space left in the vehicle. There have been numerous reports of assaults and robberies committed by "passengers" in shared taxis since crimes – rape and robbery being among the most common – are often a collaborative effort between the driver and "passengers." If a traveler must use a taxi, the use of a private taxi (a taxi hired for exclusive use by the individual for that particular trip), where the driver is known to the passenger, is a better alternative to the use of shared taxis. Taxi passengers should be particularly vigilant at night.

The risk of street and residential crime is high with incidents involving gangs, home invasion and kidnapping. Periodic efforts by the city of Yaoundé to clear streets and public spaces of illegally constructed homes and market stalls can become confrontational, and may be responsible for surges in criminality as these very modest homes and businesses are destroyed. In February 2009 a disruptive demolition program occurred in the Yaoundé central market area, and additional actions are planned throughout the year throughout the city.

Many crimes involve an “inside man” and target individuals or locations involved with payrolls or other activities involving large sums of cash. Carjackings and robberies have also been reported on rural highways, especially in the northern provinces and regions near Cameroon's border with the Central African Republic. 
In February 2008, Cameroon experienced a brief period of civil unrest during a taxi strike that involved road blockages, attacks on public and private vehicles, looting, burning of government and other buildings, and roaming crowds of malcontents. This period was attended by a sharp increase in reported crimes, including the stabbing death of a night watchman at a residence in Yaoundé, an attack at the Brussels Airline travel agency in the Bonapriso district of Douala, an attack by a group of armed bandits on a motorbike rider who suffered a gunshot wound to the head, and numerous reports of rape and armed attacks with firearms and machetes in Douala. Security forces were reported to have killed at least 40 people in their efforts to restore order.

Recently, many American citizens have become victims of Cameroonian advance-fee fraud and other scams offering antiques, exotic, and domesticated animals (puppies, exotic birds etc.), and even adoption services through the Internet. Americans should be very cautious about sending money or traveling to Cameroon to meet someone contacted via the Internet. Commercial scams targeting foreigners, including many U.S. citizens, continue to be a problem. The scams generally involve phony offers of lucrative sales and repeated requests for additional funds to pay for unforeseen airport and/or customs fees. No one should provide personal financial or account information to unknown parties. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy is aware of complaints by American citizens shipping vehicles or other merchandise to Cameroon who are unable to complete the transaction as they had expected, and who have ended up being detained based on these commercial disputes. The ability of U.S. Embassy officers to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and the consequences is limited and Americans are urged to complete financial transactions in advance and in writing with trusted partners only, and to strictly avoid informal agreements.

For more information on international financial scams, including those involving Internet dating, a promise of an inheritance windfall, a promise of a work contract overseas, overpayment for goods purchased on-line, or money-laundering, see the Department of State's publication International Financial ScamsIf you have concerns about the legitimacy of a transaction in Cameroon contact the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon. (See Registration/Embassy Location section below.)

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 overseas, 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, help you 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. 
Cameroon has no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line, but one can dial 112 in major cities to contact ambulance services. 
Please see our information on
Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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. Cameroonian law does not afford many of the protections to which Americans are accustomed, and legal proceedings tend to be complex, lengthy, and subject to inappropriate influence. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Additionally, the condition of detention centers, while improving, is poor. Persons violating Cameroonian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. During the February 2008 civil unrest, there were reports that people were arrested arbitrarily by law enforcement officials quelling civil disorders. Although no expatriates were known to have been arrested, the Department of State cautions Americans against venturing out during such periods of unrest.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cameroon 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
Please see our information on
Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:


CAMEROONIAN-DESCENT AMERICANS:

Cameroon does not recognize dual nationality and considers American citizens of Cameroonian descent to have lost their Cameroonian citizenship. American citizens should enter Cameroon using their U.S. passport, and should be alert to possible hostility on the part of Cameroonian officials regarding their changed citizenship. U.S. citizens, regardless of ethnic or national origin, are subject to the host country's laws and regulations. U.S. citizenship does not carry special privileges abroad, and does not protect citizens in disputes with foreign authorities. Disputes with Cameroonian authorities can result in detention, confiscation of documents, and considerable expense and delays to the traveler. Cameroonian law enforcement, customs, and other officials are granted significant powers; all Americans should show the same deference and respect to Cameroonian officials as they would give to those individuals in the United States.

CURRENCY: Cash in local currency, the Central African franc (FCFA), is the only form of payment accepted throughout the country. A few large hotels in Yaoundé and Douala will change U.S. dollars and cash traveler's checks, though at a disadvantageous rate. Credit card cash advances are not available, and most banks do not cash personal or traveler's checks for non-clients. While credit cards are accepted at some larger hotels and shops in Yaoundé and Douala, caution is urged, as identity theft is endemic in the region. Some larger banks in Yaoundé and Douala have ATM facilities, and several banks in Cameroon have wire transfer services through Western Union. Western Union and other money transfer services have extensive networks in many parts of Cameroon. The U.S. Embassy does not provide currency exchange, check cashing or other financial services. Tourists and business travelers should also note that there is an increasing circulation of counterfeit U.S. and Cameroonian currency in the country. In recent years, business travelers have experienced difficulty in obtaining adequate services from Cameroon's banking sector. Business travelers are also advised that using the services of a local agent is strongly recommended in establishing a presence in the Cameroonian market.

CUSTOMS: Cameroonian Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Cameroon of items such as large quantities of medicine or wood products. Customs regulations also restrict the importation of ivory. Please see our Customs Information sheet.


GAME PARKS: While visiting game parks and reserves, tourists should bear in mind that they are ultimately responsible for maintaining their own safety. Tourists should use common sense when approaching wildlife, maintain a safe distance from animals, and heed all instructions given by guides or trackers. Even in the most serene settings, the animals in Cameroon's game parks are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety. Most game parks require that a professional guide accompany travelers, and visitors are advised not to pressure or pay those persons to be more flexible in their duties.

HOMOSEXUALITY/CORRUPTION: The government of Cameroon has sporadically enforced laws against homosexuality. Charges of homosexuality and/or of corruption are also made and enforced indiscriminately in the course of business or personal disputes.

PHOTOGRAPHY: While photography is not officially forbidden, security officials are sensitive about photographs taken of government buildings, military installations, and other public facilities, many of which are unmarked. Photography of these subjects may result in seizure of photographic equipment by Cameroonian authorities. Due to the threat of harassment and the lack of signs designating sites prohibited for photography, and the fact that some Cameroonians object to having their picture taken, photography should be limited to private homes and among friends. U.S. citizens are advised to seek proper permission before taking a photograph of a specific subject or location.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Cameroon are extremely limited. Even in large cities, emergency care and hospitalization for major illnesses and surgery are hampered by the lack of trained specialists, outdated diagnostic equipment, and poor sanitation. Medical services in outlying areas may be completely nonexistent. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services in cash and require family members or friends to locate and purchase any medical supplies they will need. Pharmacies in larger towns are well stocked, but in other areas many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry their own supply of needed prescription and anticipated over-the-counter medicines.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Cameroon, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Cameroon 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™) as prophylaxis to reduce this risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, or 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.

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Cameroon. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the diseaseMeasles is also present in northern Cameroon and travelers should be sure they are current with their vaccinations. Polio remains a threat in northern Nigeria, which shares a very porous border with Cameroon.

In March 2006, avian influenza (H5N1) was confirmed in wild ducks in northern Cameroon. There have been no reports of avian influenza among humans in Cameroon. Avian influenza has been reported in both birds and humans in neighboring Nigeria. For additional information on avian influenza as it affects American citizens residing abroad, please read the U.S. Department of State’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet .

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web siteFurther health information for travelers is available from the WHO .

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. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

Travelers should carry a reserve of cash to pay for medical services. Daily hospitalization and hourly surgical fees rarely exceed 100 USD, so a limited cash reserve is sufficient to handle most medical crises.

FRAUD WARNING: At least one, and probably several, individuals with at least some medical training have collaborated in sophisticated fraud schemes to defraud international health insurance companies of tens of thousands of dollars. Companies are advised to exercise caution in dealing with claims, and to contact the U.S. Embassy to verify suspicious claims and to confirm any indication of a severe medical emergency or evacuation of an American citizen.

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 Cameroon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Cameroon's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are poorly maintained and unsafe at all times of the year. Vehicles are poorly maintained and there is no mechanism or requirement to inspect for roadworthiness. During the rainy season, many roads are barely passable with four-wheel-drive vehicles. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards (especially at night) and road safety rules are frequently ignored. There are few road and traffic signs; speed limits are neither posted nor enforced. Buses and logging trucks travel at excessive speed and are a constant threat to other road traffic.

Travelers on roads near the borders with the Central African Republic and Chad should ensure that they have adequate vehicle fuel, cooking fuel, food, and water for several days as well as a reliable means of communication, such as a satellite or cell phone, or radio.

Visitors who are not in possession of a valid passport and a visa may experience difficulties at police roadblocks or other security checkpoints. It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of a minor or non-existent violation of local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court.

Local law states that vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until the police arrive and a police report can be made. If an accident results in injury, drivers should be aware of the possibility that a "village justice" mentality may develop. If an angry crowd forms, drive directly to the U.S. Embassy or another location where you can receive assistance. Contact the local police once you are safely away from danger. Cameroon has no real equivalent to 911-type service or roadside emergency telephone numbers, but you can dial 112 in major cities to contact ambulance services. American citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy (237) 2220-1500 if emergency assistance is needed.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Cameroon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Cameroon’sCivil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA's web site .

Travelers should be aware that scam artists have sold bogus tickets for flights on the former national airline, Cameroon Airlines, which is no longer operational within or outside of Cameroon. Limited domestic air service is available from a number of small operators that are not firmly established; service is routinely suspended or cancelled.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Cameroon 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 Cameroon. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. EmbassyBy registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé is located on Avenue Rosa Parks in the Mbankolo Quartier, adjacent to the Mount Febe Golf Club; mailing address P.O. Box 817; embassy tel. (237) 2220-1500, fax: (237) 2220-1572. The Embassy Branch Office in Douala is located on the corner of Rue Ivy and Rue French in the Ecobank Building in Bonanjo, tel: (237) 3342-5331, fax: (237) 3342-7790.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cameroon, dated April 2, 2008, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime , Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Registration/Embassy Location.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information on Cameroon HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)............

Regards

The SW Team........

 

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