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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Burundi

Burundi - Consular Information Sheet
December 12, 2000

WARNING (ISSUED DECEMBER 7, 2000): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Burundi due to the uncertain security situation within Burundi and the surrounding Great Lakes region.

On the evening of December 4, 2000, two people were injured when a Sabena passenger flight was fired upon and hit by machine gun rounds as it was landing at Bujumbura's International Airport. Earlier that same day, a rebel faction released a press statement warning foreigners to leave Burundi for their safety.

Burundi has been involved in a civil war since 1993. Fighting can be intense and has increasingly involved attacks on the capital, Bujumbura. On October 12, 1999, two expatriate employees of United Nations organizations were shot execution-style during an ambush in Muzye, Rutana Province. On November 23, 1999, a hand grenade was thrown into the central market in downtown Bujumbura, killing five and injuring 14 others.

Extremist groups are active throughout the Great Lakes region, and some have committed or threatened violence against U.S. citizens and interests. One such extremist group that operates out of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) specifically targeted and killed U.S. citizens in March 1999 in southwestern Uganda. Several international non-governmental organizations have been targeted and robbed by armed assailants in their offices, on the road, and in their homes.

The U.S. Embassy operates with a reduced staff and restricts U.S. Government personnel from traveling outside Bujumbura, the capital, due to unpredictable incidents of violence throughout Burundi. As a result of the ongoing conflict, U.S. Government personnel's travel in Bujumbura may be limited based on most recent information of the Embassy's security officer. In addition, family members are prohibited from accompanying U.S. Government employees assigned to Burundi. Given the increased possibility of attacks at the airport during darkness or hours of curfew, U.S. Government personnel are strictly prohibited from flying to and from Burundi during those times.

U.S. citizens in Burundi should establish and maintain contact with the U.S. Embassy and consider their own personal security in determining whether to remain in the country.

The Government of Burundi maintains a curfew for Bujumbura, currently from midnight to 5 a.m. The U.S. Embassy maintains a curfew for its staff, currently from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Please note that the curfew changes from time to time due to changing security conditions. Contact the U.S. Embassy for the most up-to-date curfew information.)

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Burundi is a small, inland African nation currently undergoing a period of instability following the assassination of Burundi's first democratically elected president in 1993. Facilities for tourism, particularly outside the capital, are limited.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa, and evidence of immunization against yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis are required. Only those travelers resident in countries where there is no Burundian Embassy are eligible for entry stamps, without a visa, at the airport upon arrival. These entry stamps are not a substitute for a visa, which must be obtained from the Burundi Immigration Service within 24 hours of arrival. Travelers without a visa are not permitted to leave the country. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007; telephone (202) 342-2574 or the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations in New York. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Burundian embassy or consulate.

Travelers who wish to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Burundi, Rwanda or Uganda may experience difficulties at DRC airports or other ports of entry. Some travelers with those visas or exit/entry stamps have been detained for questioning in DRC.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: As a result of the attack on the Sabena flight, danger on the road to and from Bujumbura's airport, current curfews and the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces in Burundi, the U.S. Embassy continues to restrict U.S. Government personnel from flying in or out of Bujumbura during the hours of darkness. The restrictions have been in place since February 2000.

In light of continuing ethnic and political tensions, all areas of Burundi are potentially unstable. Fighting between rebel forces and the Burundian military continues to be a problem in the interior and in the outskirts of the capital. The outlying suburbs of Bujumbura and vehicles on the roadways are regularly attacked by Burundian rebels. In late 2000, government forces and rebels clashed repeatedly just outside of the capital. Rebels continue to operate in the province surrounding the capital and local authorities cannot guarantee safety. The U.S. Embassy emphasizes the importance of remaining vigilant and respecting any curfews in effect. (Check with the U.S. Embassy for the most up-to-date curfew information). Given the ongoing insecurity, travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura before traveling out of the capital.

CRIME: Street crime in Burundi's capital poses a high risk for visitors. Crime includes muggings, purse-snatching, pickpocketing, burglary, and auto break-ins. Criminals operate individually or in small groups. There have been reports of muggings of persons jogging or walking alone in all sections of Bujumbura, and especially on public roads bordering Lake Tanganyika. In late 2000, expatriate employees of several international non-governmental organizations were the victims of armed robberies in their offices, homes, and on the road. Moreover, there has been a spate of motorcycle-jackings by armed assailants.

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. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are limited in Burundi. Medicines and prescription drugs are in short supply, if not completely unavailable. Sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Travelers should consider taking prophylaxis against malaria. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax, 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor - Nonexistent

LOCAL AVIATION SAFETY: As a result of the attack on a Sabena passenger flight at night and the danger of attack on the road to and from the airport at night because of the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces in Burundi, the U.S. Embassy continues to restrict U.S. Government personnel from flying in or out of Bujumbura during the hours of darkness or during the Embassy's curfew, which currently is 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (The curfew changes from time to time due to changing security conditions. Contact the U.S. Embassy for the most up-to-date curfew information.)

Due to general safety concerns regarding African Airlines, a private commercial airline that flies between Bujumbura and destinations in Africa and the Middle East, the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura recommends that its personnel not use this carrier.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Burundi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Burundian Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Burundi's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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 Burundian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burundi are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Burundi are encouraged to register at the Consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Burundi and obtain updated information on travel and security within Burundi. The U.S. Embassy is located on the Avenue des Etats-Unis. The mailing address is B.P. 34, 1720 Bujumbura, Burundi. The telephone number is (257) 223-454, fax (257) 222-926.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 18, 2000, to amend the Travel Warning, to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities, Medical Insurance, and Local Aviation Safety and to add the section on Other Health Information.

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