|Preface Last Updated: 11/19/2004
An assignment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo offers an
opportunity to live and work in the third largest country on the
African continent; a country most renowned for its river, the Congo,
and for its abundance and diversity of natural resources.
The U.S. has maintained generally friendly relations with Congo
throughout the political upheavals of the ’90s, including a
successful rebellion against long-time dictator Joseph Mobutu by
Laurent D. Kabila. Under Kabila’s rule, the country’s name was
changed from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
President Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and was succeeded
by his son, Joseph Kabila.
With the institution of a government of national unity and
transition in 2003, the DRC emerged from war and began a two-year
process of preparing for the country's first democratic elections in
over 40 years. These elections are scheduled for the summer of 2005,
and in the interim the former combatants have been trying to
maintain peace, repair the social infrastructure severely damaged in
the war, and reenergize the economy.
Although one of the largest Embassies in the Foreign Service at
one time, the military mutinies and pillaging throughout the ’90s
forced U.S. Embassy Kinshasa to reduce diplomatic representation
drastically. With peace largely restored throughout the Congo, and
access to the entire country possible, in 2002 the Embassy resumed
assigning families with children. At present, there are over 50
direct-hire Americans with 17 children at post.
Because the DRC experiences frequent changes in economics,
politics, and/or the military, please review the Consular
Information Sheet, as well as this Post Report, for the most current
view of the situation.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 5/11/2004 4:55 AM
The Democratic Republic of the Congo straddles the equator in the
heart of central Africa and shares a border with nine other
countries: the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic,
Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola. Congo
has access to the Atlantic Ocean on the west through a strip of
territory that narrows to 13 miles wide at the coast. Its area
includes the greater part of the Congo River Basin and covers
1,465,553 square miles-about the size of the U.S. east of the
The Congo River is 2,900 miles long and is the second largest in
the world in terms of area drained, flow, and navigable length. With
its tributaries, the river provides Congo with about 9,000 miles of
navigable waterways, and its force affords Congo 13% of the world’s
hydroelectric power potential. With the country’s abundance of
natural resources—which include copper, cobalt, zinc, industrial—and
gem-quality diamonds, manganese, tin, crude oil, and gold—Congo is
potentially one of the richest countries in the world. The
geographical features of this giant African nation are handsome and
varied. The huge Congo Basin, a low-lying, bowl-shaped plateau
sloping toward the west, is covered by lush, tropical rain forests.
Surrounding the basin are mountainous terraces on the west, plateaus
merging into savannas to the south and southeast, and dense
grasslands toward the northwest. The high picturesque Ruwenzori
Mountains bound the basin to the east.
Although the country’s capital, Kinshasa, is only four degrees
south of the equator, temperatures are generally moderate. In
January, the average daily high is 100 ºF and the low is 80 ºF. In
July, the range is from 95 ºF to 75 ºF. The rainy season for
Kinshasa and for the two-thirds of the country below the equator
lasts from October to May. Despite its dreary sound, the rainy
season is not unpleasant. Except for perhaps one rainstorm every few
days, lasting anywhere from one to two hours, the skies are usually
blue and sunny. In contrast, the dry season, though not yielding any
rain, is characterized by overcast and cooler days.
Population Last Updated: 5/11/2004 5:09 AM
Like many African countries, Congo is an ethnic mosaic. The great
majority of Congolese are descendants of the Bantu, who are thought
to have begun migrating around 100 B.C. from the region that is now
Cameroon and eastern Nigeria. The balance of the African population
consists of Sudanic people living along Congo’s northern border with
the Central African Republic and Sudan; Nilotic peoples,
concentrated in the rugged and scenic eastern highlands neighboring
Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; and about 80,000 Pygmies. The Pygmies,
a celebrated people preserving all their mysteries, are sheltered by
the Ituri Forest in northeastern Congo.
Most of this large country is sparsely populated—about twenty
inhabitants per square mile. Congo’s total population is an
estimated 56 million, including some 15,200 Europeans. Kinshasa
itself has grown considerably since independence and now has
approximately 6.5 million residents. The American community numbers
about 250 in Kinshasa and 400 countrywide.
Currently, there are about 250 languages and dialects spoken
throughout Congo. French, the primary language used within the
Government, the formal business sector, and most educational
institutions, was introduced by the Belgians and is spoken
countrywide by the educated. The four other officially recognized
indigenous languages are Lingala, the commercial language commonly
used in Kinshasa, along the rivers, and in popular music; Kingwana
or Kiswahili, spoken in the northeast, east and north; Kikongo,
spoken west of Kinshasa; and Tshiluba, spoken in south central
Congo. Most members of the military speak Katangese or Kiswahili,
which can sometimes lead to difficulties when trying to negotiate
passage through a roadblock or during traffic stops that occur while
the presidential motorcade is passing.
The adult literacy rate is about 65.5% in a local language and
approximately 30% in French.
About 75% of Congolese are Christian. Roughly half of these are
Roman Catholic, a quarter Protestant, and the rest are members of
independent Congolese churches, the largest of which is the
Approximately 5% of the population, mostly in the northeast, is
Moslem. Much of the population practices aspects of traditional
religions, especially animism—a belief in ancestral spirits and the
power of sorcery and witchcraft.
Fourty-nine years is the average life expectancy and real per
capita annual income is under $100.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:34 PM
Laurent Désiré Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) assumed control of the Government
on May 17, 1997, following a military campaign that crossed the
country in seven months. Kabila’s takeover and the establishment of
the new Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was
generally well received by the Congolese population, which was eager
to see a change from the rule of Mobutu and his political class.
Despite Kabila’s promise to lead the country toward democracy,
progress has been made haltingly. In his May 1997 inaugural address,
President Kabila announced a calendar for implementing national
elections. These elections, which were to take place on May 17,
1999, have been forestalled by the war. The implementation of the
National Dialogue and Lusaka Peace Accords, which were to help bring
about an end to the war, have both experienced delays. Kabila
continued to rule the country by presidential decree until his death
in January 2001.
Congo’s regional role has been seriously undermined by the state
of war, which has pitted the Government and its allies (Zimbabwe,
Angola, and Namibia) against rebel forces supported and assisted by
Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. Despite U.S. efforts to promote
regional peace, relations with the Congolese Government have been
characterized by suspicion.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:36 PM
The educational system in Congo has gone through many changes.
The Government-subsidized mission schools of the ’60s were
nationalized in 1974, but eventually a number of them reverted back
to the direction of the churches.
The University of Lubumbashi is perhaps the most vibrant
university. Universities in Bukavu and Kisingani are continuing to
operate under rebel control, and the University of Kinshasa (Unikin)
struggles to maintain credible standards. The private universities
of Catholic faculties in Kinshasa and the Protestant University
employ Unikin professors and are doing well. Government journalism
and art schools have limited cohesion and success.
The deteriorating economy, coupled with school closures, has
taken a heavy toll on the quality, availability, and accessibility
of education in Congo. Teachers’ salaries, even at the university
level, rarely exceed the equivalent of $5 a month, and often are
unpaid for four or five months at a time. Most schools lack basic
supplies and libraries have empty shelves. Students must pay tuition
at both public and private institutions.
The Academie des Beaux Arts and the College Boboto both display
fine examples of Congolese paintings, sculptures, and woodwork. Je
Gagne Ma Vie (a self-help project operated by the disabled) also
offers local handicrafts. The Ivory Market in the city’s center has
a complete array of African sculpture in wood, tin, bronze, copper,
and ivory. Ivory and malachite jewelry, as well as African fetishes
(figures which have a mystic or religious significance), funerary
sculpture, ceremonial masks, and other items can be found there.
Street vendors are plentiful throughout Kinshasa as another
source of African wares.
For the serious art collector, there are authentic tribal pieces
available at relatively inexpensive prices through reputable local
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:39 PM
The Congolese economy has been in decline for more than 15 years;
total output today is less than half as much as it was in 1990. A
recently launched reform program has the potential to reverse this
trend, but its success is not assured; there have been numerous
occasions in the past when hopes for a turnaround in the Congolese
economy were disappointed. If all goes well, the World Bank will
begin a major lending program in 2002, and restructuring of state
enterprises, rehabilitation of infrastructure, and reform of
regulatory institutions will attract investors and restore economic
However, the current situation is grim. The outbreak of war in
August 1998 caused a major decline in economic activity that
continues to the present. The country has been divided into
Rwandan/Ugandan/rebel-occupied areas and government-administered
territories, and commerce between them has been stopped. The
economic and commercial links among the various sections of the
country are not strong, but they are important. Several
Kinshasa-based industries, such as palm oil processing, cigarette
making, and natural rubber and wood exporting, depend, at least in
part, on raw materials that are transported down the river from
Equateur and Orientale provinces. These areas are also important
food suppliers for the Kinshasa market. Similarly, the Kasais and
Katanga depend on foods produced in the Kivus and Maniema, areas
under rebel control. Efforts to reopen commercial links are under
way and could provide a substantial peace dividend for the Congolese
Difficult to manage in peacetime, the government’s finances have
become next to impossible under wartime conditions. Customs revenues
have declined considerably due to falling imports in western Congo
and lack of any access to revenues in the areas currently occupied
by Rwanda and Uganda and their Congolese rebel allies. Declining
business activity has also damaged revenues from internal taxes.
Unpaid government bills have accumulated to the point that some
businesses have been forced to close. The economic reform program
requires the government to operate on a cash basis.
The institutionalized corruption of the Mobutu regime created a
dual economy. Individuals and business in the “formal” sector—both
private- and publicly-owned—operated with high costs under
arbitrarily enforced laws, maintained two sets of books, and often
engaged corrupt officials to obtain commercial advantage or simply
to continue operations. In the “informal” or “parallel” economy,
operators sought to evade taxes and regulations altogether.
During the 1990s, administrative and physical pillage of the
formal business sector by the Mobutu regime increased, and the
informal sector became increasingly important. The parallel economy
was estimated in the early 1990s to be three times the size of
official GDP; it is now undoubtedly even larger. With the exception
of a few multinationals, the difference between “formal” and
“informal” enterprises in the Congo is one of degree. Nearly all
businesses conduct part of their operations in both spheres.
Congo’s economy is primarily agriculturally based, but mining
generates the bulk of the DRC’s export earnings. Southern Katanga
contains some of the world’s richest copper and cobalt deposits.
Zinc, tin, columbium-tantalum, niobium, germanium, cadmium,
manganese, uranium, and several other rare materials have been mined
in southern and eastern Congo. Central Congo until recently was one
of the world’s leading producers of industrial diamonds, and gold
deposits have been found in western and northeastern Congo.
Congo’s crude oil production is minor compared to other
sub-Saharan African oil producers, but output from its small
offshore fields remained steady during the 1990s and served as the
most reliable source of government revenues. Production, primarily
by U.S.-owned Chevron, is approximately 22,000 barrels per day.
Until the post-1990 collapse, Congo’s manufacturing base was more
substantial than that of most sub-Saharan countries. Production,
concentrated in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, included textiles, auto
assembly, beverages, soap, plastics, food processing, shoes, tires,
batteries, and other consumer goods. Many agroindustrial enterprises
were vertically integrated, processing local plantation production.
But the high cost of local production, the influence of large
trading houses, and corruption in the revenue services have often
Automobiles Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:43 PM
Having a personally owned vehicle is recommended. A few Embassy
apartments are within walking distance to the Chancery, but most
U.S. Government-provided housing is not. Post transportation policy
allows Government vehicles to be used for home-to-work travel while
awaiting arrival of a personally owned vehicle. (After 30 days there
is a per trip fee.) There are no automobile rental companies in
Driving is on the right and international road symbols are used.
Defensive driving, which is always a good idea, is an absolute
necessity in Kinshasa due to the adverse road conditions, careless
pedestrians, erratic drivers, and overcrowded arteries. Wearing a
seat belt is strongly recommended whenever traveling in a vehicle.
Kinshasa’s main intersections are sometimes manned by gendarmes
during rush hours. When the policeman’s arm is raised, this signals
caution and corresponds to a yellow light. If the gendarme is full
front or back, it means stop. When a gendarme’s arms are spread
parallel with the flow of traffic, this means go, corresponding to a
Outside Kinshasa roads are generally in terrible condition and
are usually gravel or dirt surfaced, so four-wheel-drive vehicles
are necessary. Because of deep potholes and the torrential downpours
which cause pools of deep standing water, many people prefer a
high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle, even in town.
Vehicles cannot be cleared until your arrival at post and,
therefore, vehicles should not be shipped without prior consultation
with the Administrative Counselor or GSO. Vehicles are shipped
through Antwerp and flown into Kinshasa. When transiting Antwerp,
vehicles should be marked and routed as household effects.
Vehicles take anywhere from one to three months to reach Congo.
Be sure to bring the invoice, bill of sale, and any related
documents. These are necessary for both customs clearance and
Good used cars are sometimes available from departing employees,
but cost is usually close to the original purchase price. The demand
for used cars is high, and employees have little trouble selling
their cars before leaving post. Cars over five years old require
re-export documentation after arrival. A special exoneration is
required to sell in Congo.
Currently, several companies sell and service automobiles in
Kinshasa. They include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jeep, Toyota, Fiat,
Renault, Peugeot, and British Leyland. Bear in mind that the prices
at these dealerships are normally well above those paid elsewhere.
The Embassy contracts with a competent local garage, which is
also available for private auto maintenance. Regardless of the type
of vehicle brought to post, be sure to pack a supply of spare parts,
particularly high-wear items. A good supply of tune-up kits,
filters, spark plugs, headlights, and fuses is recommended, as are
extra sets of keys. Leftover spare parts can generally be sold.
Vehicles do not require any special equipment, although some
people choose to install heavy-duty shock absorbers prior to
Only leaded gasoline is available in Congo. If possible, adjust
the car’s engine to run on regular gasoline prior to shipment.
(After securing the proper papers from shipping, catalytic
converters can be legally removed in the U.S. at garages like Midas,
etc. Catalytic converters can also be removed by garages in
Kinshasa.) Otherwise, a heavy-duty fuel filter can be installed
between the gas tank and the fuel pump—this is a must with diesel
engines. Remember to bring replacement filters. Autos equipped with
computerized fuel mixture controls (PROMs) must have the controls
changed to operate on leaded gasoline when coming to Kinshasa.
Remove hubcaps, radios, tape players, radio antennas, cigarette
lighters, ashtrays, gearshift knobs, etc. before shipping. Vandalism
and theft can occur in the U.S. prior to containerization.
A second car can be shipped at the employee’s expense and may
also be sold for no more than the purchase price plus the shipping
U.S. drivers’ licenses are valid for driving in Congo, although
it is recommended that a Congolese or international license be
obtained as well.
All drivers must carry local liability insurance. The cost is
about $150–$400 per year, depending on car size. Collision and
comprehensive insurance should be purchased through an American firm
since the Congolese claim service is extremely slow and premiums are
high by U.S. standards.
From time to time, Congo has gasoline and diesel shortages
resulting in long lines at local gas stations, at times lasting
several days. The Embassy maintains its own gas pump at the JAO
compound, which usually prevents any such problems for official
Parking. Secure parking is available free of charge at all USG
residences and office buildings.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:43 PM
Public transportation facilities are overcrowded, unreliable,
unsafe, and, therefore, never used by American personnel or their
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:43 PM
Long distance travel within Congo is usually by air, after
obtaining proper documents from the Congolese Government. Most
principal towns are served by a variety of local air companies of
varying reliability. Flights between Kinshasa and a number of other
points in Congo are limited and sporadic. Internal flights
frequently depart late and are sometimes canceled without notice.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:44
Communication from Congo is extremely difficult. Most U.S.
Government-provided residences do not have hard-wired telephones due
to the poor maintenance and disrepair of local landlines. As a
result, cellular telephones are considered vital security equipment
and are issued to Embassy personnel and to adult dependents.
Cellular service is generally reliable, but can be erratic due to
microwave interference and poor maintenance.
Mission employees are also issued radios for security purposes,
which provide direct communication with the Embassy switchboard and
the Marine Security Guard Post One. Radios, not cellular phones, are
the primary means of emergency communication.
Calls can be made using a prepaid calling card on the Embassy’s
IVG line or the worldwide callback service from a cellular
The international telegraph service is unreliable and is
Internet Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:44 PM
There are three Internet providers in Kinshasa. Two use
unreliable land and cellular connections and one uses a satellite
connection. All are expensive and connections are often slow.
The Public Diplomacy Section has a satellite antenna and has made
an extension available at the chancery for employees and dependents
to use for personal business. This, coupled with the APO privilege,
offers the opportunity to shop on-line for items excessively priced
or unavailable in Kinshasa.
The two major hotels in town have connections for guests to use.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:45 PM
APO service is available at the Embassy. Mail arrives five times
a week from, and departs three times a week to, New York via Europe,
depending on flight schedules. The APO handles airmail; first,
second, third, and fourth class mail; and parcel post. Stamps can be
purchased in a variety of denominations from $.01 to $5. Payment
must be made in U.S. cash or personal check.
The APO mailing address is:
APO AE 09828
Mail coming directly from Europe will be delivered faster if
addressed as follows:
APO AE 09828
6000 Frankfurt, Germany
Unclassified pouch mail is usually delivered once a week and
classified once every two weeks. The pouch address is:
Department of State
2220 Kinshasa Place
Washington, D.C. 20521–2220
Kinshasa does have an international post office, which is located
downtown; however, the local mail service is unreliable and not
recommended for sending or receiving mail.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:46 PM
Radio reception in Kinshasa is fair to good. RTNC (National Radio
and Television of Congo) is the Government-controlled broadcast
network in Congo, and it broadcasts in FM. These broadcasts are in
French and local languages. RFI from Brazzaville and Africa Number
One from Libreville are available on FM. Listeners who own shortwave
radios enjoy international broadcasts, such as VOA, BBC, and
Local TV programming is in color, but reception is poor and at
times inaudible because of lack of equipment upkeep. In addition to
the Government-owned RTNC, there are several private stations: RAGA,
TKM, Canal Kin, and Antenne All broadcasts are in French and local
languages, mostly showing news, features, and film documentaries.
Antenne A and RAGA also sell decoders that provide subscribers
with additional channels (French TV-5, a European movie channel,
South African sports channels, Arabsat, International ESPN, and
Several Embassy residences have satellite dishes that receive CNN
and other foreign channels.
A multi-system TV and VCR are recommended.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
12/16/2003 1:47 PM
A small selection of Western magazines and the International
Herald Tribune (only slightly delayed) can be purchased at either of
the two major hotels. Some magazines are available from street
vendors as well. Several sections of the Embassy subscribe to the
IHT, published in Paris, which may arrive at post several at a time,
2–7 days late, and multiple editions at once.
The APO provides the option of subscribing to papers and
magazines, which will arrive with the usual delays.
The Embassy publishes a newsletter to keep the community abreast
of community news and CLO activities, job opportunities, etc.
The independent Congolese press which blossomed following the
April 1990 announcement of the country’s transition to a multiparty
system has seen dozens of papers come and go in Kinshasa. The local
press is free, but many characterize the writing as irresponsible,
often biased, and rarely accurate. Many papers publish criticism of
the president, government officials, and other politicians, while
others blithely carry articles written by the Congolese Government.
Many “dailies” publish twice a week and others publish only when
newsprint and ink are available.
There are very few books available in Kinshasa and those for sale
in English are outrageously expensive. Bring books to post or order
them from book clubs or catalogs through the APO.
The Library Club of Kinshasa, located on The American School of
Kinshasa (TASOK) campus stocks a varied selection of fiction,
nonfiction, and children’s books in English. Embassy employees and
their dependents are eligible to become members for a fee.
The American Cultural Center library collection focuses on
targeted topics such as governance, business management, etc.
Embassy personnel and dependents are also welcome to use the CLO
library, which has a rotating stock of books and magazines.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:50 PM
The Embassy Health Unit is staffed by a Foreign Service Health
Practitioner (FSHP), a Registered Nurse (RN), and a Medical
Technologist. The Health Unit’s services are available for all U.S.
Government employees and dependents covered under the State
Department Medical Program, and all U.S. contract personnel whose
contracts specify such services. The Health Unit has two examining
rooms, a minor surgery/trauma room, and a small pharmacy.
Local hospitals do not meet American standards. Although some
have modern equipment and well-trained local physicians, they lack
well-trained nursing and support staff, and frequently lack
necessary medical supplies and medications. There is one private
clinic that specializes in emergency care. It is most likely to have
All serious or complicated medical cases and elective surgical
cases are referred to the nearest adequate medical facility, usually
in South Africa. Those patients electing to return to the U.S. may
do so on a cost-constructive basis.
Maternity patients are encouraged to return to the U.S., at
Government expense, but may elect to deliver in Europe or South
Africa. Maternity patients are strongly advised not to deliver in
Some medical conditions, subject to MED approval, will require
evacuation to the U.S. at U.S. Government expense. Local physicians,
very few of them expatriates or Western-trained, are available for
consultations and emergency care.
The Health Unit endorses a “walking blood bank” program. All U.S.
Government employees and dependents are screened and, if approved,
listed as a potential donor to be contacted if the need arises for a
specific blood type within the Embassy community.
Prescription eyeglasses can be made locally, but the selection of
frames is limited and delivery is slow. Some lenses must be ordered
from Europe, but costs are high. It is much better to bring extra
eyeglasses, contact lenses, and any necessary solutions to post.
There are some capable expatriate and local dentists, and dental
care is reasonably priced. Serious dental problems may require
evacuation to South Africa. Plan to have a dental exam and any
needed work prior to coming to post.
For further specific information on any aspect of medical care,
contact the FSHP, American Embassy, Kinshasa.
Community Health Last Updated: 12/16/2003 1:53 PM
Sanitation at most American residences in Kinshasa is good, but
it is still prudent to take precautions. Tap water is not potable
and must be distilled, or filtered and boiled, before consumption.
Residences are provided with distillers. Garbage collection is not
always adequate and sanitation throughout the city is very poor.
Insecticides to combat pests should be brought to post as purchasing
locally is costly.
The most prevalent medical problems in the local population are
malaria, intestinal parasites, tuberculosis, and upper respiratory
diseases. Sand fleas (also called chiggers), which embed themselves
in the skin, are common as well and can be treated by medical
The AIDS situation is more serious here than in the U.S. and
adequate protection is advised for all sexual contact.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/16/2003 2:16 PM
Post's own Health Information book, updated annually, provides
advice on preventive measures, as well as information on local
resources. Following the book's guidelines should make for a healthy
stay in Congo.
Locally purchased fruits and vegetables should be peeled or
cooked before eating. Embassy Kinshasa recommends bleach
purification for raw fruits and vegetables.
Immunization against yellow fever, tetanus, poliomyelitis,
hepatitis A and B, typhoid, meningococcus, and the usual children’s
diseases are recommended before arrival. Immunizations are also
given at the Health Unit.
Bring long-term personal medication and a good supply of
aspirins, vitamins, and Band-Aids to post. Prescription medication
can be ordered from the U.S. through the APO, but it is recommended
that employees arrive at post with a plentiful supply on hand.
Stress-related symptoms are common in the American community.
Culture shock, political uncertainties, and relatively limited
recreational possibilities contribute to this. Prepare an active
stress management program ahead of time. Bring books, music, indoor
exercise equipment or aerobics videos, a few favorite items, and
supplies needed for special hobbies. Be aware that smoking and
excessive use of alcohol contribute to health problems.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 12/16/2003 2:20
Kinshasa has a number of full-time and part-time employment
opportunities for eligible family members (EFM) which fall under the
Family Member Appointment (FMA) hiring practice. (An EFM is a U.S.
citizen spouse or an unmarried dependent child 18 to 21 years of age
who is on the travel orders of an American Foreign Service or Civil
Service employee or Military Service member permanently assigned
FMA provides benefits to EFMs including participation in the
Department’s retirement, Thrift Savings Plan, life insurance, and
health insurance programs. Once an EFM has accumulated twelve months
of FMA employment, he or she is given non-competitive Civil Service
status, an important factor when returning to the U.S. for a tour in
Positions include the Community Liaison Office Coordinator,
Self-Help Coordinator, Consular Associate, and Video Club Manager.
There are also administrative opportunities available with USAID,
and, at times, with the American Embassy Brazzaville.
The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK) is a potential employer
as well, depending on the number of enrolled students. Most
positions require some clerical or teaching skills. In 1998,
Kinshasa was designated an “adult dependents only” post, so the
number of students at TASOK has declined, which in turn decreased
the number of employment opportunities for dependents.
All Mission employment opportunities are published in the post's
newsletter. Contact the CLO to find out what opportunities are
American Embassy - Kinshasa
Post City Last Updated: 12/16/2003 2:23 PM
Kinshasa is a city of contrasts and resembles two cities
coexisting under one name. The “ville" is comprised of modern
(though sadly neglected) office buildings, apartment high-rises, and
an area of residential homes. The “cites,” on the other hand, where
most Congolese live, are a hub of activity akin to large contiguous
villages, often unlighted, with dirt roads and concrete huts.
Security Last Updated: 5/11/2004 6:16 AM
In April 2003, the government of Joseph Kabila reached a power
sharing agreement with the former rebel groups. All groups were
integrated within the central government. The United Nations
deployed 10,000 troopsto help implement the peace accords within the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonetheless there are still sporadic
outbreaks of fighting particularily on the eastern side of the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Within the country, several thousand
rebel and government troops remain. The American Embassy has been
evacuated 5 times due to the breakdown of civil disorder. Despite
the end of the civil war, there is still the constant threat of
In general, the local government has been unable to
institutionalizeits services with any consistency or
professionalism. Rogue military and police personnel who are paid a
paltry salary, about $20.00 a month, are often paid late, and
sometimes not at all, are responsible for commiting the majority of
criminal acts in Kinshasa.
Traveling outside of Gombe can be dangerous depending on the area
of the cité. Current travel restrictions require that the RSO be
notified of any official personnel's travel plans outside of Gombe.
Traveling at night there is an increased level of carjackings,
robberies, and assault.
Kinshasa is currently rated by the Department of State as a
CRITICAL threat crime post. However, most criminal activity that
occurs in Kinshasa is not directed at Americans. Personnel are
advised to remain within Gombe during hours of darkness and are only
visit the cité in a group. USG residences and hotels authorized by
the RSO maintain a somewhat higher level of security than others
which tells would-be-criminals to pick a softer target.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 12/16/2003 2:28 PM
The American Embassy is located in downtown Kinshasa. At present,
the Mission includes over 50 positions, consisting of
representatives from the Department of State, USAID, and the
Department of Defense (a Defense Attaché Office and a Marine
Security Guard Detachment of six members).
Relations between the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of the
Congo predate the turn of the century. The first official U.S.
representative, a diplomatic agent at Boma in 1884, was the first
official foreign representative to reside in the Belgian Congo in
modern times. When Congo gained its independence in 1960, the post
attained Embassy status.
The Embassy is made up of several components, all of which are in
The Chancery, located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, consists of
the executive, economic/commercial, political, security, consular,
information resource management, health unit, community liaison, and
The Joint Administrative Offices (JAO) Annex, located at 498
Avenue Col. Lukusa, houses the administrative, computer center,
personnel, GSO (transportation, maintenance, shipping, travel,
procurement), budget and fiscal, public affairs and the American
Cultural Center, and American Embassy Brazzaville offices.
The USAID offices are within walking distance of the Chancery on
Avenue des Aviateurs, in the Mobil Building.
Embassy working hours are 0730 to 1630, Monday through Friday,
with an hour for lunch.
Housing Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:03 PM
All employees are provided with U.S. Government-leased or -owned
quarters. Permanent housing is either in apartment buildings or in
houses in the Gombe section of Kinshasa.
Currently, most newly arrived personnel are assigned to permanent
quarters immediately. All agencies are represented on the Joint
Mission Housing Board, which assigns housing to new arrivals
according to established regulations.
Apartments have three or four bedrooms, are air-conditioned, and
generally have ample kitchen space.
Houses have the advantage of space for pets and afford the
opportunity to plant a tropical and/or vegetable garden if desired.
Some houses have small swimming pools, which are maintained by
the occupant. (It is recommended that chlorine, a test kit, and
other pool supplies be shipped from the States. Skimmers, vacuums,
etc. are supplied by the Embassy.)
Although the perimeters of all Mission homes are enclosed by
walls, it is still necessary that they be staffed by additional
security sentinels 24 hours per day.
Furnishings Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:05 PM
All quarters have government-issued furniture, drapes, and basic
appliances. Every effort is made to ensure that quarters are
furnished in a manner consistent with the occupant’s official and
personal requirements. The following items are provided: washer and
dryer, stove, refrigerator, freezer, air conditioners for each room
according to regulations, vacuum cleaner, ironing board, and
standard Embassy furniture (including area rugs) for living and
sleeping areas. Automatic dishwashers are not available.
Bring linens, kitchenware, glassware, silverware, china, and, of
course, towels and bathroom accessories. Such items are expensive
and often hard to find in local stores. Also bring selected
pictures, bric-a-brac, card tables and chairs, games, books,
washable throw rugs or other small carpets for kitchens and foyers,
and personal items. Remember that Kinshasa has a tropical climate,
so plastic storage containers for cereal, rice, flour, sugar, etc.
are necessary as well.
Upon arrival, a Welcome Kit is provided by GSO to use until the
employee’s HHE shipment arrives. Included in the Welcome Kit are
basic necessities such as bedspreads, sheets, pillows, brooms, mops,
iron, dishes, eating utensils, coffee pot, vacuum cleaner, pots,
pans, towels, and bath cloths.
Consider packing everyday items in the air freight shipment,
which should arrive ahead of the HHE. Items such as sheets and
towels, additional clothing, prescriptions, toiletries, cosmetics,
extra calling cards, stationery, an address book, and alarm clock
are handy to have sooner rather than later.
Household effects travel by surface to Europe, then by air to
Kinshasa, and take two to four months to arrive from the U.S. Many
people include stereo equipment, hobby equipment, sports equipment,
a multi-system TV and VCR. (The AERWA Video Club rents televisions
and VCRs on a first-come, first-served basis to use in the interim.)
Do not bring irreplaceable personal possessions to post. Although
most people have had no problem receiving their household effects
intact, consider purchasing an extra insurance floater to cover
household goods. In addition, due to periodic political instability
and the military lootings that have taken place in the past, some
people prefer not to bring many personal possessions or possessions
All official housing has toilets, electricity, and hot and cold
running water (though some have low water pressure). A few
residences have telephones, but they are direct extensions of the
Embassy phone system and only allow calls to other phones within the
Embassy system. These phones cannot be used to call cellular phone
numbers or international numbers directly. Even with the back-up
generators, occasional electrical blackouts occur, so bring candles,
candle holders, flashlights, and batteries.
Electric current is 220v, 50-cycle AC. There are several stores
in the D.C. area which specialize in 220v electronics. Visit the
Overseas Briefing Center for an updated source list. The AAFES
catalog also offers a selection of 220v or convertible voltage
There are a couple of duty-free shops in Kinshasa where a limited
selection of goods can be purchased. Otherwise, local purchase of
such items is quite expensive.
For convenience, purchase high-wattage items such as hair dryers,
irons, toasters, etc., in 220 or variable voltage.
Stepdown transformers are needed for 110v American appliances.
Quarters are furnished with transformers for each major appliance
and two additional ones. Transformers are occasionally found on the
local market, but are expensive. Buy them in the States if possible.
Also bring converter plugs that adapt an American plug into a
Congolese (European-style) socket.
Voltage regulators may be necessary for voltage-sensitive
equipment. Electrical current can fluctuate between a high of 240v
and a low of 180v. Consider bringing surge protectors for sensitive
equipment (computers, laptops, stereos, etc.) as well.
American electric clocks (other than battery-operated) will not
keep correct time because of the cycle variation. If tape recorders
and turntables are not equipped with 110/220v, 50/60 cycles, have
them converted to 50 cycles before leaving the U.S. Most
manufacturers can supply adapter sets; have them installed before
arrival. Make sure that lamps are certified to operate safely on
220v. All light bulbs are 220v and may be purchased locally.
Food Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:06 PM
There is no commissary at post, but all personnel assigned to
Kinshasa are authorized a consumables allowance. Stocking up on
specialty items and staples not only ensures availability, but is
much less expensive than buying on the local market. Prices in
Kinshasa are shockingly high. It is wise to include paper products,
household cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene products in the
consumables shipment as well. Housing generally has sufficient
storage space for cases of consumables.
With enough patience, shoppers can usually find what they are
looking for (although most times not the brands to which most are
accustomed). A simple shopping list of five items may turn into a
three- or four-store excursion. To avoid frustration and to save
money, many people order regularly on-line and receive groceries
through the APO.
Some grocery stores carry a varied seasonal supply of vegetables
and fresh fruits, such as avocados, eggplant, winter squash,
bananas, pineapples, papayas, and mangoes.
Local bread, usually only white, from bakeries is of excellent
Pet foods and products can be purchased locally, but are
expensive; include as many of these items as possible in the
Be aware that prices can fluctuate daily due to the unstable
exchange rate and inflation.
Clothing Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:08 PM
Kinshasa’s climate is warm and tropical with a dry and rainy
season. During the dry season, when the weather is cooler,
lightweight long-sleeved clothing is sometimes needed. Also a
sweater or wrap is convenient in air-conditioned homes, offices, and
Dress in Kinshasa is generally casual. There are normally two
black-tie events during the year (the Marine Corps Ball and the
American Business Association dinner), but most of the time social
functions are either jacket and tie or more casual.
Bring a good initial supply of clothing for both day and evening
wear. Swimming is a year-round activity, so bring swimsuits as well
as other appropriate gear for sports such as tennis or golf.
Additional clothing can be purchased from mail order catalogs or
on the Internet. The Western-style clothing that is available in the
local market is extremely expensive, but there are reasonably priced
local tailors and seamstresses who are skilled at copying a garment
directly or from a photograph. The brightly patterned African fabric
found in Kinshasa can be used to create attractive clothing for men,
women, and children.
Male Embassy personnel generally wear lightweight suits to the
office and dark business suits for evening occasions. Women wear
summer dresses and slacks during the day. Long and short dresses
(often made from African cotton prints), skirts and blouses,
cocktail dresses or dressy slacks outfits are worn to evening
functions. Sandals, comfortable walking shoes, dress, and sport
shoes are all useful. Also bring umbrellas, a raincoat, and a
For DAO, civilian clothes are worn to work. Normally, DAO
personnel wear short-sleeved, open-collar shirts. The military
uniform class A and B is worn on special occasions, i.e., meetings
with Congolese military officials, third-country military officials,
and some receptions. Attachés wear the mess dress/dress white or
dress blues at the annual Marine Corps Ball. Military personnel
should bring one dark civilian suit and two sets of fatigues.
Fabric other than the African print cotton and some sewing
supplies are available, but the selection is scanty and prices are
not in line with fabric costs in the States. Sewing enthusiasts
should bring a supply of fabrics, notions, and patterns to post.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:08 PM
Some common over-the-counter medicines are available locally.
Non-American brand cosmetics and toiletries are generally available
in Kinshasa, but are expensive. Bring cleaning equipment — an extra
broom and mop are suggested as they seem to wear out quickly here;
bring adhesives for repairs.
Entertainment accessories and specialty items (such as
decorations, centerpieces, etc.) must be brought to post. From time
to time these items are available, but the stock is not dependable.
Basic Services Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:09 PM
Tailoring, dressmaking, and beauty services are available. Dry
cleaning, catering, eyeglass repair, printing, watch repair, and
veterinarian services are also available. Most of the services
provided are of good quality, but rates are much higher than in the
U.S. Laundry is generally done domestically.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:10 PM
Congolese domestic help is readily available and varies from fair
to excellent. Most domestic services are performed by males, except
for childcare. Nannies are most often women. Salaries and other
allowances, paid in Congolese francs, are very inexpensive compared
to Western wages. Most people provide one meal a day for their help
(which the domestic prepares). Some people also offer meals to their
sentinels and provide them coffee, tea, and sugar.
The general practice is to pass on to new employees those workers
who have previously worked for U.S. Government employees and have
proven their reliability. The Community Liaison Office can assist
with finding domestic help. Most domestics are not live-in so they
are given allowances for transportation, housing, and family health
care. Domestics can be asked to work in the evenings and/or on
weekends when necessary and are paid extra for these occasions. As
well, when transportation problems arise (fuel shortages, etc.),
extra money may be necessary to cover the increased expense. The
average family employs a houseperson/cook and gardener.
Domestic uniforms are supplied by the employer from local or U.S.
sources. The employer is responsible for all medical care of the
full-time employee and his or her family. This includes pregnancy,
delivery, the post-partum period, and confinement. (Durations and
monetary amounts are negotiated between the employer and employee.)
Although the employer is not obliged to give the employee
gratuities at Christmas or on any other occasion, local custom is to
give something at the beginning of the new year. The amount is at
the employer’s discretion and usually varies from 15 days’ to 1
month’s pay. This is called the “13th month bonus.”
Religious Activities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:11 PM
Protestant, Anglican, Catholic, Jewish, Kimbanguist, Greek
Orthodox, and Moslem services are held in Kinshasa. There is a small
Quaker group that also meets regularly.
There is an International Catholic Church where the parish priest
speaks English and mass is given in English by a native English
speaker. Instruction and preparation for the sacraments can be
The International Interdenominational Church is in Gombe.
Ministers from the local missionary community, some of them
Americans, take turns holding Sunday English services.
There is a synagogue in town and an active Jewish community.
Episcopal Holy Communion services are held the last Sunday of
each month at the International Church.
Lay bible groups from the Anglican Church meet in homes around
the city on weekdays in the evenings.
St. Luke’s Catholic Church has weekly Sunday mass in English at
9:45 am. When the congregation was larger, Catechism classes were
held after mass. These were administered by the parents and,
depending on the ages of the children attending, the activities
included first communion and confession classes, bible study
classes, confirmation classes, and teenage religion classes. At
present, a “Coffee Sunday” is held after mass the last Sunday of
every month. St. Luke’s and various other Catholic churches
throughout the city offer mass delivered in Lingala (a local
language) and French.
Dependent Education Last Updated: 11/20/2004 6:33 AM
The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK) was established in 1961
to provide an American curriculum for grades 1–12. In the past, the
campus has been a hub activity for as many as 700 students. Because
of pillages and evacuations during the ’90s and the general air of
uncertainty in the country, Kinshasa was designated an “adult
dependents only” post from 1998 to 2002, during which time
enrollments decreased significantly. Now that the political
situation in the country has stabilized, the Department has
determined that Kinshasa is safe for dependents and allowed the
assignment of families. The school currently has almost 200 students
and enrollment is expected to continue to increase.
The children of American missionaries, American business
representatives, the greater international community, and Congolese
children comprise the student body.
TASOK is located on Matadi Road less than 30 minutes from the
Embassy. The campus encompasses 42 acres of lush tropical landscape.
Classes are small, thereby enabling students to receive individual
attention. TASOK students who take college entrance board exams are
generally accepted to the college of their choice.
Facilities include a complex of classrooms, an administration
building, and a well-stocked, up-to-date library. Recreation
facilities include a full-length football and soccer field, a
softball field, two volleyball courts, and a student store/snack bar
area. In addition, the physical education department has two locker
rooms. A Learning Resource Center contains library books, resource
books, periodicals, and audio-visual software. Other facilities
include staff housing, a maintenance shop, the Library Club of
Kinshasa, and the Scout Hut.
It should be noted that at the present time the school does not
have facilities or personnel to deal with severely handicapped or
The high school Learning, Resource Center is an air-conditioned,
fully carpeted facility that has books, reference materials, weekly
and monthly periodicals and newspapers, a paperback collection for
pleasure reading, and an audio-visual section.
The high school sports program includes varsity basketball,
swimming, track and field, volleyball, soccer, and softball.
Intramural sports include basketball, volleyball, swimming, and
tennis. Other activities include drama club, band, newspaper,
yearbook, student council, and national honor society. In the arts,
ceramics, calligraphy, and photography are offered.
TASOK also has a computer center to introduce students to
computer science and help prepare them for our technological world.
Activities after school and on weekends are numerous and varied,
satisfying most students.
TASOK occasionally holds evening adult workshops in subjects such
as calligraphy, ceramics, and computer science.
The school’s calendar is essentially the same as for U.S.
schools, except for a slightly earlier starting date. The school
operates on the usual Monday through Friday school week, and school
Thanksgiving (4 days)
Christmas (16 days)
Spring vacation (10 days)
Labor Day (1 day)
Various local holidays
Most of the TASOK faculty members are American, recruited directly
from the U.S. Some are local-hire spouses and dependents. Dependents
who are interested in either a teaching position or a teacher’s aid
position should contact the school as soon as possible. In the past,
opportunities have arisen to substitute or to tutor students on a
Students should bring to post items such as school bags (with
ample carrying space), pencil cases, lunch boxes (with spare
thermos), paper, pens, notebooks, craft paper, and two combination
locks for school lockers.
The local public and religious schools are in French and based on
the Belgian school curriculum. The curriculum of the French schools
(Cous Decartes) is comparable to the programs of the French “lycees”
and runs six mornings a week. The Belgian system (Ecole Prince de
Liege) teaches in French and Flemish, starting at age 6, and has
elementary and secondary schools.
There are also Portuguese, Greek, and Italian schools, plus
several small correspondence-tutorial schools that cater to the
diplomatic dependents of other countries.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:14 PM
In the community, Yoga, martial arts, and general exercise
classes are offered as well as art and music lessons for children
There is also a unique learning opportunity for those who visit
Congo: getting acquainted with bonobos, an endangered species.
Bonobos are our closest living relative-even closer than
A research area has been built on the TASOK campus to house
bonobos that have been displaced or orphaned by the war. Visitors to
the site can watch the antics of these animals from the perimeter of
the man-made forest or go inside for hands-on interaction. Congo is
the only natural habitat for the bonobos.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:15 PM
There is a variety of sporting activities to participate in at
post: tennis, golf, swimming, horseback riding, volleyball,
basketball, jogging, softball, squash, and darts to name a few. Some
sporting equipment is available locally, but cost is prohibitive so
bring such equipment to post.
There are four sports clubs in Kinshasa. The first is Cercle
Sportif du Kinshasa, which has a private, 18-hole golf course.
Initial membership and annual dues are considered expensive by some.
They also offer tennis, squash and swimming.
The Cercle Elaeis of Kinshasa houses a large swimming pool,
tennis and basketball courts, and a well-equipped gym. Membership is
available on an annual or six-month basis. New arrivals are eligible
for free visits to become acquainted with the facilities.
The Four Ways Club, formerly the American Club operated by the
American Employee Recreation & Welfare Association (AERWA), and the
French Club also accept new members. At either club people take
advantage of swimming, tennis, and billiards facilities.
Special classes, such as Tae Kwon Do and aerobics, are available
The U.S. Government owns a compound in a suburb of Kinshasa known
as Binza La Belle where tennis, swimming and picnic facilities are
available. The Marine Security Guard detachment also allows their
gym, The House of Pain, to be used by Embassy staff and their
dependents. The gym offers free weights, a treadmill, nautilus
equipment, and mats for floor exercises. There is no charge for
using either of these facilities.
For equestrian enthusiasts, there is a riding club located in the
suburbs. Neat, casual dress is acceptable. Instruction is available
by a riding master, but fees are expensive.
Entertainment Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:16 PM
AERWA operates a TV-videotape rental club. A $100 deposit is
required to become an AERWA member and is fully refunded upon
departure from post, provided all outstanding bills have been paid.
Movies are current and new videos are received on a regular basis
from a company in the U.S.
The MSG detachment hosts a happy hour and shows current movies at
the Marine House a couple of times a month. There is a local theater
that shows American movies dubbed in French.
The Library Club of Kinshasa (LCK), located at The American
School of Kinshasa (TASOK), was constructed in 1972 with funds
donated by companies and expatriates. In 1981, donations were
collected to construct an extension, which was designated as the
children’s section. There are approximately 12,000 books spanning
all genres and topics: novels, biographies, history, Africa, travel,
cooking, practical guides, etc. In January 1997, a video section was
added to which Chevron Oil of Kinshasa donated 100 National
Geographic videos and individual members continue to make donations.
The library charges a membership fee and is staffed by volunteers.
Bring to post a supply of favorite records, tapes, and/or CDs, as
well as the equipment to play them. Western music is very difficult
to find locally.
Kinshasa is considered to be a center for African-style music and
a number of nightclubs range from imitations of American bars to
lively and colorful African outdoor bars. Several discotheques and a
number of good restaurants exist; however, costs are rather high and
the danger of street crime or nighttime stops by army personnel
and/or police are effective deterrents to most nightlife outside of
The Congolese Government is known to suddenly impose or change
curfew hours with little warning. With or without a local curfew,
post management advises all personnel and their dependents to be in
by midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1 am Friday and Saturday.
Kinshasa has several casinos with blackjack, roulette, and slot
machines as the most popular games.
Social Activities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:16 PM
Social life is limited but active and informal. Common forms of
home entertainment include dinner parties, card games, and video
Kinshasa has several good restaurants. Though they are expensive,
they offer a variety of cuisines including Chinese, Indian, Italian,
French, and continental. Several bakeries offer excellent fresh
bread, baguettes, French pastries, etc. There are no “fast food”
restaurants in town.
The International Women’s Club of Kinshasa invites all women of
Kinshasa to join. It is an English-speaking club which meets
monthly. The club sponsors tours and special interest groups for
cooking, bridge, French conversation, etc. Monthly get-acquainted
coffees are held, and the club sponsors an annual Christmas bazaar
at which goods made by the women are sold and the proceeds donated
to local charities. It also gives American women the opportunity to
meet women outside the official Embassy community.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:17 PM
The official social scene features diplomatic receptions and
representational dinners. An ability to converse in French is
absolutely necessary for full participation in the international
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:17 PM
All newly arrived American personnel call on the Chief of Mission
and the DCM shortly after arrival in Kinshasa. No other formal calls
on the Chief of Mission or on other Mission officials are expected.
Calls on counterparts in other Embassies will be discussed at post.
The purpose of calls for spouses is to become acquainted with
others at post; whether the spouse decides to call or not is
voluntary. Often, the Chief of Mission or DCM will host “hail and
farewell” cocktail parties for new arrivals and those finishing up
Calling cards and invitations can be printed locally, but many
prefer to have such items made beforehand. Diplomats find it more
useful to have calling cards in French. Folding informals, not
available locally, are also widely used.
The family members of a mission officer are under no obligation
to assist in official entertaining. However, voluntary participation
in social and community activities as well as on official occasions,
particularly in a small Mission such as Kinshasa, is helpful to the
Mission and can be personally rewarding.
Special Information Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:18 PM
U.S. Government personnel stopping in Kinshasa on TDY or on
personal travel must have a visa and should inform the Embassy well
in advance of arrival to request country clearance. This will also
ensure that visitors are met at the airport and have hotel
Security is an issue that is of prime importance in Kinshasa. The
Department and post continue to devote considerable resources to
residential and personal safety. All residences are equipped with a
burglar alarm as well as window and door grills. The Regional
Security Officer provides specific security instructions to all
incoming personnel so that they are well informed and up to date on
the security situation.
Do not stand on balconies or walk through the streets of Kinshasa
with binoculars, cameras, video cameras, or the like. Local police
or military personnel will, at the very least, detain for
questioning anyone using such equipment.
Please direct any questions regarding specific topics to the
appropriate Embassy staff member. Most questions can be answered by
representatives from ADMIN, CLO, GSO, MED, RSO, or PER. Any of these
offices can be reached using the following address:
APO AE 09828
Post Orientation Program
Each newly arrived employee is assisted by the Community Liaison
Office (CLO) Coordinator, who, along with an assigned sponsor, works
to make the transition to life in Kinshasa as smooth as possible.
The check-in and orientation process, which includes welcome
meetings for the employee and all dependents in each section and a
tour of the Embassy facilities, is organized by the CLO Coordinator
to occur within the first day or two of a newcomer’s arrival.
Sponsors help newcomers meet others within and outside the
Embassy family and help with first-time shopping excursions and city
The Embassy also offers, free of charge to employees and their
spouses, language training in French, Swahili, and/or Lingala,
taught by FSN instructors using FSI materials and methods.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:20 PM
Since no American carriers operate directly between the U.S. and
Congo, travel is accomplished through a combination of American and
foreign carriers consistent with the Fly America Act. Brussels is
the only European interchange point that provides connection to
Kinshasa, via Sabena.
Once a flight reservation has been confirmed, notify the State
Department in Washington or the employing agency by telephone,
e-mail, fax, or cable of the flight number, date, and time of
arrival so that the information can be forwarded to the Embassy. It
is essential that the Embassy arrange for an expeditor to be at the
airport when an employee arrives for a number of reasons:
it is almost impossible to jump the few official and many
unofficial hurdles at the airport without the help of an expeditor;
negotiating these obstacles involves attempts at extortion, bribery,
and possible theft which the expeditor can help avoid;
it is approximately a 30-minute ride from the airport to the Embassy
which, particularly after dark, may involve military and
the journey can be unsafe in general, but particularly for someone
not familiar with local situations.
In accompanying luggage, bring personal items needed in the first
days at post. Unaccompanied air baggage may take several weeks to
clear customs and be delivered. Many people choose to mail personal
items through the APO prior to leaving the States.
To enable the Embassy to obtain Congolese identity cards, bring
passport-sized photos of each traveler. Visas for travel, both
official and personal, to other African countries also require
photos. Have at least six available for that purpose.
Shipment of household effects from the U.S. are transported to
Antwerp by surface and onward from Antwerp to Kinshasa by air.
Household effects should be consigned to:
American Consulate General
Mail a copy of the original ocean bill of lading to:
ATTN: Shipping Office
APO AE 09828
Shipments should be prepaid to Antwerp. Cases in transit should
Kinshasa, Congo via Antwerp (ELSO)
Liftvans should not exceed 87 inches by 56 inches by 76 inches,
length-width-height. Employees coming from European, African or
Middle Eastern posts should ask their GSO for a routing and direct
air shipment to Kinshasa. Also cable Kinshasa to see whether these
arrangements are still valid.
Private insurance is recommended for all shipments, especially
personally owned vehicles (POVs). Vehicles are routed by sea to
Antwerp and then by air to Kinshasa. Vehicles should be consigned
and marked the same as household effects. Transit time ranges from
four to eight weeks. Clearing customs in Kinshasa can take another
four weeks and there can be a delay of several weeks before the car
is released to the Embassy’s shipping section.
Airfreight sent to Kinshasa should be marked and consigned as
American Embassy Kinshasa
Although claims for private personal property losses may be
reimbursed by the U.S. Government, private insurance to cover risks
specifically excluded or limited by the Claims Act is recommended.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:20 PM
At present, no limitations are placed on duty-free entry of goods
or vehicles into Congo. Single employees may import only one car;
tandem couples may import two.
Foreign currencies up to $50,000 may be brought into Congo, but
the passenger must declare the amounts at the time of arrival. A
currency declaration form is issued at the airport and must be
carefully retained by the passenger since it must be surrendered at
the airport when leaving Congo. There is a limit of $10,000 on
foreign currency allowed to be taken out of the country.
Marijuana and other narcotics are illegal in Congo, just as they
are in the U.S.; do not bring such items into the country.
Passage Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:21 PM
A visa is an absolute requirement for entry into Congo. It may be
obtained in any country in which Congo has diplomatic or consular
representation. Airport visas are not issued by Congolese
authorities, so it is necessary to obtain a visa before arriving. If
a traveler’s passport contains a visa from Rwanda, Burundi, or
Uganda, contact the RSO before arrival.
All travelers to Congo must have an international certificate
showing receipt of a yellow fever vaccination. The vaccination is
valid for ten years and must be obtained at least ten days before
arrival. It’s best to carry the immunization record and passport
Pets Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:21 PM
No difficulties exist in importing a dog or cat into Congo as
long as the pet is accompanied by proof of rabies inoculation and a
certificate of good health. Veterinary facilities are available and
are usually adequate, but a good general medical handbook for the
pet’s species could be useful.
Arrange for a U.S. veterinarian to ship veterinary medications.
Also bring a supply of flea collars, shampoos, food bowls, chew
Since it can be expensive to ship animals (especially large dogs)
on airlines, call different carriers and compare prices.
Remember that during an evacuation, pets are sometimes not
permitted on planes due to space limitations. This consideration
should be factored in when deciding whether or not to bring a pet.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:21 PM
Importing weapons is strictly forbidden by the government of
Congo. No exceptions are granted.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
12/16/2003 3:22 PM
Currency rules are in a state of flux in this mostly-cash
society. Credit cards are accepted at only the two major hotels.
Credit cards may not be used at banks to obtain cash advances and
there are no automatic teller machines. Only commercial banks cash
traveler’s checks or accept wire transfers. Some travelers have
complained of high fees, delays, and unavailability of cash when
trying to accomplish either of these transactions.
The official currency is the Congolese franc (symbol FC), and it
is very difficult to do local transactions with any other currency
in Congo. In accordance with post policy and U.S. law and
regulations, American U.S. Government personnel must obtain all
local currency from the Embassy cashier, banks, or registered
currency exchange bureaus. U.S. dollars are available from the
Embassy cashier for travel purposes or in very limited amounts for
approved purchases. Local currency can be obtained from the Embassy
cashier only by a personal check written on a U.S. bank, with dollar
travelers’ checks, or with U.S. currency. All AERWA and GSO bills
must be paid with U.S. checks.
Delays in salary and allowance payments can occur upon arrival at
post. Direct deposit is usually the most convenient way to receive
Congo follows the metric system for all weights and measures.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:22
Sale of personal property, including personally owned vehicles,
is normally approved when the employee departs from post on
transfer. Sales are approved by the principal officer or designee
and conversion of Congolese francs to dollars is controlled by
Embassy regulations prohibit buying Congolese francs at anything
other than the official rate.
No direct local taxes are levied on employees.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:25 PM
The following titles are provided as a general reading list of
materials published that focus on Congo. The Department of State
does not endorse unofficial publications.
Anstey, Ruth. King Leopold’s Legacy. Oxford University Press,
London, 1966. This work analyzes Belgian rule in the Congo and the
administrative, economic, and social and political structure
developed from 1908–1960.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness.
Forbath, Peter. The River Congo. Harper & Row: New York, 1977.
The discovery, exploration, and exploitation of the world's most
Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a
World Out of Balance. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 1994. A
look at the recent history of, societal reactions to, and solutions
for dealing with worldwide diseases, many of which originate in
Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost. A book of historical
inquiry, drawing heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists’
savagery, which brings this episode in European and African history
into a new light.
Kalb, Madeline. The Congo Cables. 1982. A scholarly study which
covers the period around Congo’s independence.
Kelly, Robert C., et. al. Country Review, Congo (DRC) 1998/1999.
Commercial Data International, 1998. Commercial Data International’s
(CDI) Country Reviews are concise up-to-date sources for political
and economic information.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. 1999. Told in five
voices, this novel recounts the impact on a missionary’s family of
life in a Congo village at the time of independence.
Masson, Paul. La Bataile Pour Bukavu. A French journalist’s
account of events in the East. Precise perceptive reporting thought
by some “old Congo hands” to be the best journalistic writing done
McKown, Robin. The Congo River of Mystery. McGraw-Hill, New York,
1960. A good high-school type historical introduction to Congo and
its early explorers.
Meditz, Sandra and Memfll, Tim. Congo, A Country Study. (1994
edition). Foreign Area Studies Series. The American University:
Naipaul, V.S. A Bend in the River. Alfred A. Knopf, New York,
1979. East Indian life in Kisangani.
U.S. Department of State. Welcome to Kinshasa. Good handbook of
sources and information regarding day-to-day life in Kinshasa.
(Available from post.)
Wechsler, Suruba. By The Grace Of God: A True Story of Love,
Family, War and Survival From the Congo. New Horizon Press, 1999.
The saga of one family’s love and survival through the wars,
tyranny, corruption, and epidemics that have plagued the Congo over
the past 40 years.
Young, Crawford. Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and
Independence. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1965. As the
subtitle indicates, Young traces the disintegration of Belgian
colonial rule as well as the subsequent political disintegration of
1960–63. A thorough analysis, it has become the “Bible” for students
seeking a useful introduction to Congo’s contemporary history.
Young, Crawford and Tumer, Thomas. The Rise and Decline of the
Congolese State. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
Undoubtedly destined to be a classic as well, although based on
somewhat dated and second-hand research.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/16/2003 3:26 PM
The Embassy is closed in observance of the following Congolese
and U.S. Government holidays (actual dates apply to the 2003
New Year’s Day January 1
Martyrs Day for Independence January 4
Martin Luther King’s Birthday January 20
President’s Day February 17
Congo Labor Day May 1
New Regime Day May 17
Memorial Day May 26
Congo Independence Day June 30
U.S. Independence Day July 4
Congo Parent’s Day August 1
Labor Day September 1
Columbus Day October 13
Veterans Day November 11
Thanksgiving Day November 27
Christmas Day December 25
No particular problems have been encountered if travelers arrive in
Kinshasa on Congolese holidays.