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Congo - Brazzaville
The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 5/12/2005 2:08 PM

The Congo, which has a total area of 132,000 square miles, is located near the Equator in West-Central Africa. It extends more than 800 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC - formerly Zaire), and the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.

The country has four topographical regions: a coastal plain extending inland about 40 miles to the foothills of the Mayombe Mountains; the alluvial soils of the fertile Niari Valley in the south-central area; the Central Bateke Plateau separating the basins of the Ogooue and Congo Rivers; and the Congo River basin in the north, composed of mainly impassable floodplains in the lower portion and dry savanna in the upper portion. Much of the Congo is densely forested.

In December 1993, nearly a million acres of land in the north became Nouabale-Ndoki National Park—one of the most significant tropical forest preserves in the world.

The climate is tropical, with the rainy season lasting from October to April and the dry season from June to September. Humidity is high during the rainy season, and temperatures can climb to 31°C. Humidity and temperatures are lower during the dry season, ranging from 25°C to 28°C.

Brazzaville, a city of over 900,000 people, lies on the north bank of the Congo River, 315 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean and 4.25 degrees south of the Equator. Surrounded by a vast savanna of high grasslands and dark green thickets of low trees spread over rolling hills, the town is fairly level, with an altitude of 1,043 feet.

Violent rapids make the Congo River un-navigable from Brazzaville to the Atlantic. To the northeast the river widens into Stanley Pool—15 miles wide and dotted with many small islands (during the dry season). From Brazzaville inland, the river becomes navigable for 1,000 miles.

Goods arriving at the Atlantic seaport of Pointe-Noire are shipped by rail or truck to Brazzaville, which, due to its position above the rapids, is a transit point for commercial and passenger traffic heading North.

The city of Pointe-Noire, with over 500,000 people, is one of the best ports on the African west coast between Luanda, Angola, and Lagos, Nigeria. Almost all goods moving into and out of the Congo pass through Pointe-Noire.

Population Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:07 PM

Over 3.3 million Congolese reside in over 133,538 square miles of land, an average density of less than 25 persons per square mile. Seventy percent of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie, and along the connecting rail line. Few people live in the northern sections, which are covered by savanna, swamp, and rain forest.

Outside the main towns, the Congolese are divided into small communities. Among 75 distinct subdivisions, the Kongo, the Teke, and the Sangha are the three principal ethnic groups.

Two million Kongo are found on both sides of the Congo River, about one-fourth in the Congo and the rest in the DRC. The Lari and related groups live around Brazzaville, and the Vili, a coastal group, predominate in the Pointe-Noire area. The Sangha inhabit the northern part of the country along with the M'Bochi. However, many of the M' Bochi have migrated to Brazzaville.

The Teke are spread over a large area north and northeast of Brazzaville. They are the most traditional of the ethnic groups, engaging in hunting and fishing. Animistic worship is still predominant, although most of the urban population is Christian. In rural areas, the Congolese live in small communities, having little outside contact. There are about 3,000 French nationals in the Congo.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:10 PM

First inhabited by pygmies, the Congo was later settled by Bantu groups who also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and the DRC. Several Bantu kingdoms, notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke, built trade links along the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms, trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 9th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded.

The area came under French sovereignty in the 1880s. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an empire builder for France, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold's International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin. Between 1882 and 1891, treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the river's right bank, placing their lands under French protection. In 1908, France organized French Equatorial African (AEF), which comprised the colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the Federal capital.

Economic development during the first 50 years of colonial rule in the Congo centered on natural resource extraction by private companies. In 1924–34, the CFCO was built at a considerable human and financial cost, opening the way for growth of the ocean port of Pointe-Noire and towns along its route.

During World War II, the AEF administration sided with General Charles de Gaulle, and Brazzaville became the symbolic capital of Free France during 1940–43. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies. The Congo benefited from the postwar expansion of colonial administrative and infrastructure spending as a result of its central geographic location within AEF, and the Federal capital at Brazzaville. The Loi Cadre (Framework Law) of 1956 ended dual voting roles and provided for partial self-government for the individual overseas territories. Ethnic rivalries then produced sharp struggles among the emerging Congolese political parties and sparked severe riots in Brazzaville in 1959. After the September 1958 referendum approving the new French Constitution, the AEF was dissolved. Its four territories became autonomous members of the French community, and Middle Congo was renamed the Congo Republic. Formal independence was granted to the new country in August 1960.

The Congo's first President was Fulbert Youlou, a former Catholic priest from the southeast region. He rose to political prominence after 1956 and was narrowly elected President by the National Assembly at independence. Youlou's 3 years in power were marked by ethnic tensions and political rivalry. In August 1963, Youlou was overthrown in a 3-day popular uprising (Les Trois Glorieuses) led by labor elements and joined by rival political parties. All members of the Youlou government were arrested or removed from office. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Debat. Under the 1963 Constitution, Massamba-Debat was elected President for a 5-year term and named Pascal Lissouba to serve as Prime Minister. However, President Massamba-Debat’s term ended abruptly in August 1968, when Captain (later Major) Marien Ngouabi and other army officers toppled the government in a coup. After a period of consolidation under the newly formed National Revolutionary Council, Major Ngouabi assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968. One year later President Ngouabi proclaimed the Congo to be Africa's first "people's republic" and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labor Party (PCT).

On March 18, 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated, and less than 1 week later, Archbishop Biayenda was also killed. Although the persons accused of shooting Ngouabi and Biayenda were tried, and some of them executed, the motivation behind the assassinations is still not clear. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Colonel (later General) Joachim Yhomby-Opango to serve as President of the Republic. Accused of corruption and deviation from party directives, Yhomby-Opango was removed from office on February 5, 1979, by the Central Committee of the PCT, which then simultaneously designated Vice President and Defense Minister, Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso as interim President. The Central Committee directed Sassou-Nguesso to take charge of preparations for the Third Extraordinary Congress of the PCT, which proceeded to elect him President of the Republic. Under a congressional resolution, Yhomby-Opango was stripped of all powers, rank, and possessions, and placed under arrest to await trial for high treason. He was released from house arrest in late 1984 and ordered back to his native village of Owando.

After decades of turbulent politics belabored by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Congolese gradually moderated their economic and political views to the point that in 1992 the Congo completed a transition to multiparty democracy. Ending a long history of one-party Marxist rule, a specific agenda for this transition was laid out during the Congo's National Conference of 1991 and culminated in August 1992 with multiparty presidential elections. Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat, and the Congo's new President, Professor Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992.

Congolese democracy experienced severe trials in 1993 and early 1994. The President dissolved the National Assembly in November 1992, calling for new elections in May 1993. The results of those elections were disputed, touching off violent civil unrest in June and again in November. In February 1994, the decisions of an international board of arbiters were accepted by all parties, and the risk of large-scale insurrection subsided for the time being. However, in 1997 President Lissouba, along with his Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas was concerned that former President Sassou was planning an overthrow of their government, and used their private militias to attack the private militia of former President Sassou. This set off a highly destructive Civil War. The Angolan army supporteod Sassou, and with this help Sassou’s side was victorious. The war was fought mainly in Brazzaville, destroying much of the infrastructure and displacing a large part of the population. The U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville suffered severe damage, and Embassy operations were suspended. Embassy operations were resumed in 2001, though American staff continue to be assigned officially to Kinshasa and travel to Brazzaville on temporary duty (TDY).

Sassou assumed the Presidency after the Civil War, but began a process of transition back to democratic rule, which culminated in elections during 2001 in which Sassou was re-elected President. The newly constituted Parliament was elected in 2002. In 2003, a peace accord was signed with rebel armed forces, called the “Ninjas” based in the Pool region, just west of Brazzaville, and the situation is currently regarded as calm.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:10 PM

Designated by the French during the colonial era to be the civil servants of Equatorial Africa, the Congolese have traditionally taken great pride in their French-oriented educational system. With the exception of Senegal, no country in Africa had a more developed educational system at the time of independence than the Congo. The literacy rate is still among the highest in Africa, and professors and teachers are held in high regard.

While the glory days of the Congolese educational system are long gone, all school-age children (6-19) are entitled to free education. School attendance is, in principle, compulsory until age 16. Almost all school-age children in urban areas attend classes, though enrollment drops off in the countryside. Brazzaville's Marien Ngouabi University is the sole institution of higher learning in the country. Founded in 1961, it has an average enrollment of 16,500 students. During the 1998 – 2002 Civil War, the education system, along with all other aspects of the social infrastructure, deteriorated. Lack of financial resources for books , materials, classroom rehabilitation and payment of teachers’ salaries remain serious problems. The country is in a post-conflict status and continues to slowly rebuild.

The Congo is widely known throughout Africa as a center of francophone literature, and several Congolese writers have worldwide reputations. The French Cultural Center, known locally as the Espace Andre Malraux, opened its doors in 1991 and is one of France's finest centers in sub-Saharan Africa. It regularly offers plays, concerts, exhibitions, and film shows.

The Poto-Poto Art School was founded by Pierre Lods in 1951 and is accessible to the general public throughout the week. Works by Congolese painters and sculptors can also be found in their workshops throughout the city. Traditional handicrafts are not as prevalent as they were in the past, though there are some fine craftsmen working in the production of pottery, baskets, rattan and wood furniture, and textiles.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:33 AM

Debt continues to be one of the largest impediments for development of the Congo. During the petroleum boom years, the Congo mortgaged its oil revenues and became one of the most heavily indebted countries per capita in the world. When the price of oil fell, the Congo found its economy paralyzed by the debt burden and its overdependence on this one industry. The country is working to qualify for Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status.

In recent years, the government has engaged in considerable structural adjustment efforts and made some progress in diversifying the economy. The program includes a reduction of the role of government in the private sector and privatization of state-owned enterprises in the areas of petroleum production and distribution, banking, and telecommunications. Agricultural production in manioc, peanuts, bananas, rice, coffee, and cocoa has increased. The Congo also has tropical hardwoods and eucalyptus trees under cultivation. Finally, the Congo has increased regional economic cooperation. The Congo is a very important and active member of CEMAC.

Structural reform efforts include civil service downsizing, customs and tax reforms, and measures to promote private sector development. The government has negotiated an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Currently the Congo is working hard to meet its obligations to the IMF concerning transparency in the oil sector. It is also working to qualify for HIPC status.

A signatory to the Lomé Convention, the Congo conducts most of its external trade with members of the European Community, particularly with France. Due to increasing purchases of Congolese petroleum, the United States is currently the Congo's leading overall trading partner. The Congo is also a member of the UDEAC (Union Douaniere et Economique de l'Afrique Centrale), which is composed of the former territories of French Equatorial Africa, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea, and the CEEAC (Communaute Economique des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale).


Automobiles Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:15 PM

Privately owned vehicles (POVs) are the primary means of transportation by Europeans in the Congo. New and used cars may be purchased duty free locally, but prices are high compared to those in the United States and Europe. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high ground clearance are much more practical for the roads outside the city. Direct-hire Americans are considered to be on temporary duty (TDY) when in the country. POVs are shipped to and remain in Kinshasa. (See Post Report for Congo, Democratic Republic of for information on POVs there.) The Embassy maintains a motor pool for transportation needs of TDY personnel in Brazzaville. There are plentiful, reliable, safe, and cheap taxis in Brazzaville.

Many roads in Brazzaville are paved; however, there are numerous potholes and unpaved roads. South of Brazzaville there is a road once paved but now in poor condition that leads to Kinkala (about 75 kilometers). The road continues unpaved to Pointe-Noire. There is a paved road north of Brazzaville that is in very good condition and leads to most major cities north of town. Many roads, paved or unpaved, are almost impossible to travel without a four-wheel-drive vehicle, particularly during the rainy season.

Driving is on the right. French traffic rules prevail; the vehicle on the right has the right of way. Since main roads are crowded with pedestrians, motorbikes, and speeding vehicles, driving can be dangerous.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:15 PM

There are no formal bus services, and private taxi-van services are not used by Europeans and Americans, because of overcrowding and unsafe driving. However, taxi service in small sedans is adequate, and prices are reasonable. One-way fare to almost anywhere in the city averages 700 CFA.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:34 AM

There is a 315-mile railway that connects Brazzaville with Pointe-Noire. However, disruptions in service are frequent and long delays are not uncommon. The railroad passes through the Pool region, which remains a pocket of periodic instability despite the 2003 Peace Agreement with the Ninja armed forces based there. Travel by train is not recommended.

Air France flies to Brazzaville from Europe; Ethiopian Airlines, Angolan Airlines, Cameroon Airlines, Inter Air, and Air Gabon link Brazzaville to other countries in Africa. Lina Congo, Aeroservice, and Trans Air Congo serve Pointe-Noire and other domestic destinations. The Brazzaville airport, Maya-Maya, is 6 kilometers from downtown.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 5/12/2005 2:23 PM

Local telephone, cable, Internet, and wireless communications are adequate, although service interruptions occur from time to time, and the services are very expensive.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:18 PM

APO facilities are available through the Embassy in Kinshasa, and mail departs and arrives twice weekly. The address for international mail is:

Full Name
American Embassy
BP 1015
Brazzaville, Congo

APO Address:
Full Name
Unit 31550
APO AE 09828-1550

Official Pouch Address:
Full Name
American Embassy Brazzaville
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20521-2090

Pouch Address for Private Mail:
Full Name
2090 Brazzaville Place
Dulles, VA 20189-2090

All personal packages should be sent via APO mail or to the Pouch address in Dulles, VA. Letter mail may be sent by either pouch or APO.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:18 PM

Congolese radio broadcasts on shortwave, mediumwave, and FM from 6:00 am until late evening. Broadcasts are in French and local languages, with one English-language program per week. RFI, BBC, African Number 1, Radio Zaire, and Canal Afrique are also received locally. With a shortwave receiver, personnel can listen to VOA, BBC, and European broadcasts.

Tele Congo broadcasts afternoon and evening in French and local languages, with a weekly English news program on Sunday. Satellite TV service is provided in the TDY quarters offering access to CNN, BBC, ESPN, and movie and entertainment channels in English and French.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:19 PM

There is a developing free press in the Congo, and more than a dozen Congolese weeklies and monthlies are available. French magazines and newspapers, other European magazines, Time, Newsweek, and the International Herald Tribune are available in Brazzaville, though at high prices. All papers and periodicals are several days old. With both APO and pouch privileges, personnel receive subscriptions to American periodicals with only minimal delays.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:19 PM

Since all direct-hire Americans are on TDY status, most medical needs are provided through the Health Unit at Embassy Kinshasa. A part-time nurse in Kinshasa has responsibility for Brazzaville and is setting up a small Health Unit in Brazzaville. The Embassy nurse, based in Kinshasa, can be contacted directly by phone in the case of emergency. Embassy personnel also consult French physicians in private practice in Brazzaville in an emergency.

The local hospitals and clinics are not up to U.S. standards. For an illness not treatable by the Embassy nurse, or resident French doctors, evacuation to South Africa or Europe can be authorized by the Office of the Medical Advisor in Washington.

A reputable dentist practices in Kinshasa, but all preventive dental work should be done prior to arriving at post.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:19 PM

Malaria is endemic to the Congo region. Mefloquine, Choloroquine/Paludrine, and other antimalaria pills must be taken regularly. Begin taking malaria pills 2 weeks before arrival at post and continue for 4 weeks after departure.

Proof of smallpox vaccination is no longer required in the Congo, but typhoid and yellow fever immunizations are still required by the State Department. Although tetanus and polio immunizations should be completed prior to arrival, they are given at the Embassy Health Unit in Kinshasa. Also available, and highly recommended, are rabies vaccines, Hepatitis A and B vaccines, and gamma globulin injections.

Up-to-date cholera stamps are recommended for all travelers to the Congo in order to minimize problems with quarantine officials when entering the country.

Diarrheal diseases, skin infections, hepatitis, and intestinal parasites are also common. General respiratory ailments take longer to cure than in more temperate climates. For some, the heat and humidity are the most unpleasant medical aspects of life at post. The climate aggravates respiratory, sinus, and low blood pressure problems. Supplementary vitamins in the daily diet may be helpful. An active physical exercise routine and social interest are important for maintaining good health and high morale.

Brazzaville has a water purification plant; however, the questionable quality of the water, water distribution facilities, and climate dictate that drinking water be boiled and filtered. Vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly. If these items are to be eaten raw, outer skins should be removed. In preparing lettuce for salads, wash each leaf at least twice in cooled, boiled water.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:20 PM

Spouses and dependents of employees of the Brazzaville mission live in Kinshasa. See the Post Report for Democratic Republic of the Congo for employment opportunities.

American Embassy - Brazzaville

Post City Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:20 PM

Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, is located on the north bank of the Congo River, directly across from Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Its colonial history begins in September 1881 when Makoko Ilo, a Teke chief, ceded parcels of his land to Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an Italian-born explorer in the service of his adopted France. On October 30, 1880, Brazza signed a second accord, which gave France claim to much of the land now part of Brazzaville. By 1902, Brazzaville had taken the place of Libreville as the capital of French Equatorial Africa. Its regional importance continued to grow with completion of the Congo-Ocean Railway in 1934. During World War II, General Charles de Gaulle made Brazzaville the center of the French resistance movement in Africa.

Brazzaville has become overcrowded in recent years as more and more people leave the rural areas to seek employment in the city. Paved roads are dotted with potholes, and many roads are unpaved. The vegetation is lush, and streets are bordered by mango, palm, and flame trees, which blossom in November (Brazzaville's springtime).

Countries with diplomatic missions here include Algeria, Angola, Belgium, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, France, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, and Russia. There is a Papal Nuncio representing the Pope and the Vatican. The following countries have honorary consuls: Cuba, Great Britain, and Mauritania. Many international organizations are also represented, such as the Central African Regional Development Bank, UNDP, the European Community, WHO, UNICEF, the IMF, the World Bank, FAO, UNESCO, UNIC, and the African Union of Post and Telecommunications. A number of other countries are represented by their embassies in Kinshasa.

Although a few Europeans and some Congolese speak English, French is essential for employees and their dependents for social and daily activities. Fewer than 40 Americans reside in the Congo.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:35 AM

American Embassy operations were officially suspended from 1997 to 2001. Currently, the Embassy is negotiating with the Government to exchange the former Embassy building and property for a site on which to build a new Embassy compound. Temporary office space has been leased and was occupied in 2004. The Embassy owns a GSO compound in the industrial sector called Mpila and a former recreation association compound called Villa Washington.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:22 PM

The Embassy operates three temporary quarters for use by Embassy personnel: Villas Sabine, Amitie, and Thetis. They are located in the central area of the city and are in closed proximity to the former American Center at Villa Washington. Amitié, a single-family residence, and Thetis, a two-unit duplex, are USG-owned. Sabine, the Ambassador’s residence, is the former residence of the Belgian Ambassador. It has two floors, three bedrooms, a screened porch, a swimming pool, and a large lawn area. Short-term TDY visitors generally stay at the Meridien Hotel or the Olympic Palace Hotel near the city center. Both are European-standard hotels with restaurants and recreation facilities.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:22 PM

Permanent housing for direct-hire Americans of the Brazzaville Mission is in Kinshasa. Please see Democratic Republic of the Congo Post Report for details on housing.

Furnishings Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:22 PM

All temporary quarters are adequately furnished, according to regulations. Each unit also is equipped with a Hospitality Kit containing pots, pans, utensils, dishes, glassware, linens, towels, cleaning tools, and other items.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:23 PM

Embassy temporary housing is equipped with water reservoirs, water pumps, and generators to alleviate inconveniences caused by occasional shortages of water and electrical power outages.

A refrigerator, gas stove, washer, dryer, and upright freezer are provided for each residence. Current is 220v, 50-cycle, AC. Although some small electrical appliances (hair dryers, electric razors, and kitchen items) can be purchased locally, prices are almost double those in the U.S. The Embassy has step-down transformers.

Food Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:35 AM

Canned goods, imported mostly from Europe, are available in Brazzaville at much higher prices than in the U.S. Supplies are unreliable, and shopping often requires several stops. There is one supermarket in Brazzaville, as well as numerous small food shops.

Local fresh vegetables and fruits are seasonal, expensive, and limited in both variety and quality. Vegetables include lettuce, potatoes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, beets, cucumbers, onions, spring onions, spinach, squash, radishes, tomatoes, and eggplant. Local fruit includes oranges, grapefruit, papayas, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, guavas, bananas, and lemons. Wash unpeeled vegetables and fruit in a solution of potassium permanganate or detergent before eating them raw. Imported oranges, grapes, apples, kiwis, and pears, and vegetables such as carrots, endive, cauliflower, and mushrooms, are often available in local supermarkets at very high prices.

Sterilized long-life milk, whole and low fat, from Europe is available. Powdered milk from the Netherlands and Denmark is plentiful. Evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and long-life cream and ice cream are available. Sweet butter and margarine are imported from Europe, as are a variety of excellent cheeses. Fresh eggs are available locally. All are expensive.

A French butcher sells high-quality meat. Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and sausages are imported. Some fresh pork is imported or comes from local sources, as does poultry, which varies in quality and is expensive. Fresh or smoked hams are unknown except the imported/pressed varieties. All fresh meats are inspected and safe to eat so long as they are purchased from reputable butchers. Fish from Pointe-Noire arrives regularly and is good but expensive. Local seafood shops carry sole, bar, "capitaine" (Nile perch), oysters, shrimp, lobster, and, on occasion, frog's legs.

Brazzaville’s one supermarket carries spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, dried beans, packaged and canned soups, coffee (local and imported), and many standard food items available in the U.S. Fresh-baked French bread and American-style loaves are available daily.

American favorites that are rare or nonexistent include canned sweet potatoes, canned corn, U.S. ground coffee, meats and prepared hams, popcorn, cocktail snacks, nuts for baking (although local peanuts are readily available), and holiday needs such as canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce or jelly, fruit pie fillings, and candied fruits. Other specialty items difficult to find are pie crust mixes, cake mixes, brown and confectioners sugar, shortening, corn syrup, molasses, baking powder, American-style mustard, horseradish, soft drink and ice cream mixes, and American chili sauce and powder.

Locally produced beer, tonic, soda, and soft drinks are available at reasonable costs.

Clothing Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:24 PM

Bring clothing similar to that worn in the Washington, D.C., area in summer. Although drycleaning services are available, bring washable clothing. A limited selection of readymade European clothes is available at astronomical prices. Bring a complete wardrobe for a 2-year tour. U.S. catalog orders can be arranged through the APO address.

Because of possibilities for travel to colder climates, bring enough warm clothing for visits to these areas. Other winter and wool clothing should be stored.

The tumbu fly is a minor menace that lays its eggs on laundry hung on a line to dry or clothing damp from perspiration. If eggs deposited on clothing are not destroyed with a hot iron, the larvae in garments worn next to the body will penetrate the skin, producing a boil-like lesion. All clothing should be well dried and ironed before wearing.

Men Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:24 PM

Light, casual summer clothing is worn year round. Many men wear dark, lightweight business suits. One medium-weight suit may also be useful for June and July when temperatures are cool. Officers usually need about six lightweight suits for a 2-year tour. Two dark blue, black, or gray suits for evening functions are recommended. For infrequent formal gatherings, one lightweight black-tie outfit or tuxedo is adequate.

Bring plenty of light-colored and lightweight shirts, undergarments, socks, and shoes. Sport shirts are worn during off-duty hours. Modern quick-dry synthetic fabrics work best in this climate. Lightweight raincoats and umbrellas are extremely useful during the rainy season. Shoes should be lightweight and comfortable. Expensive leathers and suede are discouraged because of dampness and wet surface conditions outside the office and the overall rough nature of the streets and sidewalks.

Women Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:24 PM

Casual cotton, washable dresses, skirts, and blouses are worn year round. Long or short sundresses and street dresses can be worn for cocktail and evening wear. Have at least two dresses for more formal occasions. Although French and African women often wear formal dresses of lame, taffeta, and lace, American women find washable cottons, rayon, dark silks, and linens far more suitable and practical for formal occasions. Clothes deteriorate rapidly with frequent washings and ironing. In selecting a wardrobe, emphasize variety and comfort, as well as elegance and current styles.

Short- and long-sleeved cotton dresses, blouses, and skirts, or slacks and a sweater or stole, are useful during evenings in the cooler season.

Coats are not normally needed, but a lightweight raincoat or jacket and umbrella are recommended for the rainy season.

Bring loose-fitting cottons for the warmer, more humid seasons. Short sleeved or sleeveless lightweight cotton dresses or blouses and skirts are a must. Because of the heat, stockings are rarely worn.

Bring plenty of shoes. If you purchase shoes before arriving, select a loose-fitting pair, as feet tend to swell in hot, humid climates. European footwear rarely fits Americans and is very expensive. Due to dampness and occasionally wet walking surfaces, shoes tend to wear out quickly. Expensive leather or suede footwear is not recommended.

Local prices for undergarments and swim and beachwear are quite high. Bring a good supply of these items.

Children Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:36 AM

NOTE: Embassy children would be living in Kinshasa, but the following applies nonetheless.

A large supply of clothing for children is necessary. Many play areas are unpaved and often muddy, necessitating frequent laundering. Girls will require cotton dresses, skirts, blouses, shorts, playsuits, and T-shirts. Boys wear ordinary shorts, shirts, and T-shirts. Bring a good supply of casual cotton clothing for younger children. Also, bring plenty of swimwear; it wears out quickly. A large supply of socks and undergarments is also necessary.

Most necessities are available, but prices are high for often inferior products. Bring shoes, particularly sneakers and sandals, to post; local choices are extremely limited.

Bring disposable diapers, formulas, clothing, and other toiletry articles for infants. Baby foods are available locally, at two to three times U.S. prices, so bring large quantities of these items. Some infant medications can be obtained through the Embassy Health Unit and local pharmacies, but stock varies and items for infants may not be available. Bring good supplies of all infant needs to post.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:26 PM

Toiletries and cosmetics are available in limited quantities and at high prices. Bring these items with you or have them shipped. The Embassy supplies Mefloquine, Chloroquine, and Paludrine malaria suppressants to all Americans. Small supplies of other commonly used nonprescription drugs are stocked. Bring items such as Band-Aids, Q-tips, children's medications, and vitamins. Local pharmacies are well supplied, and drug prices are reasonable, but it is often difficult to obtain exact equivalents of U.S. products.

Cleaning and paper products are available locally at very high prices, so a good supply of laundry powders, bleach, dishwashing soaps, sponges, window and floor cleaners, paper towels, toilet paper, plastic wrap, plastic bags, Ziploc bags, and aluminum foil should be included. Also, consider bringing a supply of toiletries, such as razor blades, deodorant, shampoo, hair conditioner, shaving cream, toothpaste, makeup products, mosquito and other bug repellants (unscented), sunscreen, first-aid creams (a well-stocked first-aid kit would be ideal), aspirin or other pain relievers, and other prescription drugs often required during one's tour.

Send in your airfreight (to Kinshasa) an initial supply of laundry and face soaps, insecticides and insect repellents, paper and plastic products, and anti-irritant products. Many of these are available locally, but at higher than U.S. prices.
Purchase kitchen and cooking equipment, linens, and china prior to arrival. Although these items can be purchased locally, they are also expensive. TDY quarters in Brazzaville are supplied with these items.

A good supply of children's toys and games should be brought, along with entertainment supplies and specialty items. Toys, games, books, educational materials, writing papers, crayons, etc., are available locally. Variety is limited, and prices are very high.

Drycleaning services are available in Brazzaville but are expensive.

Automobile repair service for Japanese and European-made cars is adequate; however, repair work can take weeks to complete due to shortage of skilled labor and parts. Automobile repair service for American-made vehicles is inadequate.

Radios, televisions, stereos, and spare parts for video equipment, as well as spare parts for American-made vehicles, must be ordered from the U.S. or Europe.

Because of the humidity and intensity of the sun in the tropics, bring a good supply of sun products. Bring sun block for small children and adequate supplies of suntan lotions and sunburn relief medications or sprays to post for all family members. Hats and/or sun visors and sunglasses are also recommended.

Basic Services Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:26 PM

Dressmakers are available and are reasonably priced. Often, if requested to do so, they will come directly to your home for necessary fitting and tailoring. If you sew, bring a sewing machine and various lightweight fabrics in order to make some of your own clothes. Sewing accessories, notions, and basic French patterns are available, but choice and supply are often limited. A variety of fabrics, both local and European, are available.

Shoe repair services are available, and work is reasonable; prices vary according to quality of repair.

French and Congolese beauty salons and barbershops are available at prices comparable to those in Washington, D.C., or Europe. A styled haircut costs between $30 and $50. Men's haircuts cost $14.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:26 PM

Domestic applicants are readily available. Quality varies greatly, and most need basic training and close supervision. Generally, servants are honest and ready to perform any variety of household tasks. Most families employ one domestic and, when necessary, a gardener.

Household servants normally work an 8-hour day during hours that best suit your needs. If special receptions or dinners are being held, household staff will work, provided they receive advance notice and overtime pay. Babysitters and nannies are more difficult to find. Servants working after 8 pm expect transportation home.

Salaries range from $130 to $200 per month for a full-time household employee. Cooks, when available, cost more. However, many single employees hire one person to clean and cook. Employers often voluntarily pay for hospital and medical care for servants for injuries or illnesses related to work. The Embassy supplies 24-hour residential guardian service in Kinshasa and at the TDY quarters in Brazzaville.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:26 PM

Roman Catholicism is predominant. Several Roman Catholic churches are located throughout Brazzaville. Services are generally in French. A Protestant service in English is held once a month at the Evangelical Mission. An interdenominational service is held on the other Sundays at 9:30 am at the WHO Chapel. Brazzaville also has an active Salvation Army, and the Swedish Mission occasionally sponsors religious services in English. American missionaries are active in Impfondo (on the northern border of the Congo) and Pointe Noire. Baha'i meetings are bilingual.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:37 AM

Dependent children would live in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, so the following information regarding education would apply. 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. However, enrollment declined because of pillages and evacuations during the ’90s, as well as several years during which no children were permitted at post. Children have returned now, and the current population is approximately 150 students, including children of American missionaries, American business representatives, the greater international community, and Congolese.

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.

Currrently, the school does not have facilities or personnel to deal with severely handicapped or disabled students.

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 is slowly being rebuilt as the number of students increases. 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.

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 holidays include:

• 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. Family members 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 private basis.

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.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:38 AM

Sports provide one of the main means of recreation at post. Local facilities include a tennis club with lighted courts, a nine-hole golf course (with sand greens), the Aero Club, and the Club Nautique (for boating and water sports).

If you enjoy outdoor sports, bring equipment that you may need, such as picnic supplies, golf equipment, and sports attire. All equipment available locally is expensive. Photographic equipment and facilities are also available at double U.S. prices. The following clubs are open to paying memberships (approximately $1,000 each):

Tennis Club. Facilities include 10 clay courts with lights, a squash court, a swimming pool, and a large bar. Balls are supplied free.

Brazzaville Golf Club. The club has a well-kept, nine-hole course (which by clever use of tees converts into an 18-hole course) with sand greens. It is on the grounds of the regional headquarters of the WHO, 20 minutes South from Brazzaville, and has a spectacular view of the Congo River and the rapids.

Aero Club. Located at Maya-Maya Airport, this club has one remodeled Cessna 152 aircraft. Flying lessons are available at approximately triple U.S. instruction fees. A bar, a swimming pool, three tennis courts, and petanque are available for use by members.

The Meridien. Offers monthly subscriptions for its tennis courts and pools. Subscription fees are high by U.S. standards.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:30 PM

Touring is difficult due to the poor quality of roads and lack of accommodations. Trips can be made to Foulakari Falls, Lac Bleu, and the Pine Forest — all within a 2- to 4-hour drive of Brazzaville — with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. These areas are well worth the trip. Travel by road to two or three other scenic spots is possible, provided you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and the necessary camping equipment. All camping and picnicking equipment should be brought to post; local supplies are scarce and very expensive.

Excellent deep-sea fishing is available off the coast at Pointe-Noire. Again, all equipment should be brought to post.

Firearms may not be imported into the Congo.

The Congo River with its islands and beaches provides opportunities for motorboating, waterskiing, fishing, picnicking, and swimming. The current is swift and dangerous; therefore, it is imperative to wear a life jacket when participating in water sports. The Embassy has an 18-foot motorboat that can be used on weekends or holidays on a reimbursable basis.

Brazzaville is isolated, no resort areas are close by, and travel is time consuming and expensive. Pointe-Noire, the Congo's seaport, may be reached from Brazzaville in about an hour by plane. Pointe-Noire offers limited nightlife and cultural opportunities, but it has good beaches for swimming and sunbathing, good fishing, several excellent seafood restaurants, and comfortable hotels. Round-trip air travel costs about $110.

Just outside Brazzaville are the buildings and staff residences of WHO's African regional headquarters — a pleasant place to walk. Other spots of interest are the famous Stanley Pool, the nearby rapids of the Congo River, and the colorful bluffs on the Congo River known as the "Cliffs of Dover" or "White Cliffs."

Entertainment Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:31 PM

Restaurants. There are a few good restaurants in Brazzaville. The more expensive (but still reasonable) restaurants offer indoor, air-conditioned seating. However, the more popular restaurants are the ones that are located outside. Both lunch and dinner are served at all the restaurants. Breakfast is available at a select few. The Meridien Sofitel Hotel offers a breakfast buffet on the weekends.

Night Life. There are a few nightclubs available, but be prepared to spend lots of money, as drinks are very expensive. Music at the clubs ranges from European/American to Afro-Pop.

The French Cultural Center. The FCC offers an active program of films, art exhibits, lectures, and live music and theatre. It publishes a monthly brochure listing its activities.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:31 PM
The small American community is active and creative in organizing social events such as pool parties, volleyball games, river outings, and barbecues. Friday nights are usually spent at the newly remodeled Marine House.

International Contacts Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:31 PM
Employees may be offered the opportunity to join local branches of the Lions Club or Rotary, whose members are prominent government and business leaders. There are opportunities for meeting Congolese and Europeans socially, but knowledge of French is essential.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:31 PM

The Ambassador and other Embassy officers have regular representational responsibilities. Many large diplomatic receptions and informal dinners are held during the year within the diplomatic community. Formal occasions are few; most in house entertainment is relaxed and informal.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:32 PM

Officers make normal diplomatic calls and should bring an adequate supply of calling cards—500 should be ample.

Special Information Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:32 PM

Personnel should bring 24 passport-sized photographs for each family member. An international drivers license and a U.S. license are also necessary. Employees should ship their full allowance of consumable items to post.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:38 AM

Ship unaccompanied baggage (both air and surface freight), as well as HHE and consumables, as soon as possible after receipt of travel orders. All household effects should be routed to Kinshasa through ELSO Antwerp. The address for surface and air shipments of personal effects and HHE is:

The American Ambassador (Employee's Initials)
c/o American Embassy,

The owner's initials should also be on all containers. Liftvans are commonly used. Insure automobiles against all possible damage. Route all air shipments to Kinshasa.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:33 PM

All Embassy staff members have free-entry privileges for their HHE, automobiles, and reasonable amounts of goods and liquors if they are shipped with staff members’ effects and received within 6 months of arrival. Free-entry privileges on a regular basis are accorded only to the Ambassador and family.

Passage Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:33 PM

Yellow fever immunizations and up-to-date cholera stamps are required by local authorities prior to arrival at post, especially if you are coming from a country currently reporting cholera cases. Before entry will be granted, a valid visa is required for the Republic of the Congo.

Pets Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:34 PM

No quarantine or restrictions on the importation of pets exist. However, it is advisable to have a veterinarian's certification of rabies vaccination and a recent certification of good health. However, it should be noted that with frequent cross river crossing between official housing and TDY quarters in Brazzaville, taking care of a pet requires a great deal of planning and logistical support.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:34 PM

Firearms may not be imported into the Congo.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 6/14/2005 12:39 AM

The official currency unit is the CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc, which also can be used in Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea. The exchange rate fluctuates. In Novemer 2003, the rate was 570 CFA = $1. With a fluctuating exchange rate, the per diem allowance also varies. The metric system of weights and measures is used.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:34 PM

U.S. personnel do not pay direct local taxes. No restrictions exist on the amount of cash or checks that may be brought into the Republic of the Congo or on the use of dollars, but their exportation must comply with Congolese exchange control regulations.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:35 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Ballif, Noel. The Congo. Editions Karthala, 1993.

Biddlecombe, Peter. French Lessons in Africa. Abacus, 1993.

Nugent, Rory. Drums Along the Congo. Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Sarno, Louis. Song From the Forest. Penguin Books, 1993.

Sckolnick, Lewis. Business Forecaster. Rector, 1994.

Starr, Frederick. An Ethnographic Album. AMS Press.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 6/13/2005 3:36 PM

New Year’s Day January 1
Easter Monday Varies
Labor Day May 1
Ascension Day Varies
Pentecost Varies
National Day June 10
Independence Day August 15
All Saints Day November 1
Christmas December 25

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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