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Travel Warning: Cote d’Ivoire

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Cote d’Ivoire yesterday.  It reads as follows:

Cote d’Ivoire

April 09, 2011

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against traveling to Cote d’Ivoire.  Fighting has become more intense in a number of neighborhoods in Abidjan.  As with most armed conflicts, the situation is fluid and dynamic, and it remains difficult to predict where fighting might spread.  U.S. citizens should watch conditions carefully, maintain situational awareness, and pay very close attention to their personal security.  It is strongly advised citizens shelter in place if it is otherwise generally secure to do so.  Due to present safety and security concerns, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan has been forced to draw down additional personnel from the mission.   This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning of April 5, 2011 to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation.
In early April, conflict between loyalists and opponents of the internationally-recognized President, Alassane Ouattara, escalated.  Lawlessness, food shortages, and the banking crisis represent real and present danger to U.S. citizens in a country where political power is still in the process of changing hands. The political crisis deteriorated in late March into armed conflict between pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo forces, as pro-Ouattara forces took control of towns in the west and central parts of Cote d’Ivoire and converged on Abidjan.  Pitched fighting has continued for the past several days; on April 4, a joint UN-French bombardment of heavy weaponry held by Gbagbo took place.  U.S. citizens as well as Embassy personnel were instructed to shelter in place and restrict all movement.

U.S. citizens who have remained in Cote d’Ivoire despite previous Travel Warnings should understand the present limitations imposed upon the U.S. Embassy.  The Embassy has a diminished ability to respond in a crisis to those citizens who chose to remain in Cote d’Ivoire.  At this time, the U.S. Embassy has no independent capability to evacuate U.S. citizens from Cote d’Ivoire.  The State Department, therefore, recommends U.S. citizens shelter in place until it is safe to move about.

If you are in immediate danger and under serious physical threat, you may call 21 23 51 71.  French military authorities will prioritize requests for assistance and will assist to the extent circumstances possible.  You may need to be patient – convoys may be delayed because of the security situation at your location.  You may also be asked to make your way to a nearby safe rally point.  It is imperative for anyone who desires such assistance to read the guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) http://abidjan.usembassy.gov/emgcyevcainfo.html.

U.S. citizens who wish to depart the country as soon as it is safe to move around the city should check the Abidjan International Airport website to determine flight availability, but are advised to assess very carefully any plans to leave a safe area to try to get to the airport if conflict continues.

We need to reiterate that because of the conditions in the country, the Embassy has severely diminished capacity to assist U.S. citizens and that sheltering in place is often your best option.

U.S. citizens currently in Cote d’Ivoire despite this and the previous Travel Warnings should most definitely enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), by sending contact information including email and cell phone to CdiUnrestAmCitInquiry@state.gov.  You can also hear the most current security information if you do not have Internet at the citizen security information line: +225 2249-4001.  The Department of State’s latest Country Specific Information sheet for the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire and the Worldwide Caution is located on the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Currently available safety and security information is also available toll-free at 1-888-407-4747 from within the United States and Canada, or at regular toll rates at 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside of the United States and Canada, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

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Written by OSB

10/04/2011 at 11:39

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