Ethiopia 2016 crime rate said high: OSAC 2016 report

16 May

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
 

The annual United States Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) in its 2016 Crime and Safety Report of Ethiopia rated the country’s crime rate high. In the 2015 report, all the same, the crime was high, while in 2014 it was considered as mere opportunistic and thus not rated at all, high or low.

In characterizing the nature of crimes in Ethiopia today, the OSAC report noted “crime is generally non-violent/non-confrontational. Foreigners (referred to locally as “ferengis”) can be targeted for crimes, as it assumed that they possess valuables and are more susceptible to becoming victims.”

Most of the crimes are in the category of pickpocketing, snatch-and-run thefts (including from occupied vehicles), and other petty crimes, according to the report. Most of these attacks are directed against foreigners unaware of their surroundings.

In Addis Abeba, the report observes, petty crimes such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, harassment by gangs of youths occur randomly especially where there are large number of pedestrians. Luckily, the report claims physical violence in such instances are uncommon, although they happen.

From experience, OSAC reports:

*   Residential burglaries in areas populated by Embassy personnel and expatriates are not common but do occur.

*   There are reported instances of Western females being victims of sexual assault and/or groping by local males. These reports tend to be made by women in rural towns/villages but can occur anywhere.

*   Cybercrime is not a major concern since use of computers by the local population is low, and the level of sophistication with computers also low.

*   Travelers should exercise caution in crowded areas, especially in the large, open-air market called Mercato in Addis Ababa.

*   Road Safety and road conditions are of a matter of grave concern. The report states:

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per vehicle in the world. Roads are poorly maintained, inadequately marked, and poorly lighted. Road travel after dark outside cities is dangerous and discouraged due to hazards posed by broken-down vehicles in the road, pedestrians, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery. Road lighting is inadequate at best and nonexistent outside of cities. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians/livestock in the roadway, and the lack of adherence to basic safety standards for vehicles are daily hazards. Many vehicles are unlicensed, and many drivers lack basic driver training or insurance. Emergency services are limited or nonexistent in many parts of the country. Drivers should always carry spare tires, fuel, and tools on long trips, as there is no roadside assistance. U.S. government personnel must limit road travel outside towns or cities to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible, in case of breakdowns.

    Be cautious when traveling on roads. In 2014, there were reports of highway robbery, including carjackings, by armed bandits outside urban areas in the Gambella region and improvised explosive devices deployed in Beneshangul. When driving, be wary of other motorists warning you of a mechanical problem or a flat tire. This may be a ruse by thieves to get you to stop. Be alert and aware of your surroundings to ensure that you are not being followed.

    Always have your car keys ready as you approach your car and be on the lookout for individuals who are waiting close to your car, especially at Bole Airport. Move directly from your car to your destination. Check the front and rear seats of your vehicle before entering and lock your doors immediately after entry. Maintain awareness when entering and exiting your vehicle. While in a vehicle, keep your doors locked and the windows rolled up. Keep bags, purses, and valuables out of sight to prevent theft. Do not carry unnecessary items in your bag. Do not open your doors/windows to give money to beggars, which are prevalent in Addis Ababa. Do not allow others to control your movement. Always leave enough space between you and the car ahead so that you can take evasive action. It is unlawful to use a cell phone or other electronic communications device (even hands-free) while driving, and the use of seat belts is required. Be sure to carry a valid Ethiopian driver’s license, proof of comprehensive local insurance coverage, and your U.S. passport or Ethiopian Identification card. Try to park in guarded, illuminated areas at night and do not park far from your destination.

    If you are involved in a vehicular accident, a large crowd may gather and could become hostile and aggressive. If you fear for your safety, go to the nearest police station. Special units of the traffic police investigate traffic accidents. Normal investigative procedures require the police to conduct on on-scene investigation, after which all involved parties go to the Traffic Department for a vehicle inspection and to provide details about the accident for a final report. If possible, obtain the names and contact information of all persons involved in the accident and make a note of the extent of any injuries; photograph vehicular damage; note any registration information (tag number) of other vehicle(s) involved; and obtain the other driver’s permit data. Give similar information or registration/permit data to the other driver and to the police upon request.

*   Public transport is unregulated and unsafe; if travelers do use public transport, they should use taxis, not minibuses, or large buses and ensure they are the only passengers in the vehicle. U.S. citizens should avoid, if possible, using public transportation and transportation hubs. A light rail system began operations in the capital city in late 2015; there have been no safety or criminal incidents reported. Beware of unattended baggage or packages left in any location, including in mini-buses and taxis.

*   Terrorism report is rated high

*   There are critical infrastructure concerns, relating to industrial accidents. A primary example is observed with construction throughout Addis Ababa where scaffolding is made from local timber with few safety features on construction sites.

*   Communications (cell phones, Internet) are controlled by the government, and both systems go down frequently. Telecoms are unreliable, and there a “dead spots” for cell phone coverage. Blackberry devices do not work in Ethiopia, but 3G and 4G (capital city) are being deployed.

*   Privacy Concerns

The significant construction boom of high-rise buildings in Addis Ababa has led to an increase in privacy concerns for residents. Lack of zoning laws has resulted in tall buildings being constructed in residential areas, which inhibits privacy.

*   Kidnapping Threat

Travelers should be cautious when traveling in/along Ethiopia’s border with Somalia, where there is an ongoing kidnapping threat to foreigners by al-Shabbab.

Criminal violence and political violence in Addis Ababa and in southwestern and southeastern Ethiopia has resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. In January, 2012, five European tourists were killed, and four were kidnapped in an apparent terrorist attack/kidnapping plot in the Danakil Depression area (near the border with Eritrea). A kidnapping threat against Westerners has been active in the Dolo Odo area of the Somali Region since 2013.
 

Related:

    Condo crime rate high in Addis Abeba, including looting, sexual assaults & human trafficking within the housing complexes, reveals MUDH study

 

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