Comoros Country Report
Despite vote-rigging allegations, the 2016 election confirmed the political stability conferred by constitutional rotation of the presidency between the islands, a system that has reduced the risk of coups, which were a regular feature. President Azali Assoumani’s alliance with former leader Ahmed Abdallah Sambi’s Juwa party seemed to provide extra stability. However, the alliance appears to have been disrupted by Assoumani’s decision to sever ties with Qatar, and build up a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia in return for infrastructure projects. Comoros is heavily dependent on outside assistance, even for the public water and electricity companies, and public-sector strikes are likely to recur over the next 12 months. The government has allocated permits foreight oil blocks, but has started reviewing contracts, with no drilling having yet begun.
Comoros is geographically isolated, and has an underskilled but militant workforce, though Saudi-financed road-building is improving an inadequate transport infrastructure. A new development strategy, approved by COMESA and the EU in August 2017, seeks to improve industrial output, but material improvements will take time. Persistent fuel and power shortages occur under moribund national utility Mwa Mwe. Occasional general strikes over energy and infrastructure failings, and public-sector strikes over pay, are likely to continue, especially at the national telecoms operator. Endemic bribery is exacerbated by competition for illicit payments between national and island administrators.
Approximately 170 passports supplied by a Belgian company were cancelled in January 2018, with the government stating they had been improperly issued to foreigners, mainly Iranian-born. It is not clear whether there are any links to terrorist activities or the avoidance of sanctions and travel restrictions. Despite the islands’ strongly Muslim identity, there is little sign or intention of Islamic State gaining a foothold. Separatist movements have been a great concern in previous eras of political instability, but the rotation of the presidency between the islands has played a large part in removing simmering grievances, even though a strong sense of national identity is still remote.
Civil war risks have persisted throughout most of the archipelago’s history but the imposition of a constitution that rotates the presidency between the three islands has gradually proved its effectiveness. This is buttressed by measures to strengthen the power of national governments over regional presidents and parliaments. The 2016 presidential election was relatively smooth despite low-level violence and intimidation on Anjouan, which necessitated a partial re-run. President Azali’s move to de facto break the alliance with the Juwa party increases the risk of a return to unrest, but is unlikely to degenerate into civil war.
Protest risks have risen due to political polarisation after a government alliance with the Juwa party broke down and as the executive has struggled to check inflation, provide basic utilities, and pay civil servants. Protests are increasingly violent and police inability to dampen them has increased impact risks. Governor of Ngazidja (Grand Comore) Hassani Hamadi’s move to push through a budget, which was rejected by Ngazidja’s council, further raises risks. Trade unions say they were not consulted regarding Hamadi’s plan to establish an investment and solidarity financial institution that would demand a 10 to 20% cut in civil servant salaries.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
Travelers to the country should be aware that tropical cyclones can strike between November and May. The islands are located in an active seismic and volcanic zone; Mount Karthala is an active volcano on Grande Comore that erupted most recently in 2007.
Foreign visitors should be aware that tourist infrastructure is limited, telecommunication systems are not very reliable, and power outages and water cuts are common.
European governments advise against flying with the domestic airline Comores Air Services due to poor safety standards. That being said, when traveling between islands, it is preferable to travel by air rather than by sea, as many boat and ferry services do not adhere to minimal safety standards.
The Comoros Islands enjoy a tropical maritime climate characterized by fairly constant daytime temperatures, around 26°C at sea level, and high annual rainfall (2679 mm). The average ocean temperature is 25°C. The island nation experiences two seasons, the hot and humid season (from November to April) and the dry season (May to October).
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