Sierra Leone Country Report
President Koroma consolidated support within the ruling party and appointed hand-picked successor, Samura Kamara, ahead of the 7 March 2018 general election. The main opposition chose former candidate Julius Maada Bio, which puts the party in a weaker position. An opposition election victory would, however, facilitate the cancellation of directly-allocated petroleum contracts. Iron ore prices are unlikely to recover above USD70 per dry metric ton unit this year. The government is likely to maintain incentives for mining investors – the country's key export earner. Fuel costs and shortages often motivate protests disrupting cargo transiting Kissy Dockyard.
Demands for facilitation fees will increase ahead of and during March 2018's general election. These would result from new regulatory orders and reporting requirements by ministries intended to complicate administrative procedures. Corruption investigations will be used to ensure party discipline, with legal oversight roles being weakened. Labour unrest is likely in the iron ore mining sector in response to probable retrenchment measures and workers' perceived poorer working conditions under new operators.
Islamist militants will prioritise other West African countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal, which are host to significant Western commercial and political interests, and higher numbers of nationals. This is despite the country's previous military involvement against Islamist militant groups in Mali and Somalia. For instance, a new Mali-based group did not listed Sierra Leone as a priority target and is highly unlikely to pose a credible threat, due to limited geographical reach and operational capability.
Inter-state war is unlikely following the withdrawal of the Guinean army from the disputed village of Yenga in August 2012. Political violence ahead of and during the 7 March 2018 general election is unlikely to trigger renewed civil war, due to an absence of organised armed groups and improved military capabilities. Sierra Leone's armed forces have also been reformed and professionalised, improving their ability to counter any potential non-state armed group. This is demonstrated by the end of the UN peacebuilding mission in 2014 following the successful disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of former anti-government forces such as the Revolutionary United Front.
Fighting and arsons attacks between rival supporters are likely during the 7 March to 1 April general election period, especially in the capitals of Kenema, Kono, and Port Loko districts, as well as in Waterloo near the capital, Freetown. Edged-weapon attacks between rivals would be triggered especially if presidential results declared after the first round on 8 March give victory to the ruling party candidate. Armed officers of the Operation Support Division typically respond by escalating to the undisciplined use of lethal force, presenting risks to bystanders, including journalists.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all travelers over one year of age entering 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).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Freetown is regularly affected by heavy rains between March and July. The lack of adequate infrastructure hampers proper drainage. Consequently, the low areas of the city and the main roads are often flooded and impassable. Structures built on the hills of the city are also affected. Mudslides and collapsing buildings are common during this period. It is recommended to become familiar with the areas at risk and to ride with a sports utility vehicle (4x4).
Several international companies offer flights to and from Europe and other African capitals. There are no domestic flights.
From Freetown-Lungi International Airport (FNA) access to the capital is difficult. By car, the trip can take between four and five hours. A ferry connects the airport to the capital but it is often overloaded and the wait time can be very long. Water taxis and private speedboat charters provide the fastest option, but passengers may get wet during the 20-30 minute ride, particularly during inclement weather. Western governments formally advise against all travel by canoe.
Except for main highways, roads outside of Freetown are rarely paved and typically in poor condition, more so during the rainy season. Driving outside the capital should only be done in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Dangerous driving conditions created by poorly maintained roads are exacerbated by locals' aggressive driving habits, overloaded vehicles, and poor vehicle maintenance. Moreover, all night travel should be avoided due to the lack of public lighting and traffic signals. Travelers should be aware that traffic accidents may draw large crowds that occasionally become aggressive or violent. In the case of such an incident, travelers should remain inside their vehicle and drive immediately to the nearest police station.
In Freetown and in the rest of the country, due to the risk of theft in traffic, it is recommended to ensure that all vehicle doors are locked and windows are rolled up.
Official police checkpoints at which drivers are required to stop are common throughout the country. Carry adequate identification at all times. Children also often set up illegal roadblocks in the middle of the road to ask for money. This is more common during the weekend on the roads leading to beach resorts. If you indicate that you do not wish to stop, you will be free to pass.
Sierra Leone's climate is generally tropical and humid but there are significant differences between the climate along the coast and the climate in mountainous regions. Temperatures are high throughout the year, as are humidity levels. The rainy season begins in April-May with violent thunderstorms and strong winds, and ends in November. Rainfall is heaviest in the summer (July to September), particularly in the south. Inland regions receive less rain than coastal regions, which often experience floods. Freetown, the capital, is situated at a high elevation and is spared from floods. During the dry season (December to March) days are hot and sunny. Ocean winds often lower coastal temperatures and the Harmattan, a hot and dry trade wind from the Sahara, lowers humidity levels in the interior of the country when it passes through.
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