Sierra Leone Country Report
President Julius Maada Bio in January 2019 finalised a judicial commission of inquiry that will investigate and prosecute alleged corrupt activities by members of former president Ernest Koroma's All People's Congress (APC) government from September 2007 to April 2018. The affected sectors include banking, construction, energy, and mining. Government procurement and budgetary oversight will probably gradually improve in 2019. Labour unrest primarily affects the mining sector, lasting around seven days, triggered by poor relations with foreign management and job losses. High-value property damage is unlikely.
Jihadists are highly likely to prioritise targeting 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 Western nationals. This is despite Sierra Leone's ongoing military involvement as part of a UN mission against Islamist militant groups in Mali and police deployments in Somalia. Mali-based Islamist militant groups have not identified Sierra Leone as a priority target and are highly unlikely to pose a credible threat because of their limited geographical reach and operational capability to attack the country.
Crime is a significant issue in the capital, Freetown, where unemployment, internal displacement due to conflict, drug abuse, and now post-Ebola stigmatisation are contributing factors. Mugging, petty crime, and pick-pocketing are common, although violent assaults are rare, usually occurring at night. The police force has been greatly expanded since 1999 and now has an improved capacity to tackle criminality, although this is undermined by corruption. Widespread extortion at official and unofficial checkpoints involves motorists being charged with fictional violations and having their vehicles impounded and documents seized.
The withdrawal of the Guinean army from the disputed village of Yenga in August 2012 and cross-border infrastructure initiatives proposed in April 2019 within the area have removed the primary trigger for interstate war. Political violence was limited around the March 2018 general election and subsequent by-elections; ex-combatants were not mobilised. Renewed civil war is unlikely because of the military's improved professionalism since civil conflict ended in 2001. This was demonstrated by the end of the United Nations peacebuilding mission in 2014, which successfully disarmed and reintegrated anti-government forces.
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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