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Comoros Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

President Azali Assoumani used Comoros’s Independence Day on 6 July to announce the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, including reopening borders, resumption of inter-island maritime traffic and collective prayers. With 311 cases and seven deaths as of July, the ceremony, held in Mutsamudu rather than the capital Moroni, was low-key. Assoumani continues to consolidate his authoritarian rule following his controversial re-election in March 2019. In January 2020, his ruling CRC party won a sweeping majority in legislative elections, which the opposition boycotted. Presidential rotation between Comoros’s three islands was scrapped under the 2018 constitution, which also enables Assoumani to contest two further five-year terms, with power likely to remain on Grande-Comore until 2029. The total of USD6.8 billion in donor pledges for development, received in December 2019, is unlikely to materialise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Support for the main opposition Juwa party remains strong on the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli, but any secessionist attempts will likely be rebuffed by security forces. In May 2020, the government claimed it had foiled a plot to blow up an inter-island aircraft due to carry the president. Near-term growth prospects continue to be hindered by the under-execution of public-sector investment programmes owing to a fragile fiscal situation, severe infrastructural bottlenecks, and inadequate electricity supply. The economy should benefit from resilient remittance inflows and high exports as international vanilla prices remain elevated.Comoros faces heavy development needs for social and infrastructure projects. The extent of the donor pledges will allow Comoros to avoid any near-term IMF financial assistance and follows IMF demands in May 2018 for a deeper engagement with international donors. However, disbursement of funds and project delivery will be challenged by Comoros's weak fiscal backdrop and institutional capacity, vulnerability to adverse weather conditions, narrow export base, and potential for the misuse of funds.

Operational Outlook

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to mean delays to or cancellation of donor pledges of USD6.8 billion secured by President Assoumani at a Paris conference in December 2019, thus delaying his Plan Comores Emergent (PCE) aimed at developing tourism, agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, transport links, and the finance sector by 2030. Currently, persistent fuel and power shortages occur, coupled with general strikes over energy and infrastructure failings and public-sector strikes over pay. Endemic bribery is exacerbated by competition for illicit payments between national and island administrators.

Terrorism

In May 2020, the government claimed it had foiled a “terrorist” plot to place a bomb on an inter-island aircraft used by the president. It warned that had the plan succeeded, Comoros would have been “transformed into Rwanda bis”. Allegedly, the operation’s backers were based in Mayotte, France, and Madagascar. In August 2018, eight “terrorist” suspects were arrested for allegedly planning a coup, and three armed men were killed in a short-lived attempted insurrection in March 2019. Although the government refers to suspects as "terrorists", they do not belong to organised non-state armed groups. Despite the islands' strongly Muslim identity, there is little sign of the Islamic State gaining a foothold.

Crime

Elevated crime risks exist in urban areas and tourist centres. Visitors are at greatest risk of carjacking, housebreaking or robbery, although this is unlikely to be accompanied by serious violence. Petty crime, including pickpocketing, is common in crowded markets and other public spaces. During periods of political instability, crime rates are more likely to increase due to the distraction of security forces. Poorly resourced security forces do not have the ability to curb the crime rates significantly.

War Risks

President Assoumani generally retains the loyalty of the armed forces, after first changing the constitution in July 2018 and then engineering a disputed re-election in March 2019. The suppression of an anti-government movement on Anjouan in October 2018 underlines civilian powerlessness if the armed forces stay behind Assoumani, although a failed insurrection after the March election indicates the existence of renegade soldiers. Following the 2018 constitution, power will likely stay centred on Grande-Comore in the long term, elevating civil war risks on Anjouan and Mohéli. The previous constitution had ensured rotation of the presidency between the three islands every five years and was credited with reducing civil war and coup risks.

Social Stability

High

The lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions in July 2020 reduces protest risks linked to the inability to shop or attend collective prayers, but protests are likely due to political polarisaration and the executive struggling to provide basic utilities and pay civil servants. However, protest risks have declined from high levels following President Assoumani's election victory in March 2019, as frequent previous demonstrations failed to disrupt his plans or provoke insurrections. Future protests will likely centre on additional repressive measures, unpopular policies announced by the government, or unemployment. The executive is likely to respond with violence and single out opposition leaders and civil society activists to face spurious criminal charges.

Health Risk

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Natural Risks

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.

Transportation

Practical Information

Climate

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).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +269
Local Police: 7734 663

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal