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Liberia Country Report

Country Risk Level

High

Overview

Executive Summary

A declining economic situation and allegations of mismanagement and corruption have increased violent protest risks focusing on the poor performance of President George Weah and his administration. The likely economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic will intensify these risks, particularly surrounding the mid-term senatorial elections, which have been postponed from October to December 2020.The salaries of around 9,000 civil servants who Finance Minister Samuel Tweah said were "overpaid" were reduced in September 2019 as part of a "salary harmonisation" exercise initiated in response to pressure from the IMF. Tweah said Liberia needed to cut its soaring public-sector wage bill to preserve USD60 million in budgetary support from international lenders. Many more state employees have experienced salary delays exceeding three months. Affected workers are likely to stage strike action and join civil-society-led protests if delays resume.The government is under pressure to reduce the budget deficit, driving the high risk of increased regulatory fees and taxes. The Liberia Telecommunications Authority on 1 September 2019 introduced a new 5% regulatory fee on mobile network operators' revenues for domestic telecoms services, along with minimum floor prices for voice calls and data usage. IHS Markit forecasts a real GDP contraction of 3.6% in 2020, having already downgraded its growth forecast for 2020 to 1.3% before the COVID-19 pandemic due to a slower-than-expected recovery, fiscal slippage, and constraints to resource mobilisation. The Liberian dollar will continue to depreciate against the US dollar during the remainder of 2020.The limited private sector is being subjected to increasing levels of corruption, including bribery demands from senior government officials, which is likely to worsen the business environment and dampen investor confidence.

Operational Outlook

Strike risks are likely to remain high in both the public and the private sector throughout 2020. The public-sector risks are most acute as the government will find it increasingly difficult to pay salaries and arrears which account for two-thirds of public expenditure. Mining and agri-processing concessionaires are likely to experience further strikes, which can often turn violent, particularly as economic conditions worsen and companies may be forced to retrench and reduce activity. Already high levels of corruption have risen further under George Weah’s government, which has seen a series of scandals, with little sign that the issue is being tackled or taken seriously.

Terrorism

Violent protests and riots do occur, but major terrorist activity has been very limited since the end of the civil war in 2003. Joint military operations with Côte d'Ivoire have mitigated terrorism concerns along the porous border in Grand Gedeh and Nimba counties, where armed gangs have been known to launch sporadic attacks. Liberia's participation in UN peacekeeping operations poses a risk of Islamist terrorist attacks and kidnapping, as evidenced by the arrest of several Mali-based militants in Monrovia, but this is low due to the lack of a local support network in Liberia.

Crime

The threat from violent crime to social stability has decreased owing to an improvement in Liberia's security services, mentored by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) prior to its withdrawal in March 2018. High levels of criminality persist, however, due to the pervading culture of impunity, drug abuse, and high unemployment. Much of the crime is opportunistic and perpetrated by disorganised and amateur groups. Sexual violence remains a serious problem. Mob justice is a regular and serious issue, resulting from poor perceptions of police and judicial responsiveness to crime.

War Risks

Civil war risks receded following George Weah's undisputed election victory in December 2017, ushering in Liberia's first democratic handover of power in decades. Furthermore, improved armed forces training has left the military in a stronger position to quell any uprising that could lead to a resumption of civil conflict. However, growing public dissatisfaction with the government over the economic situation increases the risk of unrest in the one-year outlook, compounded by the likely impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inter-state war risks are low, although the border with Côte d'Ivoire would be subject to closure in the event of recurring violent episodes around election time.

Social Stability

High

The risk of protests and riots in response to perceived government corruption, economic hardship, and the high cost of living is increasing, particularly in Monrovia. Government tolerance of protests is likely to decrease if they become more frequent, particularly in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, leading to higher levels of violence as police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse unauthorised protesters, and a risk of demonstrations spreading beyond the capital. Riots can result in looting and vandalism of private property, government property, and commercial assets including telecoms infrastructure, supermarkets, and filling stations.

Health Risk

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.

Routine Vaccinations

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).

Other Vaccinations

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).

Meningococcal Meningitis: For prolonged stays, or in case your travels will put you in close contact with a local population affected by an epidemic of the disease (for children over the age of two years).

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.

Natural Risks

Monrovia is regularly affected by heavy rains between May and November, making it one of the wettest capitals. These rains often cause major flooding and the lack of adequate infrastructure hampers proper drainage. As a result, roads are often flooded and impassable. Mudslides and collapsing buildings are common during this period. It is recommended to become familiar with the areas at risk and to ride in a sports utility vehicle (4x4).

In addition, global warming causes a rise in water levels; the ocean slowly invaded one of the largest slums in the capital, West Point, causing massive population displacement. This situation is likely to trigger diseases such as Rift Valley fever, cholera, and malaria. Global warming induces severe droughts and less regular rainfall that can lead to reduced crop yields and an increase in food prices.

Transportation

All Liberian airlines are prohibited from operating in European Union airspace due to poor safety and security standards.

Roberts International Airport is 60 km (35 mi) from the capital Monrovia and is not served by public transportation. It is necessary to organize transportation to your place of residence prior to departure.

Several international companies provide air links to Europe and other African capitals. There are no domestic flights. Disease control measures have been applied flights from Freetown because of the recent Ebola outbreak.

The country suffers - with the exception of Monrovia, Buchanan, Bo Waterside, and Ganta - from unreliable, inadequate, and degraded road infrastructure. During the rainy season (May to November) roads are generally unreliable, especially the unpaved roads that make up most of the road network in Liberia.

The danger of road accidents is high due to a general non-observance of traffic laws, the poor maintenance of vehicles, and the lack of medical care facilities. Due to the lack of public lighting, all night travel should be avoided. This also applies for Monrovia, where some neighborhoods must be avoided (West Point, Somalia Drive, Red Light). All accidents resulting in casualties can provoke the angry of locals and have the potential to escalate into violence. In case of an accident, travelers should not leave the vehicle and go immediately to the nearest police station.

In Monrovia and rest of the country, due to the risk of theft in traffic, it is recommended to ensure that the vehicle doors are locked and the windows rolled up.

Western authorities formally advise against all travel by public transport. It is recommended to use an experienced private driver during a stay in Liberia.

Outside major cities, all travels must be done during the day, with an all-terrain vehicle (4x4), possibly in convoy, equipped with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. Travelers should also ensure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and that they have effective means of telecommunication.

Roadblocks run by police are present outside the capital. It is advised to comply with any roadblocks erected by the security forces.

Practical Information

Climate

Liberia's climate is equatorial and temperatures are regularly high (varying between 22°C and 33°C). Conditions are very wet and humid along the coast but drier as you head inland.

The dry season lasts from November until March but even during this period skies are often overcast and hazy. The Harmattan, a hot and dry wind from the Sahara, lowers humidity levels when it blows through the country. The rainy season begins in April and brings torrential rains between May and the end of October, with a period of respite in August. High temperatures combined with high levels of humidity often make conditions very unpleasant. Rains are most common along the coast and less common in the east.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 231
Police: 911 or 33 35 613
Fire Dept.: 911 or 33 35 613
Ambulance: 911 or 33 35 613

Electricity

Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal