Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sierra Leone's Freetown-Lungi International Airport

Sierra Leone ranks next to Guinea Bissau as cocaine smugglers' favorite African entry point. Sierra Leone's Freetown-Lungi International Airport has become notorious.

According to Sierra Leone's government's report, Corruption, Mismanagement, Financial and Infrastructural Difficulties: A Report on the Vulnerabilities of the Freetown International Airport, dated July, 2008:

Airports in Africa are normally saddled with infrastructural problems, but the Sierra Leonean case stands out such that even basic infrastructure like electricity, water and transportation to/from the airport are in short supply. Until recently, electricity at the airport was very irregular, especially at the runway-edge, and therefore a potential source of danger to landing aircrafts. This also creates opportunities for criminals to tamper with passengers’ luggage and break into cargo shelves at the cargo/freight section of the airport. The irregularity of electricity at the airport also encourages crimes of a transnational nature, such as drug trafficking, diamond smuggling and child and arms trafficking and even facilitates dubious financial activities and money laundering.
Apart from these basic problems mentioned, there is a huge deficit in most of the essential security apparatus. Glaring examples include the absence of; diamond experts, diamond testing machines, metal detectors, scanners, sniffer dogs, functionally efficient walk through metal detectors, hold baggage x-ray screening system, etc. Without adequately addressing these shortcomings, the country will be exposed to drug couriers, smugglers and other perpetrators of transnational crimes.

The report also cites widespread corruption amongst airport personnel. Virtually every one of its 46 pages is an eye opener.

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