Liberia – Border Crossing from Sierra Leone
Over the next few hours I then was led from one department to the next to meet and greet another official that wrote down the same information as the previous department and everyone that wanted to come into Liberia was going through the same torture as I, it was painful to watch.
All the officials were being given 20-50 Liberian dollars (£0.20p TO £0.50p) by every local that came their way but the money kept on flowing and these men and women make a good wage simply on bribes every day! Interestingly I was never asked by any official for any money except at the very last department that I went to, the Car Insurance Department for ECOWAS.
Over the next 30 min, I was the only person to enter the office, whereas all other departments, locals were coming and going so this part of the process seemed very odd to me. In Mauritania I had obtained the ‘Brown card’ insurance which allows us to drive Maggie in most of West Africa due to the agreement between several countries.
I obtained a 3 month insurance and this is still valid till March. The chap however insisted pulling out a document which when he read out made me laugh, he basically said that in Liberia there is an additional agreement that on top of the insurance, I must pay him another amount in case I have an accident for the Liberian ambulance/hospital to get involved. I blankly refused to pay him and told him that it sounded like corruption to me, Reka had just walked in and so did another couple of officials.
The chap kept churning the same information which both Reka and I thought was pure waffle and after speaking to his boss on a very loud speakerphone I told them both that we were not paying a penny.
The other officials just watched on and I could see they were almost embarrassed for their colleague as he kept on saying that he hopes for our sake that we never have an accident in Liberia as no one will help us, to which at this point I got really angry and told him where to go and that we were leaving.
After spending hours at the border we were told that we could leave and it was a relief….for about 5 minutes, the next hour on the road we then encountered several small checkpoints with many people working as human photocopiers, as all they did was record the same information as the previous checkpoint 5 minutes before them, its was excruciatingly painful to go through the same conversations time and time again.
One official told us that at the end of the day all vehicle/passenger details are called into one central office, so basically there are hundreds of people doing the job of what a couple of people could do, efficiency isn’t a word commonly used in Liberia!