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Liberia

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Major Cities of Liberia in the continent of Africa

MonroviaGbarngaKakataBensonvilleHarperVoinjamaBuchananZwedruNew YekepaGreenvilleGantaRobertsportSanniquellieFish TownTubmanburgBopoluBarclayvilleCestos City

Liberia Photo Gallery
Liberia Realty



THE LIBERIA COAT OF ARMS
Coat of arms of Liberia.svg
Location Liberia AU Africa.svg
Location of Liberia within the continent of [Africa]]
Liberia map.png
Map of Liberia
Animated-Flag-Liberia.gif
Flag Description of Liberia:The Liberia flag was officially adopted on July 26, 1847. The flag is modeled after the U.S Stars and Stripes.

The red and white stripes represent the eleven signers of the Liberian Declaration of Independence. The white star is symbolic of African Unity.

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Official name Republic of Liberia
Form of government multiparty republic with two legislative bodies (Liberian Senate [30]; House of Representatives [73])
Head of state and government President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Capital Monrovia
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Liberian dollar (L$)
Population (2013 est.) 4,152,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 37,420
Total area (sq km) 96,917
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2011) 48.2%
Rural: (2011) 51.8%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2008) 54.3 years
Female: (2008) 57.3 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2008) 65.6%
Female: (2008) 42.6%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 370

Background of Liberia

Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461 and named the area Grain Coast because of the abundance of "grains of paradise" (Malegueta pepper seeds). In 1663 the British installed trading posts on the Grain Coast, but the Dutch destroyed these posts a year later. There were no further reports of European settlements along the Grain Coast until the arrival of freed slaves in the early 1800s.

Liberia, country along the coast of western Africa. Liberia’s terrain ranges from the low and sandy coastal plains to rolling hills and dissected plateau further inland. The country is home to a lush rainforest containing a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

Liberia is the only black state in Africa never subjected to colonial rule and is Africa’s oldest republic. It was established on land acquired for freed U.S. slaves by the American Colonization Society, which founded a colony at Cape Mesurado in 1821. In 1824 the territory was named Liberia, and its main settlement was named Monrovia, which is the present-day capital. Liberian independence was proclaimed in 1847, and its boundaries were expanded. The country enjoyed relative stability until a rebellion in 1989 escalated into a destructive civil war in the 1990s that did not fully cease until 2003. The country’s first post-conflict elections, held in 2005, were noteworthy for the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency, as she was the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa.


Geography of Liberia

The Land

Liberia is bounded by Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, Côte d’Ivoire to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west.

Relief

The four physiographic regions of Liberia parallel the coast. The coastal plains are about 350 miles (560 km) long and extend up to 25 miles (40 km) inland. They are low and sandy, with miles of beaches interspersed with bar-enclosed lagoons, mangrove swamps, and a few rocky promontories—the highest being Cape Mount (about 1,000 feet [305 metres] in elevation) in the northwest, Cape Mesurado in Monrovia, and Cape Palmas in the southeast. Parallel to the coastal plains is a region of rolling hills some 20 miles (32 km) wide with an average maximum elevation of about 300 feet (90 metres); a few hills rise as high as 500 feet (150 metres). It is a region suitable for agriculture and forestry. Behind the rolling hills, most of the country’s interior is a dissected plateau with scattered low mountains ranging from 600 to 1,000 feet (180 to 305 metres) in elevation; some mountains rise to 2,000 feet (600 metres). A striking feature of the mountainous northern highlands along the Guinea frontier is Mount Nimba.

Drainage

The Mano and Morro rivers in the northwest and the Cavalla in the east and southeast are major rivers and form sections of Liberia’s boundaries. Other major rivers are the Lofa in the north and, moving southward, the St. Paul, St. John, and Cestos, all of which parallel each other and flow perpendicular to the coast. The Farmington River is a source of hydroelectric power. Waterfalls, rapids, rocks, and sandbanks occur frequently in upstream sections of most rivers, inhibiting river traffic, and limiting navigation inland to short distances. During the rainy season there is often severe flooding in the coastal plains.

Liberia forms part of the West African Shield, a rock formation 2.7 to 3.4 billion years old, composed of granite, schist, and gneiss. In Liberia the shield has been intensely folded and faulted and is interspersed with iron-bearing formations known as itabirites. Along the coast lie beds of sandstone, with occasional crystalline-rock outcrops. Monrovia stands on such an outcropping, a ridge of diabase (a dark-coloured, fine-grained rock).

Soils

Four types of soil are found in Liberia. Latosols of low to medium fertility occur in rolling hill country and cover about three-fourths of the total land surface. Shallow, coarse lithosols, in the hilly and rugged terrain, cover about one-eighth of the land. Infertile regosols, or sandy soils, are found along the coastal plains. Highly fertile alluvial soils represent a small percentage of the land area and are utilized largely for agriculture.

Climate

The climate, especially on the coast, is warm and humid year-round, dominated by a dry season from November to April and by a rainy season from May to October. The dusty and dry harmattan (desert winds) blow from the Sahara to the coast in December, bringing relief from the high relative humidity. Deforestation and drought in the Sahel have affected the climate, lengthening the dry season by almost a month in some areas.

Mean annual temperatures range between 65° F (18° C) in the northern highlands to 80° F (27° C) along the coast. Rainfall is irregular, and the rainy season varies in intensity and begins earlier at the coast than in the interior. The greatest amount of rainfall, 205 inches (5,200 mm), occurs at Cape Mount and diminishes inland to about 70 inches (1,800 mm) on the central plateau. The interior has hot but pleasant days and cool nights during the dry season.

Plant and animal life

Liberia has year-round evergreen vegetation. Many trees—such as red ironwood, camwood, whismore, teak, and mahogany—are valuable, but occur with other species, preventing easy harvest. Other trees of value are rubber, cacao, coffee, and the raffia palm.

Liberia’s rainforest used to abound with animals such as monkeys, chimpanzees, small antelopes, pygmy hippopotamuses, and anteaters. However, these animals, along with the already threatened elephants, bush cows (short-horned buffalo), and leopards, were hunted for food during the civil war; their populations are recovering. There are many reptiles, including three types of crocodiles and at least eight poisonous snakes. There are several unique species of bats and birds, and scorpions, lizards, and fish are numerous. Sapo National Park, established in 1983 in the country’s southeast, was expanded in 2003 to encompass an area of some 700 square miles (1,800 square km). The 2000s saw an expansion of protected regions in Liberia, with new and enlarged wildlife reserves at Gola National Forest, the Wonegizi National Forest Reserve, and Lake Piso, and ecotourism was seen as a potential growth industry for the country.

Demography of Liberia

The People

  • Ethnic groups and languages

The people of Liberia are classified into three major groups: the indigenous people, who are in the majority and who migrated from the western Sudan in the late Middle Ages; black immigrants from the United States (known historically as Americo-Liberians) and the West Indies; and other black immigrants from neighbouring western African states who came during the anti-slave-trade campaign and European colonial rule. The Americo-Liberians are most closely associated with founding Liberia. Most of them migrated to Liberia between 1820 and 1865; continued migration has been intermittent. Americo-Liberians controlled the government until a military coup in 1980.

Liberia’s indigenous ethnic groups may be classified into three linguistic groups, all belonging to the Niger-Congo language family: the Mande, Kwa, and Mel (southern Atlantic). The Mande are located in the northwest and central regions of Liberia and also in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Prominent among them are the Vai, who invented their own alphabet and who, in addition, use Arabic and English; the Kpelle, the largest Mande group, who are also found in Guinea; Loma (also found in Guinea); Ngbandi; Dan (Gio); Mano; Mende; and Malinke. Kwa-speaking peoples include the Bassa, the largest group in this category and the largest ethnic group in Monrovia; the Kru and Grebo, who were among the earliest converts to Christianity; the De; Belleh (Belle); and Krahn. The Kwa-speaking group occupies the southern half of the country. The Mel group includes the Gola and Kisi, who are also found in Sierra Leone and are known to be the oldest inhabitants of Liberia. These people live in the north and in the coastal region of the northwest.

More than two dozen languages are spoken in Liberia. English is the official language. Predominant languages include Kpelle, Bassa, Grebo, Dan, Kru, Mano, Loma, and Mandingo (spoken by the Malinke).

  • Religion

About two-fifths of Liberians are Christian, about one-fifth are Muslim, and roughly two-fifths profess other religions, primarily traditional beliefs. The largest number of Christians are the Kpelle, followed by the Bassa. Some Liberians who identify themselves primarily as Christian incorporate traditional beliefs into their personal theologies. The Muslims are found predominantly among the Mande peoples in the northwest region of the country.

  • Settlement patterns

The present pattern of population distribution in Liberia is both a reflection of its migration history and a response to such social, economic, and cultural factors as war, employment, and superstition.

Migrants from north-central Africa, who began to arrive in the 13th century, originally settled in the hinterlands but were driven by overcrowding to the coast. Immigrants from the United States and the West Indies, and from neighbouring African countries, also settled on the coast. The former migrated mostly to selected areas such as Monrovia (the oldest immigrant settlement), Buchanan, Edina, Greenville, Harper, Robertsport, and Marshall. Scattered settlements were created along newly constructed or improved roads, while plantation and mining activities encouraged larger settlements in a few interior and coastal areas. There are more than 2,000 villages, the majority of which are concentrated in central Liberia, in the northwest, and in the coastal region near Monrovia. The predominantly forested regions of south-central and northern Liberia have remained sparsely populated. The trend toward urbanization has had little impact on these villages. The result has been the segmentation of Liberian society into two coexisting subsystems—traditional-rural and modern-urban.

Monrovia, founded in 1822, is the focal point of political, economic, and cultural activities. Situated on the left bank of the St. Paul River on the ridge formed by Cape Mesurado, it commands an imposing view of the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal plains. The city and its outlying districts and suburbs occupy five square miles. The old style of architecture that once characterized it, reminiscent of that of the southern United States before 1860, is giving way to contemporary styles. All of the ethnic groups of Liberia are represented in its population, as are refugees, African nationals from other countries, and Europeans.

  • Demographic trends

More than two-fifths of the population of Liberia is under age 15; less than 5 percent is older than 65. The country’s birth and death rates are similar to or greater than those of other sub-Saharan African countries and are among the highest in the world. Life expectancy, about 39 years for males and 42 years for females, is lower than that of most neighbouring countries and is among the lowest in the world. It fell as a result of the civil war and strife that began in the late 1980s and continued until 2003. About three-fifths of the population lives in urban communities, and there is a high rural-to-urban movement, especially to Monrovia. Other destinations include enclaves around rubber plantations and mines.

Economy of Liberia

The Liberian economy is predominantly agrarian, and raw materials, equipment, and consumer goods are imported. Production for export is carried out on a large scale through foreign investment in rubber, forestry, and mining. Foreign ships registering under a Liberian “flag of convenience” have made Liberia one of the world’s foremost countries in registered shipping tonnage. Liberia nevertheless remains primarily agricultural. The distribution of wealth is uneven, the coastal districts receiving a greater share of economic benefits than the hinterland, after which the administrative centres are the next beneficiaries.

After the mid-1970s the once-vibrant economy took a sharp downturn. Between 1976 and 1980 sluggish demand and low prices stagnated the economy and the annual growth rate plunged. But gradual signs of recovery appeared, especially in agriculture and forestry. In the early 1990s, however, civil war disrupted Liberia’s economy. Since the end of the conflict in 2003, and particularly after a democratically elected government was inaugurated in early 2006, efforts to rebuild the country’s economic infrastructure have been under way.

Liberia is a member of two regional economic unions—the Mano River Union, a free trade group to which Sierra Leone and Guinea also belong, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Agriculture is the leading sector of the economy. About half the land area is suitable for cultivation, though a small percentage is actually cultivated. Commercial farms are often operated by foreigners. Traditional farms, which comprise the largest number, are usually cultivated by slash-and-burn methods.

Traditional farmers practice mixed cultivation of rice, cassava (manioc), and vegetables. They also raise goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Cultivation of cash crops such as coffee, cacao (grown for its seeds, cocoa beans), oil palm, sugarcane, and swamp rice is increasing. Domestic rice production meets about three-fourths of the country’s needs. The rest is imported, principally from East Asia.

Liberia’s climate is suitable for rubber production; the necessary plants thrive on the country’s poor soils. In 1926 the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of the United States obtained a concession for rubber cultivation. Rubber has become by far the country’s most valuable commercial crop, with coffee and cacao increasing in importance. Kola nuts, peanuts, and cotton are also produced, and cattle and pigs are raised.

Rainforests produce fine hardwood timber, especially in the east of the country, but also in the centre and in the west. Timber concessions operate in the southeast and northwest. Substantial amounts of timber are produced, but exploitation of the forest resources is difficult because of poor roads and shortage of labour. Of the approximately 250 species of forest trees about 90 are marketable. In 2003 the United Nations (UN) placed an embargo on timber exports from Liberia, crippling the domestic forestry sector. These sanctions were lifted in 2006, and the industry was slow to recover.

Deep-sea fishing is important, and the catch is largely mackerel, barracuda, and red snapper. Kru and Fanti fishermen, the latter from Ghana, have traditionally been the suppliers of fish to coastal areas but are supplemented by Liberian fishing companies. Inland fish-breeding ponds provide a source of protein.

  • Resources and power

Liberia is rich in natural resources. Prior to the civil war, it was among the leading producers of iron ore in Africa. Its sizable reserves are found primarily in four areas: the Bomi Hills, the Bong Range, the Mano Hills, and Mount Nimba, where the largest deposits occur. Other minerals include diamonds, gold, lead, manganese, graphite, cyanite (a silicate of aluminum, with thin bladelike crystals), and barite. There are possible oil reserves off the coast. During the civil war, iron production ground to a halt, and diamond exports were banned by the UN in 2001, in an effort to halt the traffic of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds. (See map illustrating the diamonds-for-weapons trade that had taken place in Africa by the end of the 20th century.) The diamond trade was resumed with the removal of sanctions in 2007, under the auspices of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, an international program that ensures that the rough diamond trade does not finance armed conflict.

There is vast potential for the development of hydroelectric power, as virtually all of Liberia’s installed hydroelectric capacity was damaged or destroyed as a result of the civil war. The Mount Coffee hydroelectric station on the St. Paul River, once responsible for providing much of Monrovia’s power, was destroyed in the early days of the conflict. Reconstruction of the facility and electrification of Liberia’s rural countryside were two critical issues that faced the country in the postwar period.

Access to potable water was severely limited by the civil war, and from 1990 to 2005 tap water was unavailable in Monrovia. However, surface water is abundant, and groundwater reserves are ample and regularly replenished by the country’s heavy rainfall.

  • Manufacturing

To export the ores, iron interests have built railroads connecting the mines with Monrovia and Buchanan. Iron ore is extracted by open-pit mining, while gold and diamonds are extracted by placer mining. Traditional, small-scale mining for gold and diamonds continues.

Manufacturing enterprises are predominantly private and foreign-owned, and most serve the local market. Near Monrovia there is a petroleum refinery as well as a cement plant. There are also explosives, paint, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics plants. Bricks, tiles, cement blocks, lumber and furniture, soap, and footwear are also manufactured, and there are several distilleries.

  • Finance

The U.S. dollar, previously the sole legal tender in Liberia, circulates alongside the Liberian dollar, the official currency minted by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). Government revenues are derived from income, profits, property, domestic transaction, foreign trade, and maritime taxes. About one-third of economic development funding has generally been derived from foreign sources, both bilateral and multilateral.

Among the several government-sponsored banks are the CBL, the National Housing and Savings Bank, the Agricultural and Cooperative Development Bank, and the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment. In addition there are private banks, insurance companies, and credit unions.

  • Trade

The United States and the countries of the European Union are the principal markets for Liberian exports. Rubber accounts for the overwhelming majority of Liberian export earnings, followed by gold, diamonds, coffee, and cocoa. Petroleum products and food are primary imports; others include machinery and transport equipment, beverages, tobacco, manufactured goods, lubricants, and chemicals. Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, are the largest suppliers of imports.

  • Services

Instability and civil war have held Liberia’s potentially lucrative tourist industry in check. Tourist facilities are concentrated near beaches in Monrovia and Robertsport and near Lake Piso. Many cultural attractions, such as the Monrovia Zoo and the National Cultural Center at Kendeja, were destroyed or looted during the war. Providence Island near Monrovia and the Kpatawee Waterfalls on the Zor River near Suakoko remain popular destinations for Liberia’s emerging tourist trade.

  • Labour and taxation

About one-fourth of the workforce is employed in agriculture; an equal number work in trade and tourism and the public sector. The rest work in manufacturing, sales, services, and administration and management. Some two-fifths of the total labour force is made up of women. More women than men are employed in agriculture.

Liberia’s economy is mixed and there is no nationalization of industry. The government, which is the largest single employer, operates several public corporations. There is a national Federation of Labour Unions, a federation of trade unions, and several other employees’ unions.

  • Transportation

Only a small percentage of Liberian roads are paved. Primary roads connect administrative and economic centres and provide access to the road systems of neighbouring countries.

Monrovia is the principal commercial port, and it also has facilities for transshipping iron ore and liquid latex. Nimba Range iron ore is shipped from Buchanan, while the ports at Greenville and Harper are used primarily for the shipment of rubber and forest products. All ports are administered by the National Port Authority of Liberia.

Liberia has two major airports, Robertsfield International, and James Spriggs Payne Airport, both near Monrovia. More than 100 airfields and airstrips dot the country’s interior.

Government and Society of Liberia

For administrative purposes, Liberia is divided into 15 counties. Each of the counties is headed by a superintendent, who is appointed by the president.

  • Justice

The judicial system comprises the Supreme Court, an appeals court, magistrate courts, and criminal courts. There are also traditional courts in some communities; the ethnic groups are allowed, as far as possible, to govern themselves according to customary law.

  • Political process

The 1986 constitution calls for a multiparty system. Major political parties and organizations include the Unity Party, the Congress for Democratic Change, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, the United People’s Party, the National Patriotic Party, and the Liberty Party.

The participation of women in Liberia’s political process was highlighted in late 2005 when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president, becoming the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa. In the first decade of the 21st century, women held about one-seventh of seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and some one-third of local government posts. In addition, women have served as ministers and deputy ministers in the cabinet and as justices on the Supreme Court.

  • Health and welfare

Conditions in Liberia were poor prior to the civil war, and they deteriorated further after years of war and unrest. Although much progress had been made in providing better health facilities, after the conflict subsided, the majority of these facilities were left in shambles or completely destroyed, especially in the areas beyond Monrovia. International relief organizations operated makeshift hospitals to serve the country’s health care needs, and reestablishing the health care infrastructure was a priority of the government.

Malaria and measles are major health problems, and yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and malnutrition are also prevalent. Dysentery, malaria, and diarrhea are major causes of infant mortality, which, at about 150 per 1,000 births, is high by world standards. The occurrence of HIV/AIDS in Liberia is increasing and is of growing concern. Liberia’s rate of HIV/AIDS, although higher than the world average, is comparable to that of most neighbouring countries and is much lower than that of many other sub-Saharan African countries.

  • Housing

Housing in much of the country was damaged or destroyed by civil war and the following years of unrest; hundreds of thousands of Liberians were displaced. The country’s utilities infrastructure was also destroyed. When the fighting subsided in 2003, privately owned generators were, for the most part, the only source of power in the country. Water delivery and sanitation systems were adversely affected by warfare as well, and unsafe water conditions were a major source of disease during and after the conflict.

  • Education

Since 1939 education has been compulsory for children between ages 7 and 16 and is free at the primary and secondary levels. Institutes providing higher education include the University of Liberia (1951) in Monrovia, Cuttington University College (1889; Episcopalian) in Suakoko, and the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology (1970) in Harper. There are several vocational schools, including the Booker Washington Institute at Kakata, a government school.

The years of civil war and strife that began in the late 1980s and continued into the early 2000s disrupted education in Liberia: students were forced to flee with their families from the violence, and the majority of educational facilities and supplies were destroyed. After the peace accord of 2003, Liberia began the arduous task of rebuilding the country’s educational system.

Culture Life of Liberia

  • Cultural life

Traditional and Western lifestyles coexist; however, traditional values, customs, and norms influence the Western type considerably. In cities both Western and African music and dancing styles are in vogue, but in rural areas traditional rhythms are favoured. Schools instruct students in the legends, traditions, songs, arts, and crafts of African culture, and the government promotes African culture through such agencies as the National Museum in Monrovia, the Tubman Center for African Culture in Robertsport, and the National Cultural Center in Kendeja, which exhibits architecture of the 16 ethnic groups of Liberia. Mask making is an artistic pursuit that is also related to the social structure of some ethnic groups. Music festivals, predominantly religious, are held in most communities. The University of Liberia has an arts and crafts centre. There are several libraries, including a children’s library in Monrovia and a National Public Library.

  • Sports and recreation

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Liberia. An intercounty football competition is held for the annual championship. The University of Liberia and Cuttington University College hold annual sports competitions. Liberia’s best football player and most popular sports figure is George Weah. Weah used his popularity and personal funds to enable Liberia’s national team, known as the Lone Stars, to compete in the African Nations Cup competitions during the mid-1990s, despite the ongoing civil war. He also founded a sports school and a youth football club.

  • Media and publishing

Monrovia has a number of daily newspapers, including the Daily Observer and The Analyst. A few magazines are published annually. Officially, there is press freedom, but newspapers are banned occasionally for violating government policies on information.

Monrovia is served by numerous private radio stations, as well as the state-run Liberia Broadcasting System, and programming includes sports, entertainment, and news. Television networks broadcast local news and foreign films, although local and international football matches tend to be the most popular programs. Satellite television is also available on a subscription basis. International telecommunication services are available through direct satellite links between Liberia, the United States, Italy, and France.

History of Liberia

Liberia was founded in 1821, when officials of the American Colonization Society were granted possession of Cape Mesurado by local De chiefs for the settlement of freed American slaves. African-American immigrants were landed in 1822, the first of some 15,000 to settle in Liberia. The survival of the colony during its early years was due primarily to the work of Jehudi Ashmun, one of the society's agents. In 1847, primarily due to British pressures, the colony was declared an independent republic. The Americo-Liberian minority controlled the country's politics, and new immigration virtually came to an end with the American Civil War. Liberia was involved in efforts to end the W African slave trade.

Attempts to modernize the economy led to a rising foreign debt in 1871, which the republic had serious difficulty repaying. The debt problem and constitutional issues led to the overthrow of the government in 1871. Conflicts over territorial claims resulted in the loss of large areas of land to Britain and France in 1885, 1892, and 1919. However, rivalries between the Europeans colonizing West Africa and the interest of the United States helped preserve Liberian independence during this period. Nevertheless, the decline of Liberia's exports and its inability to pay its debts resulted in a large measure of foreign interference.

In 1909 the government was bankrupt, and a series of international loans were floated. Firestone leased large areas for rubber production in 1926. In 1930 scandals broke out over the exportation of forced labor from Liberia, and a League of Nations investigation upheld the charges that slave trading had gone on with the connivance of the government. President C. B. D. King and his associates resigned, and international control of the republic was proposed. Under the leadership of presidents Edwin Barclay (1930–44) and William V. S. Tubman (1944–71), however, Liberia avoided such control.

Under Tubman, new policies to open the country to international investment and to allow the indigenous peoples a greater say in Liberian affairs were undertaken. The country's mineral wealth, particularly iron ore, began to be exploited, and there was a gradual improvement of roads, schools, and health standards. Upon Tubman's death in 1971, Vice President W. R. Tolbert took charge, and in 1972 he was elected to the presidency. Although Tolbert cultivated a democratic climate and favorable relations abroad, an organized opposition emerged early in his regime, some of it from Liberian students living in the United States. In 1979, a government proposal to increase the price of rice produced widespread violence.

  • The Doe Regime and Return to Civilian Rule

In 1980, Tolbert was assassinated in a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe. Pledging a return to civilian rule in 1981, the government unleashed a campaign to subdue opposition. In 1984 the military government instituted a series of constitutional reforms that included shortening the presidential term and outlawing the formation of a one-party state. Doe became Liberia's first indigenous president (by a fraudulent election) in 1985. The Doe government was infamous for corruption and human-rights abuses; it also became the target of numerous coup attempts. Thousands of refugees fled to Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire during this period.

Late in 1989, Liberia was invaded from Côte d'Ivoire by rebel forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor, who proclaimed himself president. The United States sent troops to the area when the NPFL threatened to take foreign hostages. Doe was assassinated in 1990 by another group of rebels led by Prince Yormie Johnson, who also sought the presidency. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened to negotiate a peace settlement among the two rebel groups and the government. ECOWAS also sent a Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force to Monrovia and installed an interim government led by Amos Sawyer. Taylor's forces, with military aid from Libya and Burkina Faso, began a siege of Monrovia in 1992 and engaged in fighting with ECOWAS forces.

A number of cease-fires were established in 1993 and 1994, but clashes between factions persisted. In Aug., 1995, a new peace accord was signed in Abuja, Nigeria, that provided for an interim government headed by Wilton Sankawulo, with national elections to be held late in 1996. In Apr., 1996, fierce factional fighting resumed in the capital; however, disarmament was begun later that year, and the war formally came to an end in 1997. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 lives were lost in the civil strife, with hundreds of thousands of refugees having fled the country.

Multiparty presidential and legislative elections held in July, 1997, brought Charles Taylor to power. Under Taylor, the country remained economically devastated while he and his family enriched themselves by looting Liberia's resources. In the late 1990s, Liberia was accused of supplying troops to support rebel forces in Sierra Leone's civil war. Taylor, a long-time ally of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, had supplied the rebels with arms in exchange for diamonds. In 2000 the United Nations placed an 18-month ban on the international sale of the diamonds in an attempted to undermine the RUF, and in May of the following year it also imposed sanctions on Liberia. In mid-2001 fighting erupted in N Liberia between anti-Taylor rebels and government forces. The fighting intensified during the following year, and the rebels continued to expand the war into other regions of Liberia in 2003; that year the United Nations also placed an arms embargo (2003–9, modified in 2006 to allow the equipping of the military and police) on Liberia. By mid-2003 the rebels controlled roughly two thirds of the country and were threatening to seize Monrovia, leading to calls for Taylor to step down and for the United States, as a nation with historical ties to Liberia, to send peacekeeping forces.

In August, Taylor resigned and went into exile; he was succeeded temporarily by his vice president, Moses Blah. A peace agreement was signed with the two rebel groups, and several thousand West African peacekeepers, supported temporarily by an offshore U.S. force, arrived. In Oct., 2003, the West African force was placed under UN command and was reinforced with troops from other nations; businessman Gyude Bryant became president of a new power-sharing government.

Despite the accord with the rebels, fighting initially continued in parts of the country; tensions among the factions in the national unity government also threatened the peace. By the end of 2004, however, more than 100,000 Liberian fighters had been disarmed, the former government and rebel forces had agreed not to rearm, and the disarmament program was ended. In June, 2004, a program to reintegrate the fighters into society began, but the funds proved inadequate by year's end. In light of the progress made President Bryant requested an end to the UN embargo on Liberian diamonds and timber, but the Security Council postponed such a move until the peace was more secure. Bryant's government was hindered by corruption and a lack of authority in much of Liberia, but the peace enabled to the economy recover somewhat in 2004.

In the presidential election in the fall of 2004 former soccer star George Weah won the first round with 28% of the vote, but lost the runoff in November to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a politician and former World Bank official who received nearly 60% of the second round votes. Weah charged that the runoff had been rigged, leading to street protests. Most observers regarded the election as having been free and fair, and Weah subseqently dropped his challenge of the vote. Sirleaf became the first woman to be elected president of an African nation. At the same time a new national legislature was also elected, with no party securing a controlling position.

Sirleaf, under international pressure, requested in Mar., 2006, that Nigeria extradite Charles Taylor, who was then brought before an international tribunal in Sierra Leone to face war crimes charges arising from events during the Sierra Leone civil war (his trial was later transferred to The Hague for security purposes; he was convicted of war crimes in 2012). In June, 2006, the United Nations ended its embargo on Liberian timber, but continued its diamond embargo until an effective certificate of origin program was established; the diamond embargo was finally lifted in Apr., 2007.

In Mar., 2007, former interim president Bryant was arrested and charged with having embezzled government funds while in office. The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had conducted a four-year investigation of the nation's civil strife, issued its report in July, 2009; it recommended that the president (who at originally supported Charles Taylor) and many other senior politicians be banned from politics for 30 years. In the 2011 presidential election, Sirleaf was reelected after Winston Tubman, her opponent in the November runoff, withdrew and called for a boycott. He asserted that the poll was rigged, but his claim was not backed by foreign observers or the supreme court, and the third place finisher had thrown his support to Sirleaf. Government corruption remains a significant problem in Liberia.

Liberia in 2004

Liberia Area: 97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi) Population (2004 est.): 3,391,000 (including about 325,000 refugees in neighbouring countries) Capital: Monrovia Head of state and government: Chairman ...>>>Read On<<<

Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.