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Republic of Liberia
Flag of Liberia Coat of arms of Liberia
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: The love of liberty brought us here
Anthem: All Hail, Liberia, Hail!
Location of Liberia
Capital Monrovia
6°19′ N 10°48′ W
Largest city Monrovia
Official language(s) English
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
• Date
By the ACS
26 July 1847
• Total

• Water (%)

96,320 km² ( 102nd)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

3,482,211 ( 127)

31/km² ( 140)
• Total
• Per capita
2004 estimate
2,903 ( 160)
900 ( 178)
HDI ( 2003) NA ( NA) – unranked
Currency Liberian dollar ( LRD)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
not observed ( UTC)
Internet TLD .lr
Calling code +231
^ ( United States dollar also in common use)
The Republic of Liberia is a country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire. It has recently been afflicted by two civil wars, the Liberian Civil War ( 1989– 1996), and the Second Liberian Civil War ( 1999– 2003), that have displaced hundreds of thousands of its citizens and destroyed the Liberian economy.

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History - Contents

Settlers from America
The history of Liberia as a political entity begins with the arrival of the black American settlers — the Americo-Liberians, as they came to be known — who established a colony of “free men of colour” on its shore in 1822 under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. The historical roots from which a majority of present-day Liberians derive their identity, however, are found in the varied traditions of the several ethnicities of indigenous Africans whom the settlers confronted in their struggle to gain a foothold in Africa and, later, extend their control into the interior.On July 26, 1847, the American settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia. The settlers regarded the continent from which their forefathers had been taken as slaves as a " Promised Land", but they did not become reintegrated into an African society. Once in Africa, they referred to themselves as "Americans" and were recognized as such by local Africans and by British colonial authorities in neighboring Sierra Leone. The symbols of their state — its flag, motto, and seal — and the form of government that they chose reflected their American background and diaspora experience.
President Edwin Barclay of Liberia (right), 1943
President Edwin Barclay of Liberia (right), 1943
The religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of the Americo-Liberians had their roots in the antebellum American South. These ideals strongly coloured the attitudes of the settlers toward the indigenous African people. The new nation, as they perceived it, was coextensive with the settler community and with those Africans who were assimilated into it. Because of mutual mistrust and hostility between the "Americans" along the coast and the "Natives" of the interior, a recurrent theme in the country's subsequent history, therefore, was the usually successful attempt of the Americo-Liberian minority to dominate people whom they considered uncivilized and inferior. They named the land "Liberia," which in European languages, and in Latin in particular, means "Land of the Free".
Stephen Allen Benson, President of Liberia 1856-1864
Stephen Allen Benson, President of Liberia 1856-1864
The founding of Liberia was privately sponsored by American religious and philanthropic groups, but the colony enjoyed the support and unofficial cooperation of the United States government. Liberia’s government, modeled after that of the United States, was democratic in structure, if not always in substance. After 1877 the True Whig Party monopolized political power in the country, and competition for office was usually contained within the party, whose nomination virtually ensured election. Two problems confronting successive administrations were pressure from neighboring colonial powers, Britain and France, and the threat of financial insolvency, both of which challenged the country’s sovereignty. Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa, but lost its claim to extensive territories that were annexed by Britain and France. Economic development was retarded by the decline of markets for Liberian goods in the late nineteenth century and by indebtedness on a series of loans, payments on which drained the economy.
William R. Tolbert, Jr.. (left), President of Liberia, 1973
William R. Tolbert, Jr.. (left), President of Liberia, 1973

Significant mid-20th-century events
Two events were of particular importance in releasing Liberia from its self-imposed isolation. The first was the grant in 1926 of a large concession to the American-owned Firestone Plantation Company; that move became a first step in the modernization of the Liberian economy. The second occurred during World War II, when the United States began providing technical and economic assistance that enabled Liberia to make economic progress and introduce social change.

1980 coup under Doe
On 12 April 1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of noncommissioned officers of tribal origins led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, and they executed the President of nine years William R. Tolbert, Jr. in his mansion. Constituting themselves the People’s Redemption Council, Doe and his associates seized control of the government and brought an end to Liberia’s "first republic".
President Tolbert with American president Carter in Monrovia, 1978
President Tolbert with American president Carter in Monrovia, 1978
Doe made strong ties with the United States in the early 1980s, receiving more than 0 million for pushing out the Soviet Union from the country, and allowing exclusive rights for the US to use Liberia's ports and land (including allowing the CIA to use Liberian territory to spy on Libya).Doe continued his authoritarian policies, banning newspapers, outlawing opposition parties and holding staged elections.

1989 and 1999 civil wars
In late 1989, a civil war began, and in September 1990 Doe was ousted and killed by the forces of faction leader Yormie Johnson and members of the Gio tribe. As a condition for the end of the conflict, interim president Amos Sawyer resigned in 1994, handing power to the Council of State. Prominent warlord Charles Taylor was elected as President in 1997. Taylor's brutal regime targeted several leading opposition and political activists. In 1998, the government sought to assassinate child rights activist Kimmie Weeks for a report he had published on its involvement in the training of child soldiers, which forced him into exile. Taylor's autocratic and dysfunctional government led to a new rebellion in 1999. More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the civil wars. The conflict intensified in mid- 2003, when the fighting moved closer to Monrovia. As the power of the government shrank and with increasing international and American pressure for him to resign, President Charles Taylor accepted an asylum offer by Nigeria, but vowed: "God willing, I will be back."

Politics - Contents

Politics - Politics portal

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Cabinet
  • Legislature
    • Senate
    • House of Representatives
  • Supreme Court
  • Counties
  • Elections: 2005
  • Politicians
  • Political Parties
The Americo-Liberians had little in common with the tribal communities living inland. Because development of the country tended to be in only the capital city where the Americo-Liberians people lived, the tribes felt left out and cheated of the country's wealth which they believed to be their own. One of these tribes was the Krahn, to which Samuel Doe belonged. That was partly the reason for the 1980 coup.In the run-off election of November 8, 2005 between soccer legend George Weah and former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Johnson-Sirleaf became the first female elected head of state in African history. She was inaugurated on January 16, 2006.

Counties - Contents

Liberia is divided into 15 counties:
  • Bomi County
  • Bong County
  • Gbarpolu County
  • Grand Bassa County
  • Grand Cape Mount County
  • Grand Gedeh County
  • Grand Kru County
  • Lofa County
  • Margibi County
  • Maryland County
  • Montserrado County
  • Nimba County
  • River Cess County
  • River Gee County
  • Sinoe County

Geography - Contents

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia
Liberia is situated in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. The landscape is characterised by mostly flat to rolling coastal plains, which rise to rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast. The climate is tropical: hot and humid. Winters are dry with hot days and cool to cold nights. Summers are wet and cloudy with frequent heavy showers.

Economy - Contents

The Liberian economy depended heavily on the export of iron ore. Before 1990 Liberia also exported rubber, and that exporting has resumed now that the hostilities have ended. The long civil war has destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, and Liberia is dependent on foreign aid. The country currently has an approximate 85% unemployment rate, the worst in the world.In 2005, lawsuits were brought against the company Bridgestone/ Firestone for its alleged role in using slave labor in its rubber plantations in Liberia.

Demographics - Contents

The population of over 3 million comprises 16 indigenous ethnic groups and various foreign minorities. The Kpelle in central and western Liberia is the largest ethnic group. Americo-Liberians, who are descendants of freed slaves that arrived in Liberia early in 1821, make up an estimated 5% of the population. There also is a sizable number of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. A few whites (estimated at 18,000 in 1999; probably fewer now) reside in the country.Political upheavals and civil war have brought about a steep decline in living standards.

Education - Contents

Cuttington University College was established by the Episcopal Church of the USA ( ECUSA) in 1889; its campus is currently located in Suacoco, Bong County (120 miles north of Monrovia).According to statistics published by UNESCO for the years 1999- 2000 (the most recent available for Liberia as of 2005) 61% [2] of primary-school age and 18% (estimated) [3] of secondary-school age children were enrolled in school.

Culture - Contents

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality, academic institutions, cultural skills, and arts/craft works.
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