Liberia


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The American Colonization Society was formed under the leadership of John Calhoun, one of the main advocates of slavery. The new land was named Liberia and plans were made to persuade former slaves to return to Africa.

The project was opposed by Richard Allen and James Forten of the Convention of Color. Instead of repatriation of Africa, the organization argued for the settlement of escaped black slaves in Canada.

The first group of black colonists set sail for Liberia in 1820. Over the next ten years over 1,400 people settled in the colony. Despite intensive propaganda campaigns, only about 15,000 people left America for Liberia.


A Brief History of Liberia 1822-1991

A short history of Liberia written by a visitor to the country during the 1991 civil war.

It was intended to be background for a feature in Black Flag that never happened. It probably needs improving, especially on the responses of the people who lived there to their role as supplier of raw materials to the west, but is at least a start.

Liberia
The current civil war in Liberia, which recently cost the life of Samuel Doe, the President since a coup in the early 80s, has its roots in the founding of a colony for former slaves in 1822.

In the beginning of the 18th century, the tide of opinion in America and elsewhere was turning against slavery. However, the whites were fearful of a slave revolt led by newly emancipated blacks. To this end, the American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 and two of its officials visited the Grain Coast of Africa with two US goverment agents. In 1821 an agreement was signed between the Society and local chiefs granting the Society possession of Cape Mesurado.

The first freed American slaves landed in 1822, shortly followed by Jehudi Ashmun, a white American who founded the government and the digest of laws of Liberia.

From 1841, the Governor was a free-born man, one of whose great-grandparents was black, Joseph Jenkins Roberts. At the bidding of the American Colonization Society, he proclaimed Liberia a free republic in 1847. A Constitution was drawn up along the lines of the United States'.

However, attempts to found a state based upon some 3000 settlers proved difficult. Some coastal tribes became Protestants and learned English, but most of the indigenous Africans retained their traditional religion and language. Even the slave trade continued illicitly from Liberian ports, but this was ended by the British Navy in the 1850s.

In 1919 Liberia transferred 2000 square miles of inland territory that it had claimed to France, because it could not control it. In fact the authorities could not exercise any control past about 20 miles inland. Intervention by the 'Great Powers', and particularly America, has since been a constant in the history of Liberia. In 1912, a loan of $1.7 million was secured by giving control over Customs to the US and three European powers. A Frontier Police force was organized under the command of US officers.

In the 1920s, the Firestone Rubber Company obtained a concession of 1 million hectares for rubber growing in Liberia. Following a slavery scandal in 1931, the then President and Vice President resigned, and the new President appealed to the League of Nations for financial aid. After three years of negotiation, which included the suspension of diplomatic relations with the US and Britain, an 'agreement' was reached along the lines suggested by the League, which were beneficial to Firestone.

Liberia was strategically very important during the Second World War as the best source of latex rubber, and in 1942 signed a Defence Pact with the US. This commenced a period of strategic road building and an airport was also built. Liberia declared war on Germany and Japan in 1944, and it was also during the war that William V.S.Tubman was elected President.

The country has remained dominated by the United States ever since. The chief exports are rubber (from American owned plantations) and iron ore (mined by American companies). It is also strategically very important, acting as the CIA's foothold in Africa, and there is a powerful tracking station there.

Socially, the ruling elite was at first drawn from the American settlers, and other groups who settled at the country' foundation (which included several thousand Congolese en route to the Americas on slave ships).

However, as is typical with capitalism, it became the case that any Liberian with wealth was regarded as 'Americo-Liberian' or 'Congo'. Tubman died in 1970 ,and was succeeded by William Tolbert, another Americo-Liberian, although he was half-Kpelle. Throughout this period, the government was totally corrupt, as would be expected from any bureaucracy. However, the seventies saw a depression in the world price of rubber, and by 1980 Tolbert began to respond to the Libyan and Cuban offers. The Libyans were about to start work on a low-cost housing project in Monrovia when Samuel Doe, a master sergeant in the arny, carried out a coup.

The CIA are suspected to be behind the coup, and given the extent of aid to Liberia between 1980-5 ($490 milion), this seems likely. However, despite all the promises the corruption and inefficiency remained. Millions were siphoned off, and the country's infrastructure decayed.

Doe promised elections, and when he was re-elected, a former ally of his, Thomas Quiwonk attempted a coup in November 1986. Doe replied by sending his Israeli trained army into northeast Liberia, where Quiwonk - a member of the Gio tribe, had his support. Hundreds of Gios were killed in the retaliatory raids. Doe began to recruit a large number of Kranhs into the Army and bureaucracy, which had previously been multi-ethnic.

By 1989, there was a full raging civil war, very much along tribal lines, with the respective armies of Doe, Prince Johnson and Charles Taylor slugging it out, and the ordinary Liberian getting caught in the middle. The United States' role in this has been equivocal, especially as they're partly to blame. Marines have been deployed, but only to 'protect American citizens and property'. However, American troops were used against Doe's private residency, and helicopter gunships blew the building apart.

The other nations of West Africa have intervened militarily, as much because of the destabilizing influence of the civil war on the region as anything else. However, their motives are not as pure or their actions as blameless as they pretend. When Doe surrendered to the Peacekeeping Force, they handed him over to Taylor's men. He was knee-capped, and died a few hours later.

Given the arbitrary boundaries these countries have inherited from the age of imperialism, tribal conflict of a similar type is a real danger in most African countries. Monrovia is now completely devastated, with thousands starving, and thousands more refugees streaming over the border into neighbouring countries, who are hardly in a position to help them. And the ruling class continues to play its games against this bloody back-drop. The eventual victor in this costly game will inherit only the ashes.


A Brief History of Liberia 1822-1991

A short history of Liberia written by a visitor to the country during the 1991 civil war.

It was intended to be background for a feature in Black Flag that never happened. It probably needs improving, especially on the responses of the people who lived there to their role as supplier of raw materials to the west, but is at least a start.

Liberia
The current civil war in Liberia, which recently cost the life of Samuel Doe, the President since a coup in the early 80s, has its roots in the founding of a colony for former slaves in 1822.

In the beginning of the 18th century, the tide of opinion in America and elsewhere was turning against slavery. However, the whites were fearful of a slave revolt led by newly emancipated blacks. To this end, the American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 and two of its officials visited the Grain Coast of Africa with two US goverment agents. In 1821 an agreement was signed between the Society and local chiefs granting the Society possession of Cape Mesurado.

The first freed American slaves landed in 1822, shortly followed by Jehudi Ashmun, a white American who founded the government and the digest of laws of Liberia.

From 1841, the Governor was a free-born man, one of whose great-grandparents was black, Joseph Jenkins Roberts. At the bidding of the American Colonization Society, he proclaimed Liberia a free republic in 1847. A Constitution was drawn up along the lines of the United States'.

However, attempts to found a state based upon some 3000 settlers proved difficult. Some coastal tribes became Protestants and learned English, but most of the indigenous Africans retained their traditional religion and language. Even the slave trade continued illicitly from Liberian ports, but this was ended by the British Navy in the 1850s.

In 1919 Liberia transferred 2000 square miles of inland territory that it had claimed to France, because it could not control it. In fact the authorities could not exercise any control past about 20 miles inland. Intervention by the 'Great Powers', and particularly America, has since been a constant in the history of Liberia. In 1912, a loan of $1.7 million was secured by giving control over Customs to the US and three European powers. A Frontier Police force was organized under the command of US officers.

In the 1920s, the Firestone Rubber Company obtained a concession of 1 million hectares for rubber growing in Liberia. Following a slavery scandal in 1931, the then President and Vice President resigned, and the new President appealed to the League of Nations for financial aid. After three years of negotiation, which included the suspension of diplomatic relations with the US and Britain, an 'agreement' was reached along the lines suggested by the League, which were beneficial to Firestone.

Liberia was strategically very important during the Second World War as the best source of latex rubber, and in 1942 signed a Defence Pact with the US. This commenced a period of strategic road building and an airport was also built. Liberia declared war on Germany and Japan in 1944, and it was also during the war that William V.S.Tubman was elected President.

The country has remained dominated by the United States ever since. The chief exports are rubber (from American owned plantations) and iron ore (mined by American companies). It is also strategically very important, acting as the CIA's foothold in Africa, and there is a powerful tracking station there.

Socially, the ruling elite was at first drawn from the American settlers, and other groups who settled at the country' foundation (which included several thousand Congolese en route to the Americas on slave ships).

However, as is typical with capitalism, it became the case that any Liberian with wealth was regarded as 'Americo-Liberian' or 'Congo'. Tubman died in 1970 ,and was succeeded by William Tolbert, another Americo-Liberian, although he was half-Kpelle. Throughout this period, the government was totally corrupt, as would be expected from any bureaucracy. However, the seventies saw a depression in the world price of rubber, and by 1980 Tolbert began to respond to the Libyan and Cuban offers. The Libyans were about to start work on a low-cost housing project in Monrovia when Samuel Doe, a master sergeant in the arny, carried out a coup.

The CIA are suspected to be behind the coup, and given the extent of aid to Liberia between 1980-5 ($490 milion), this seems likely. However, despite all the promises the corruption and inefficiency remained. Millions were siphoned off, and the country's infrastructure decayed.

Doe promised elections, and when he was re-elected, a former ally of his, Thomas Quiwonk attempted a coup in November 1986. Doe replied by sending his Israeli trained army into northeast Liberia, where Quiwonk - a member of the Gio tribe, had his support. Hundreds of Gios were killed in the retaliatory raids. Doe began to recruit a large number of Kranhs into the Army and bureaucracy, which had previously been multi-ethnic.

By 1989, there was a full raging civil war, very much along tribal lines, with the respective armies of Doe, Prince Johnson and Charles Taylor slugging it out, and the ordinary Liberian getting caught in the middle. The United States' role in this has been equivocal, especially as they're partly to blame. Marines have been deployed, but only to 'protect American citizens and property'. However, American troops were used against Doe's private residency, and helicopter gunships blew the building apart.

The other nations of West Africa have intervened militarily, as much because of the destabilizing influence of the civil war on the region as anything else. However, their motives are not as pure or their actions as blameless as they pretend. When Doe surrendered to the Peacekeeping Force, they handed him over to Taylor's men. He was knee-capped, and died a few hours later.

Given the arbitrary boundaries these countries have inherited from the age of imperialism, tribal conflict of a similar type is a real danger in most African countries. Monrovia is now completely devastated, with thousands starving, and thousands more refugees streaming over the border into neighbouring countries, who are hardly in a position to help them. And the ruling class continues to play its games against this bloody back-drop. The eventual victor in this costly game will inherit only the ashes.


Index

Geography

Lying on the Atlantic in the southern part of West Africa, Liberia is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cte d'Ivoire. It is comparable in size to Tennessee. Most of the country is a plateau covered by dense tropical forests, which thrive under an annual rainfall of about 160 in. a year.

Government
History

Africa's first republic, Liberia was founded in 1822 as a result of the efforts of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves in West Africa. The society contended that the emigration of blacks to Africa was an answer to the problem of slavery and the incompatibility of the races. Over the course of forty years, about 12,000 slaves were voluntarily relocated. Originally called Monrovia, the colony became the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847.

The English-speaking Americo-Liberians, descendants of former American slaves, make up only 5% of the population, but have historically dominated the intellectual and ruling class. Liberia's indigenous population is composed of 16 different ethnic groups.

The government of Africa's first republic was modeled after that of the United States, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts of Virginia was elected the first president. Ironically, Liberia's constitution denied indigenous Liberians equal to the lighter-skinned American immigrants and their descendants.

After 1920, considerable progress was made toward opening up the interior of the country, a process that facilitated by the 1951 establishment of a 43-mile (69-km) railroad to the Bomi Hills from Monrovia. In July 1971, while serving his sixth term as president, William V. S. Tubman died following surgery and was succeeded by his longtime associate, Vice President William R. Tolbert, Jr.

A Military Coup Leads to the Disastrous Rule of Charles Taylor

Tolbert was ousted in a military coup on April 12, 1980, by Master Sgt. Samuel K. Doe, backed by the U.S. government. Doe's rule was characterized by corruption and brutality. A rebellion led by Charles Taylor, a former Doe aide, and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), started in Dec. 1989 the following year, Doe was assassinated. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) negotiated with the government and the rebel factions and attempted to restore order, but the civil war raged on. By April 1996, factional fighting by the country's warlords had destroyed any last vestige of normalcy and civil society. The civil war finally ended in 1997.

In what was considered by international observers to be a free election, Charles Taylor won 75% of the presidential vote in July 1997. The country had next to no health care system, and the capital was without electricity and running water. Taylor supported Sierra Leone's brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the hopes of toppling his neighbor's government and in exchange for diamonds, which enriched his personal coffers. As a consequence, the UN issued sanctions against Liberia.

In 2002, rebels?Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)?intensified their attacks on Taylor's government. By June 2003, LURD and other rebel groups controlled two-thirds of the country. Finally, on Aug. 11, Taylor stepped down and went into exile in Nigeria. By the time he was exiled, Taylor had bankrupted his own country, siphoning off $100 million and leaving Liberia the world's poorest nation. Gyude Bryant, a businessman seen as a coalition builder, was selected by the various factions as the new president.

Liberia Elects Africa's First Female President

In a Nov. 2005 presidential runoff election, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who had worked at the World Bank, defeated George Weah, a former world-class soccer star. In Jan. 2006 she became Africa's first female president.

Taylor Convicted of War Crimes

In 2006, former president Taylor, in exile in Nigeria, was turned over to an international court in The Hague to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity for supporting rebel troops in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people in the 1990s. The rebels were seeking control of Sierra Leone's rich diamond fields to finance their acquisition of arms. His trial opened in June 2007. In April 2012, after deliberating for more than a year, the court, made up of three judges from Ireland, Samoa, and Uganda, convicted Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the conscription of child soldiers. His conviction is the first by an international court since the Nuremberg trials. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Gyude Bryant, who was president of Liberia from 2003 to 2005 during the transition period after the 14-year civil war, was cleared of embezzlement charges in May 2009. He was accused of stealing about $1 million while in office.

Johnson-Sirleaf, along with Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and Tawakkul Karman, of Yemen, won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize in October "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." She won the prize during her bid for reelection. In the first round of voting, she took 44% of the vote. Her opponent in the second round, Winston Tubman, a former UN official, withdrew from the race, claiming the first round was rigged. Election authorities did not find evidence of fraud. Johnson-Sirleaf sailed to victory in the second round, winning 90% of the vote. Turnout was quite low?33%.

Ebola Outbreak Kills Hundreds

An outbreak of Ebola hit Liberia in May 2014. By the end of August the disease is estimated to have killed nearly 700 people in Liberia, and there were nearly 1,400 suspected and confirmed cases of it in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The outbreak was particularly bad in parts of Monrovia, and the government quarantined the crowded, poor West Point neighborhood, which was hard hit. Residents protested the quarantine and clashed with police. In late August, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international emergency. It is the worst outbreak since the virus was first identified almost 40 years ago.


Kola Forest Book Launch

Can't spare money or time to help recover Liberian history? Please give feedback.

In January 2017, the first history of Liberians before 1800 was published. What followed was a series of book talks across the U. S. The audiences were as diverse as the venues: the Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, a community center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta, the Geeche Kunda Festival in Riceboro, Georgia, the Bethel World Outreach Church in Olney, Maryland and Ma Hawa's Kitchen in Staten Island, among other stops. The pubic response showed there's a hunger for history.


Ex-Slaves that Enslaved the Native Population

The African Americans began their settlement opposing slavery, and this was a point of contention in their battles with the native population (for which slavery was the norm).

This is described in the following quotation.

What really pitted settlers against native again went unspoken: the slave trade, a business for the natives, was an abomination to the settlers, who were determined to wipe it out as soon as they had the means to do so. For those who had escaped slavery in America, it was something more it was a responsibility and duty to the millions of their brethren in slavery back home.

However, once firmly in control of the new Liberian land, this position did not hold.

To this end, the government in Monrovia allocated to each tribe (there are 16 of them) a territory where they were allowed to live – not unlike the typical “homelands” created for Africans decades later by the white racists from Pretoria. All who spoke out against this were severely punished. The chiefs of unsubmissive tribes were eliminated on the spot, the rebellious population murdered or imprisoned, its villages destroyed, its crops set afire. – The Guardian

These expeditions and local wars had a single overriding goal: to capture slaves. The Americo-Liberians needed labourers. And indeed, they started using slaves on their farms and in their businesses as early as the second half of the 19th century. They also sold them to other countries. In the late 1920s, the world press disclosed the existence of this trade, plied officially by the Liberian government. The League of Nations intervened. The then president, Charles King, was forced to resign. But the practice continued by stealth. – The Guardian

As with any slave society, the slavery of the natives reduced the opportunities for work for the new arrivals from the US. This is explained in the following quotation.

As Peyton Skipwith wrote in his first letter home, “Those [settlers] that are well off do hav the natives as Slavs and poor people that come from America have no chance to make aliving for the natives do all the work.” Hostile observers, like the abolitionist William Nesbit, threw around the dreaded “s word” with abandon. “Every colonist keeps native slaves (or as they term them servants) about him, varying in number from one to fifteen, according to the circumstances of the master.” One thing we do know: natives were never legally recognized as slaves, as that would have been a violation of every constitution written for the colony – Another America


Liberia is a resilient country. After overcoming two civil wars, the country still has interesting historical, cultural and landmark events to flaunt. It is the only African country that has had two female presidents in office.

The female presidents are Lady Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ruth Perry. Hare twelve more outstanding facts that you will find interesting about this old West African republic

12. Liberia serves as one of the biggest exporters of iron ore in Africa

Liberia has large mineral deposits. Historically, there has been lots of mineral extraction, particularly of iron ore. As a result, iron ore mining plays a significant role in the Liberian economy.

It accounts for 30% of total export in 2016. Likewise, iron ore has overshadowed the importance of other potential mineral resources. Most of the extraction is by international companies who are heavily into the sector, and they often use local labor.

Low global iron ore prices have reduced Liberia's production and exports over the years. This has also resulted in most international companies scaling down operations. Arcelor Mittar, one of the largest producers in the world, has both iron ore and metallurgical coal reserves based in Liberia.

The reserves are located in the Mount Nimba range, northern Liberia. There are also deposits of manganese, bauxite, uranium, and zinc-lead deposits in Liberia. Also, diamond deposits like alluvial and artisans are widespread in most parts of the country.

11.Contains one of the richest ecosystems on the African continent

Liberia's Sapo National Park is most certainly, one of the 261 natural wonders of the world. First of all, it is the only national park located in the upper Guinean forest ecosystem.

Secondly, it contains the second largest area of primary tropical rain forest in West Africa. Lastly, Sapo National Park harbors the highest mammal species diversity in the world. There have been two successive civil wars that are responsible for causing the destruction of the park’s infrastructure and equipment.

The climate is tropical having temperatures ranging between 22-28 degrees centigrade. The park has a rain forest average humidity of 91% and is one of the richest floral species in the country. Most of the floral species are endemic species.

After the approval of Sapo National park on October 10, 2003, the size of the park was expanded 3% to 1804 square km.

10. It's Atlantic Ocean facing coastline houses lagoons, mangroves, swamps, and sandbars

Liberia’s coastline is characterized by lagoons, mangrove swamps, and river-deposited sandbars the inland grassy plateau supports limited agriculture.

The coastline stretches from the Mano River in the north-west to the River Cavally in the south-east. It is about 579 km wide with many branches. The coastline faces the Atlantic Ocean and gets more rain than the inland rain.

9. Spectacular but difficult to reach beaches

The beaches of Liberia are spectacular but difficult to reach. Generally, only the strongest swimmers venture into the sea because the surf is high and the currents strong.

Liberia's beaches have built a name as one of the best surf sights in Africa. Some beaches have golden untouched sands, clear waters, and perfectly formed waves. The fishing village called Robertson is a surfer’s heaven.

8. The Liberian footballer George Weah became their president and was praised by Nelson Mandela

Liberia's President is George Weah, an outstanding footballer who was born in Clara Town, Liberia. He is the first African player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or titles. Nelson Mandela, one of the most admired world’s icons, once called Weah 'The Pride of Africa'.

7. The longest river in Liberia is named after a fish

The longest river in Liberia is named after a fish called the Cavalla. It is a kind of horse mackerel. The Cavalla River emerges from the North of Mount Nimba in Guinea through Cote d'Ivoire to Zwedru in Liberia.

Similarly, it forms part of the Liberia-Cote d’Ivoire border and is 515 km long. It flows back to the Cote d'Ivoire border and ends in the Gulf of Guinea. Its other names are Cavally, the Youbou, and the Diougou.

6. Houses are usually built from sun-dried local clay bricks and an iron roof

Houses in Liberia are usually built from sun-dried local clay bricks coated with plaster. A galvanized corrugated iron roof is commonly used. The clay houses are usually square-shaped and not circular.

Furthermore, the roof is designed to keep water out during the torrential rain. It is slanted to drain the rainwater easily. Previously, the roof was made of grass to cool the interiors of a home. However, the iron roof has long since taken its place.

5. The original name of Liberia's capital Monrovia, was Christianopolis

The original name of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, was Christianopolis. The city's name was changed to Monrovia after James Monroe, a former president of the United States.

Liberia has historical ties with the United States and there is a clear resemblance of the Liberian flag to the American flag. Monroe was a supporter of freed slaves returning to Africa.

The capital has a population of over one million people. Historically, It was founded on April 25, 1822.

4. Liberia has over 700 bird species, it is a bird-haven!

The country is literally a bird-haven. Even more, Liberia has 700 bird species which include a bird that is slightly larger than a honey bee. More specifically, Liberia is home to the bee warbler. Many of the birds are there all year round whilst some travel to find more favorable weather conditions.

3. Oprah Winfrey traced her ancestry to Liberia

The one and only, Oprah Winfrey had traced her ancestors back to Liberia. Her hometown is the Liberian region of Kpelle. The people live near Gbarnga in central Liberia.

2. Liberia was the world's second Black Republic

After Haiti, Liberia is the world’s second Black Republic. Within the early 1940s, Liberia formally declared warfare on Japan and Germany. Consequently, they later declared independence by the legislature on July 26, 1847.

As a result, Liberia became the first African republic to proclaim its independence. Without a doubt, it is Africa's first and oldest modern republic.

1. Liberia was the first black African country to be elected to the Security Council of the United Nations.

Liberia in 1960 was elected to the Security Council of the United Nations. It is the first black African country ever to occupy a seat in this body. The Security Council was created after World War II.

Its primary purpose is to maintain world peace. It consists of fifteen members, where five are permanent and ten non-permanent members. There are elections every two-years to replace the non-permanent members.


Liberia — History and Culture

Liberia is unique amongst African states in that it was founded by freed slaves from the American South, bringing with them their own culture and displacing ancient tribes who’d farmed the land and traded with European enclaves in west Africa for centuries. For the first time since its founding, the diverse ethnicities of the region are joining together in the aftermath of the devastating 14-year civil war to create a new, peaceful and successful, chapter in both history and culture.

History

The history of the region now known as Liberia began between the 12th and 16th centuries with mass migrations of diverse tribes fleeing desertification of their homelands. The new arrivals brought skills such as iron smelting, weaving, spinning, and the cultivation of rice and other staple crops in addition to political and social skills and traditions. By the 15th century, trade with West African settlements along the coast from Cap Vert to the Gold Coast was well established.

Contact with Portuguese explorers was first made in 1461, with the mariners naming the region the Pepper Coast due to an abundance of melegueta seasoning. Dutch and British trading posts were setup by the mid-17th century, but the region remained isolated until 1921 when the first shipment of former slaves arrived from America, spurred by abolitionists who believed freed slaves would be unable to coexist in American society. As a result, much effort and money went into creating an African enclave for these individuals, with Liberia’s independence first declared in 1847. Plantation owners backed the move as they feared the effect on their livelihood.

From 1847 to 1980 Liberia was governed by the Americo-Liberian descendents of the original arrivals, a small minority around five percent in the country as more indigenous tribes migrated to the region. Four interactive developments formed the colony’s history, all intertwined and reactive. Relations between indigenous tribes and the ruling colonists, the US and other world powers and the economic strengths of natural resources and industry all combined to influence Liberia’s development.

Integration between the colonists and the indigenous people caused contention since the freed slaves’ arrival, leading eventually to a revolution in 1980 which overthrew the Americo-Liberian government and ruling class. Tribal natives hated the lighter-skinned, mixed-ancestry migrants, their Christian beliefs and supposed cultural superiority, all displayed in the Americanized way of life and architecture.

The final straw came after WWII, when fortunes in unregulated foreign investment were received by the government, destabilizing the economy and many of the funds embezzeled by political officials. From that point on, hostility between the two factions increased until 1979 when inflation of the rice price sparked riots ending in the 1980 military coup and the formation of the People’s Redemption Council, led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe.

Doe was elected president in a ballot widely derided as fixed, with the resulting civil strife, counter-coup and government repression ramping up an already unstable situation. Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia led the revolution in 1989 with the help of Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso military, and the devastating Civil War period began with the defeat of Doe’s forces and his execution.

From then until 1996, one of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts raged, with over 200,000 Liberians killed and millions displaced into refugee camps across the country’s borders. Infrastructure was destroyed, and by the time a peace deal had been brokered, Liberia was a wreck. Worse was to come, as under Taylor’s presidency the country became a world pariah for illegal timber exports and blood diamonds to support neighboring Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front in their own civil war.

By 1999, Liberia was again up in arms, with the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy fighting against Taylor’s rule. In 2003 they were joined by another rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, resulting in Taylor being indicted for crimes against humanity in June. Under pressure from the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and the international community, Taylor finally resigned and fled to Nigeria, leaving the country to recover under the United Nations Mission.

New elections, considered fair and free, took place in 2005, with Harvard-trained economist Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becoming Africa’s first female president. Her first move was to successfully request the extradition of Taylor from Nigeria and his removal to The Hague for trial. Since then, her government has inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with addressing the causes of the civil war and the crimes committed. The government has also done much to improve stability and security.

Culture

The culture of Monrovia has two distinct roots, the Southern US heritage of the freed Americo-Liberian slaves and the ancient African descendants of the indigenous people and migratory tribes. Most former Americans belonged to the Masonic Order of Liberia, outlawed since 1980, but originally playing a huge part in the nation’s politics. Settlers brought the skills of embroidery and quilting with them, with both now firmly embedded in the national culture. The haunting slave music and songs of the American South with ancient African rhythms and harmonies blended well with indigenous musical traditions of the region.

The diverse tribal ethnicities making up the population of Liberia today have all added to the richness of cultural life in the country. Christian music is popular, with hymns sung a-capella in the iconic African style. Spirituality and the region’s ancient rituals are reflected in the unusually intricate carving style, and modern Liberian artists are finding fame outside the country. Dance is a valued heritage, with the Liberian National Culture Group giving performances both in the country and overseas based on traditional themes. The gradual integration of all Liberia’s ethnic groups has given rise to a renewed interest in its tribal culture as a reminder of the diverse roots of the new country.


Monrovia, Liberia (1822- )

Monrovia is the capital of Liberia as well as its largest city. It is located on Bushrod Island and Cape Mesurado along the Mesurado River. A 2008 census showed its population as 970,824.

Monrovia was founded on April 25, 1822 by members of the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization created to return U.S.-born former slaves to Africa. ACS representatives first arrived on the Mesurado River in 1821. The original name of Monrovia was Christopolis. In 1824 it was renamed “Monrovia” after James Monroe, who was the American President at the time as well as a supporter of the American Colonization Society. The indigenous populations of the areas surrounding Monrovia felt that the city was built on stolen land and began attacking it as early as 1822. Those attacks continued sporadically until the mid-nineteenth century.

Monrovia’s first settlers were former Southern slaves. Not surprisingly the early architecture of the city was largely influenced by the style of the Southern antebellum buildings.

Monrovia grew slowly during the rest of the 19th Century. After the Civil War the American Colonization Society was taken over by emigrationists such as Edward Wilmot Blyden and Bishop Alexander Crummell. They urged post-Civil War African Americans to settle there and many of them did until World War I. These Americo-Liberians, both those in the initial wave of settlement in the 1822-1848 period (Liberia became independent that year), and those who came after the U.S. Civil War, politically and culturally dominated the city.

After World War II growing numbers of indigenous people from the interior of Liberia began migrating to the capital to exploit new job opportunities. Always present in the city back to its founding, by 1950 for the first time, they were the majority of the city’s residents.

In 1980 Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Liberian Army led a coup which toppled the existing government. For the first time in its history Liberia was controlled by indigenous people rather than Americo-Liberians. Doe ruled autocratically but when he was deposed in 1990, Liberia plunged into political chaos. The series of civil wars both crippled Monrovia’s economy and brought thousands of people into the capital fleeing the violence. The Civil Wars ended in 2003 when dictator Charles Taylor was deposed.

Today Monrovia is home to Americo-Liberians, indigenous people from the nation’s interior, and now thousands of refugees fleeing from other West African civil wars such as the one in neighboring Sierra Leone. Approximately 85% of the city’s population is Christian and 12% is Muslim. It is the site of the University of Liberia and three small religious colleges, United Methodist University, African Methodist Episcopal University, and Stella Maris Polytechnic, a Catholic institution.

Monrovia’s economy is based on trade. The port of Monrovia, the largest artificial harbor in West Africa, ships rubber, iron ore, coffee, cocoa, rice, and timber from the Liberian interior to the rest of the world. Monrovia’s major industry is rubber and palm oil processing, food products, furniture, and chemicals. These industries, however, employ relatively small numbers of workers. Most residents of Monrovia lack stable employment and 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.

In 2014 Monrovia faced a new crisis as its government had to address the spread of ebola among its most vulnerable citizens.


Liberia

The Republic of Liberia is a democracy located on the west African coast. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean along its entire diagonal southwest coastline of 579 kilometers, Liberia borders Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, and Côte d'Ivoire to the east. Liberia measures 111,370 square kilometers in area, of which nearly 10 percent is water, and is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Tennessee. Much of Liberia is covered with tropical rainforest, and the country's terrain ranges from coastal plains to plateau to low mountains. Liberia's climate is tropical.

Colonized by former slaves from the United States who returned to Africa in the early nineteenth century after securing their freedom, Liberia became the first independent country in Africa during the period of Western colonization. The first president of independent Liberia, President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, was a Monrovia merchant who emigrated to Liberia from Petersburg, Virginia in 1829 and served as governor of the Commonwealth of Liberia starting in 1841, appointed by the American Colonization Society. In 1847 the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia was proclaimed, and President Roberts became the country's first president. He was elected to office in 1848 and headed the country until 1856. Roberts then served as president of Liberia College for many years, after which he again assumed the presidency of Liberia from 1872 until 1876. Following a century of uneasy and often contentious relations between the Americo-Liberian former slaves and the indigenous African ethnic groups of Liberia's interior, Liberia experienced seven highly destructive years of civil war between 1989 and 1996, which finally ended in 1997 with a peace treaty brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Democratic elections were held in July 1997 with Charles Ghankay Taylor elected president. He was inaugurated in August 1997.

As of mid-2001 full peace and stability had not yet returned to Liberia. According to a U.S. Department of State briefing of May 2001, "The presence of many illtrained and armed government security personnel continues to constitute a potential danger. The northwestern part of the country is unsettled as rebel activity in Sierra Leone and Guinea continues to affect stability along the Sierra Leone-Guinea-Liberia border areas. In particular, there have been reports of intensified hostilities in upper Lofa County [in the north of Liberia]." Liberia in 2001 had not yet recovered from the political, social, economic, and infrastructural damage caused by the war. Neither had certain key transitions to peacetime activities and development-oriented policies been made. Describing the situation in Liberia in May 2001, the State Department noted, "Although a democratically elected government was installed in August 1997, limited progress has been made toward the following goals: resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration of former combatants, reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a stable environment for economic development, and the elimination of corruption."

In July 2000 Liberia's population was estimated to be about 3.2 million, comprising of some 15 to 20 ethnic groups, which are grouped into 3 main categories. The ethnic composition in the late 1990s was estimated as follows: about 95 percent indigenous African tribes (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Mandingo, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella), about 2.5 percent Americo-Liberians (descendents of African-American slaves who had immigrated from the United States), and about 2.5 percent "Congo People" (descendents of former Afro-Caribbean slaves who had immigrated to Liberia). Estimates of religious affiliation vary widely, depending on the source of information. Between 40 and 75 percent of the population is said to adhere to indigenous beliefs while between 10 and 40 percent of the population is Christian and 15 to 40 percent is Muslim. Many languages are spoken in Liberia. English is used by about 20 percent of the population and serves as the official language.

Approximately 44.3 percent of Liberia's population lived in urban areas in 1999 with many Liberians living in and around Monrovia, the national capital. That year, the total fertility rate was estimated to be 6.1 (i.e., a woman bearing children throughout her childbearing years at current fertility rates would have 6 children). This high rate is due in part to the desire to compensate for the extremely high infant and child-mortality rates in the country, where malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent, HIV/AIDS claims an increasing numbers of victims, and many families do not have enough to eat. In 1999 the infant mortality rate in Liberia was 112.8 per 1,000 live births&mdashmore than 1 children in 10&mdashwhile the under 5 years child-mortality rate was an astounding 188.0. About 43 percent of Liberia's population was 14 years old or younger in 1999, some 54 percent was 15 to 64 years of age, and only about 3 percent of the population was 65 or older, due to the very low life expectancy at birth prevailing in Liberia (51.0 years in the year 2000&mdash49.6 years for men and 52.5 years for women).

Estimates of Liberia's GDP are difficult to come by, since the country's economy is not functioning at present in anything approaching a normal way. With the economy and infrastructure of the country destroyed by the seven years of civil war, Liberia's basic utilities have yet to be rebuilt. Running water and electricity are still lacking in most of Monrovia, and many war-damaged buildings remain in severely dilapidated condition, waiting to be rebuilt. War-damaged housing to some extent has been replaced throughout the country with rebuilt temporary homes, financed by UN agencies and other international, bilateral, and nongovernmental donors. However, much of the country still appears as though it has just emerged from war, although crops have been replanted, and many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have attempted to return to their home communities. With a very limited number of wage-paying jobs open in Liberia after the war and little means for many of Liberia's residents to earn a living, many households are barely surviving. The unemployment rate is estimated to be about 70 percent. In 1999 an estimated 70 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture (mostly as subsistence farmers), 8 percent in industry, and 22 percent in services&mdashquite different from many other countries in the region and around the world, including in developing areas, where the industrial and service sectors employ a larger segment of the population. The contribution to the national economy in terms of percentage of GDP by sector was estimated as 50 percent from agriculture, 15 percent from industry, and 35 percent from services in 1999. Real GDP per capita was only US$150-200 in 1998-1999, an improvement over income levels during the war but far less than the still meager prewar GDP per capita of US$450 in 1987. With rich diamond and titanium reserves and many natural resources, including exotic forest timbers, rubber plantations, and fertile land well suited for rice cultivation and the growing of cash crops like coffee and cocoa, Liberia could once again flourish economically given the right conditions. The potential clearly exists for the equitable development of Liberia to the benefit of all her citizens, provided that Liberia's human resources are concomitantly developed.


Watch the video: Geography Now! LIBERIA (May 2022).


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