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Republic of Liberia
Motto: "The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here"
Anthem: All Hail, Liberia, Hail!
|Official languages||English (Liberian English)|
|Recognised regional languages||Mande, Kru, Mel, Gola|
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Unitary presidential constitutional republic|
|James Bruce Leonard|
|Legislature||Legislature of Liberia|
|House of Representatives|
|Formation and independence|
• Settlement by American Colonization Society
|January 7, 1822|
|July 26, 1847|
• Annexation of Republic of Maryland
|March 18, 1857|
• Recognition by Northeast Union
|December 1, 1870|
• Admitted to the League of Nations
|November 2, 1945|
|111,369 km2 (43,000 sq mi)|
• 2020 census
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|Currency||Liberian dollar (L$) (LRD)|
Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Guinea to the north, Sierra Leone to the northwest, Ivory Coast to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Liberia has an area of 111,369 square kilometres and has a population of 7.8 million people, making it one of the most densely populated African nations. English is the official language since the country was established by former slaves from the Anglo-American states. It is Africa's first and oldest republic, having declared its independence in 1847 and was never colonised during the Scramble for Africa. The capital and largest city is Monrovia.
Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847, but the U.S. did not recognize Liberia, instead the first diplomatic recognition was received from the United Kingdom. Between January 7, 1822 and the War of Contingency starting in 1866, more than 70,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in North America, and 14,000 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement. During the War of Contingency, Liberia received support from New England secessionist governments, and after the dissolution of the United States, the country received financial and other support from the Northeast Union, which became the first Anglo-American state to recognize Liberia on December 5, 1870. The black American settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the former United States.
Liberia is Africa's first and oldest republic, and it was one of the only three African countries that kept its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II it declared war on Germany and Japan to help the Anglo-American countries, which repaid it with a large amount of foreign investment into Liberia. This investment helped rapidly develop Liberia's infrastructure, and by the 1960s it emerged as one of Africa's fastest growing and wealthiest economies under President Wilbert Carney. Liberia was also a founding member of the League of Nations.
Since the turn of the century, Liberia has been considered an "illiberal democracy" and "developing nation" as there remains high inequality and political power is held by the Americo-Liberian minority. The National Republican Party has dominated the country's politics since its establishment in 1878 and ruled Liberia as effectively a single-party dictatorship until democratic reforms in 1986. Liberia still offers a decent standard of living to its people, especially compared to its neighbors in West Africa, being one of Africa's leading economies and is one of the few on the continent that is designated as a middle-income economy by the World Bank. The country mainly exports raw materials but has a growing manufacturing industry, and ship registration has also been a major source of revenue (Liberia surpassed the United Kingdom as the world's largest ship register in 1968). Liberia has continued to receive foreign investment from Anglo-America and increasingly from China.
The Pepper Coast, also known as the Grain Coast, has been inhabited by indigenous peoples of Africa at least as far back as the 12th century. Mende-speaking people expanded westward from the Sudan, forcing many smaller ethnic groups southward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Bassa, Kru, Gola, and Kissi were some of the earliest documented peoples in the area. People along the coast built canoes and traded with other West Africans from Cap-Vert to the Gold Coast. Arab traders entered the region from the north, and a long-established slave trade took captives to north and east Africa.
Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders had contacts and trading posts in the region. The Portuguese named the area Costa da Pimenta ("Pepper Coast") but it later came to be known as the Grain Coast, due to the abundance of melegueta pepper grains. European traders would barter commodities and goods with local people.
In North America, particularly the United States, there was a movement to settle free-born Blacks and freed slaves in Africa. This was ostensibly because they faced racial discrimination in the form of political disenfranchisement and the denial of civil, religious, and social privileges; most whites and later a growing minority of Black nationalists believed that Blacks would be better off in Africa. Southern slaveholders had a different perspective: they wanted to get free people of color out of the South, where they were thought to threaten the apparent stability of their slave societies. In 1816 the American Colonization Society was founded for this purpose in Washington, D.C., by a group of prominent politicians and slaveholders, but its membership grew to include many abolitionists.
In 1822 the American Colonization Society began sending black volunteers to the Pepper Coast, the closest point of Africa and therefore the least expensive to reach, to establish a colony for freed blacks. Over the years, more than 70,000 blacks would move to the colony. These free African-Americans and their descendants married within their community and came to identify as Americo-Liberians. Many were of mixed race and educated in American culture; they did not identify with the indigenous natives of the tribes they encountered. They intermarried largely within the colonial community, developing an ethnic group that had a cultural tradition infused with American notions of political republicanism and Protestant Christianity.
On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution. Based on the political principles of the United States Constitution, it established the independent Republic of Liberia. The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia's independence, followed by most of the Great powers of Europe. The United States did not, and the first independent Anglo-American state that recognised Liberia was the Northeast Union on December 5, 1870, after the War of Contingency. From then on, abolitionists and other political factions in the NU provided the new state with financial and other support, while also facilitating the repatriation of freed blacks to Liberia.
The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that the ACS had purchased. The colonists were situated in Monrovia and Harper, along with smaller settlements along the coast from the mouth of the Sewa river on the west to the Cavalla river on the east. Some tracts of territory along the coast and most of the interior remained uncharted and quasi-independent. Liberia had hostile relations with the native Kru and Gola tribes further inland, considering them to be beneath the more civilised Americo-Liberians. Although some of the natives migrated to Monrovia and Harper in search of economic opportunity and trade from the 1870s, citizenship was limited to Americo-Liberians, who maintained strict policies to forcibly assimilate the arrivals into their society. President Welington Roye began the policy, in part in response to frequent native rebellions.
Much of the Liberian interior was unmapped by 1900. Because of this it had frontier disputes with European powers, but its borders with Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast were demarcated by the 1885 English and 1892 French treaties, by which Liberia lost a lot of claimed land. The country also struggled to develop its economy and attract investment. Still, foreign loans were arranged from the Northeast Union and Great Britain in the late 1890s and a rubber industry arose with the help of international investors, and starting from the presidency of Willian Andrew Johnson Liberian influence extended deeper into the interior. As of 1908, it was estimated that the total population of Americo-Liberians was around 137,000, along with 65,000 "Christianised" natives.
Since the 1870s, politics would be dominated by the National Republican Party, which controlled the system of nominations to run for public office and therefore was able to monopolise the state. This would continue virtually uninterrupted until liberal democratic reforms started to be implemented from 1986, and the first president who was not a National Republican was not elected until 1990. Liberia hesitated to declare war on the German Empire during World War I because of the importance of German investments, but finally did under Anglo-American pressure towards the end of 1917. From the 1910s until the outbreak of World War II the country would receive more investment from abroad, and the Northeast Union Navy established a small base in Monrovia.
Under the presidency of Wilbert Carney, Liberia solidified its alliance with NATO and other Western countries that saw it as an anti-Communist and stable country in West Africa as many other African nations were gaining independence from 1960 on and experienced devastating instability. Liberia also was among the founders of the African Union and hosted severan Pan African Congresses, being seen as a beacon of pan-African nationalism. From the 1960s Liberia experienced an opening for trade and increased government revenue, which allowed the government to build new modern infrastructure that had been lacking: paved roads, railways, and hospitals. The railways from the coast going inland allowed easier transportation of goods and expanded the iron mining industry, which later saw European companies developing it. Monrovia also became a free port. Some of the wealth generated from Liberia's booming economy was also used to help the newly independent African states as loans.
By the time Carney left office in 1974, Liberia had the largest merchant fleet in the world, the largest rubber industry, was the third largest exporter of iron ore, and had a growing agricultural industry (including rice, coffee, canola oil, and sugar). He also began policies of 'national reconciliation' to forcibly assimilate the remaining secluded natives into Americo-Liberian society. However, the Liberian government remained authoritarian and political power was closed off to the natives, with president William Remond violently putting down a coup attempt by native soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 1980.
Economic growth slowed down from the late 1980s, and in 1986 the government responded to increasing public pressure by democratizing the political process, including imposing shorter presidential terms of four years instead of eight and broadening the electorate. The 1989 Liberian general election was regarded as the most free in Liberia's history, leading to the election of Martin Anderson of the African Revolutionary Party, a socialist and pan-African party. He would not be able to prevent an economic down turn, and got Liberia involved in the Civil War in neighboring Sierra Leone by supporting the Revolutionary United Front rebel group that quickly turned into an international debacle and threatened to spillover in Liberia itself, which caused his defeat in 1993 by Winston Astor. This brought back National Republican rule and a return to authoritarianism for the next two decades.
Liberia's economy rebounded from the late 1990s after the rise in prices of natural resources that Liberia had come to rely on. Since the early 2000s, Liberia has attracted more Qing Chinese foreign investment in particular and has sought an increasingly independent foreign policy, increasing relations with East Asian countries and in place of its traditional Western allies. The 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia would kill more than 10,000 people, as well as causing economic and political instability, which led to president Joseph Payne's defeat in the 2017 general election to James Bruce Leonard of the Democratic Party.
The government of Liberia is modeled on the former United States, a unitary constitutional republic and representative democracy as established by the Constitution. The government has three co-equal branches: the executive, headed by the president; the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Legislature of Liberia; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and several lower courts. In practice, Liberia has been an authoritarian one-party state since the 1870s and was dominated by the National Republican Party, but the government has become increasingly democratized since 1986. Other parties include the Democratic Party, Republican Party, National Democratic Party, and African Revolutionary Party. Political power continues to largely be controlled by the Americo-Liberian population.
The president serves as head of government, head of state, and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Among the president's other duties are to sign or veto legislative bills, grant pardons, and appoint Cabinet members, judges, and other public officials. Together with the vice president, the president is elected to a four-year term by majority vote in a two-round system and can serve up to two years in office. The Legislature is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House, led by a speaker, has 73 members apportioned among the five provinces on the basis of the national census. Each House member represents an electoral district within a county as drawn by the National Elections Commission and is elected by a plurality of the popular vote of their district into a six-year term. The Senate is made up of four senators from each province for a total of 20 senators.
Liberia is a member of several international organisations, including the League of Nations, the African Union, and ECOWAS. The implementation of foreign policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was previously called the Department of State until all of the departments were changed to ministries in 1971. As a small nation, Liberia's foreign policy is mainly focused on Africa and more particularly the the region of West Africa. Historically Liberia has also maintained close relations with most of the CAS countries, in particular having a special relationship with the Northeast Union. China, Japan, and other East Asian countries have increased their economic ties with Liberia as well since the start of the 21st century.
There are 26 countries that have embassies or consulates in Monrovia. Those include Azania, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, the Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Northeast Union, Qatar, Sierra, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom. There are also consulates of Finland and Syria.
Liberia maintains 26 embassies and 12 other diplomatic missions around the world. It has embassies in Azania, Brazoria, Belgium, Cameroon, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, the Northeast Union, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the United Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom. It also has consulates in Canada, Chad, Cisplatina, the Central African Republic, the Eurasian Commonwealth, Gabon, Gambia, Greece, India, Norway, the Maritime Republic, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are the country's national defense forces and consist of the Liberian Army, the Liberian Navy, the Liberian Air Force, and the Liberian National Guard (LNG). The AFL includes 25,000 active personnel as of 2020. A tradition started in 1847 requiring every Liberian male between the ages of sixteen and forty-five to serve in the Militia to provide public order in the early Liberian colonies, but this was no longer enforced from the 1880s and was formally abolished in 1902 during the effort to create a professional army. That year, the Liberian military came into existence as the Liberian Frontier Force, which was further reformed by the Army and Navy Act of 1941. The new law established the National Army and the Navy, while the Liberian Air Force would be organised in 1958. The modern Liberian Army traces its roots back to the original militia established shortly after independence, and the National Guard fulfills its role by serving as an active reserve force as well as a gendarmerie. Liberia is known for having one of the more professional and disciplined militaries on the African continent, and Liberian soldiers have taken part in peacekeeping and advisory missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali, and the Central African Republic.
Liberia is divided into five provinces, which, in turn, are subdivided into a total of 90 districts and further subdivided into territories. The oldest is Montserrado, established in 1839 before Liberian independence, followed by Maryland with its annexation in 1857, and three more provinces (Lofa, Nimba, and Sinoe) that were created out of the former Western Province in 1961, consisting of mainly of lands traditionally inhabited by the natives. The five provinces are administered by governors appointed by the president. The Constitution calls for the election of various chiefs at the territorial level, but these elections have not taken place since 1982.
Parallel to the administrative divisions of the country are the local and municipal divisions. Liberia currently does not have any constitutional framework or uniform statutes which deal with the creation or revocation of local governments. All existing local governments—cities, townships, and a territory—were created by specific acts of the Liberian government, and thus the structure and duties/responsibilities of each local government varies greatly from one to the other.
|State||Flag||Capital||Population (2020 census)||Established|
As of 2019, according to the World Bank, it had a nominal GDP of $34.18 billion and power purchasing parity GDP of $108.25 billion. Liberia also has a GDP per capita of $41,284, making it the second highest in Africa (after Azania). In 1988 it graduated from "Least Developed Country" status, the second country in Sub-Saharan Africa to do so, enjoying its status as one of the wealthiest nations in Africa. It also has a Human Development Index that is one of the highest on the continent, but wealth inequality remains a problem, with about 19% of the population below the international poverty line. Liberia is regarded as a middle-income country by the World Bank and the IMF. It is also a full member of the World Trade Organization.
The main industries in Liberia are mining (including iron ore and diamonds), rubber processing, and agriculture (including palm oil), which make up its primary exports, but increasingly timber does as well. The proportion of commodities like iron as exports has declined since the 1990s, but diamond and timber exports have increasing. Since the start of the 21st century, due to its status as a flag of convenience, Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world behind Panama. It has 3,500 vessels registered under its flag, accounting for 11% of ships worldwide. Ship registration provides another important source of revenue.
Liberia's economy was one of the least developed in the world until the 1960s, when due to increased investments from European and Anglo-American countries it began to see rapid growth and development from then until the late 1980s.
As of the 2020 national census Liberia is home to 7,837,325 people. Of those, 3,118,241 lived in Montserrado Province, the most populous region in the country and home to the capital of Monrovia. The Greater Monrovia District has 2,239,824 residents, being the sixth biggest urban area in Africa. Historically, Liberia's population growth was driven by the arrival of large numbers of Afro-American immigrants from the countries of North America and in lesser numbers from other parts of the world, particularly the Caribbean. Relations between the colonies along the Liberian coast where the population consisted of Americo-Liberians and the native ethnic groups in the interior of the country remained tense well into the 20th century, and only in the 1970s the natives began receiving full Liberian citizenship. The government has a policy of forcing natives to assimilate into a Liberian national identity created by the Americo-Liberians. As of 2020 the largest ethnic groups include Americo-Liberians (42%), Kru (14%), Mende (8%), and other minor African native groups (36%). A small minority of Liberians who are White Africans of European descent reside in the country. As of 2017, Liberia had the highest population growth rate in the world (4.50% per annum). That year some 43.5% of Liberians were below the age of 15.
English is the official language and serves as the lingua franca of Liberia. Thirty-one indigenous languages are spoken in Liberia, but each is a first language for only a small percentage of the population. Liberians also speak a variety of creolized dialects collectively known as Liberian English.
Hospitals in Liberia include the Welington Roye Medical Center in Monrovia and several others. Life expectancy in Liberia is estimated to be 70.4 years in 2012.
Although Liberia has some of the lowest crime rates in Africa, there is still a significant threat of crime. Rape is the most frequently reported crime, accounting for more than one-third of sexual violence cases. Adolescent girls are the most frequently assaulted, and almost 40% of perpetrators are adult men known to victims.
Both male and female homosexuality are illegal in Liberia. On July 20, 2012, the Liberian Senate voted unanimously to enact legislation to prohibit and criminalize same-sex marriages.
|Atlantic Ocean||Ivory Coast|
|Atlantic Ocean||Atlantic Ocean||Ivory Coast|