Liberia By | Saturday, September 8   2012 at  15:43

Full Name
Republic of Liberia
Origins of name: Liberia stands for “Land of liberty”

Current Leader
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Overview
Liberia is the only African country that was not colonised by a foreign power (Ethiopia shares that to an extent, having only been briefly occupied by Italy from 1937 to 1941)
It was founded in 1821-22 by the American Colonisation Society as a place for freed American slaves. The freed slaves formed an elite that founded the Republic of Liberia in 1847 and named their capital Monrovia after the fifth US President James Monroe

Facts

Form of Government
Republic
President is Head of State and Head of Government
President elected by popular vote for six-year term (eligible for a second term)

Government structure
Cabinet appointed by President and confirmed by the Senate, Bicameral Parliament

Military Statistics
Manpower fit for military service: Males age 16-49: 387,417 and Females age 16-49: 382,334
Expenditures: 1.3% of GDP
Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Former Rulers
1847 to 1876 (Succession of leaders of Liberia’s Republican Party)
1876 to 1980 (Succession of leaders of the True Whig Party)
1944 to 1971 – William Tubman
1971 to 1980 – William Tolbert
1980 to 1990 – Samuel Kanyon Doe
1990 to 1994 – Amos Sawyer
1994 to 1997 – Council of State (interim)
1997 to 2003 – Charles Taylor
2003 to 2005 – Gyude Bryant (chairman of transitional government)


Capital
Monrovia
Altitude: 30m
Population: 1.5 million

Population
Size: 3,887,886 (2012)
Life expectancy: 41.84 years
Gender Make-Up: Male – 49.76% and Female – 50.24%

Geography
Area: 111,639sqkm
Land boundaries: Guinea 563km, Cote d’Ivoire 716km, Sierra Leone 306km

GDP per capita
$281 (2011)

$247 (2010)

Major Languages
English 20% (official), More than 20 ethnic group languages

Religious portfolio
Christian 40%, Muslim 20%, Indigenous beliefs 40%

National Make-up
Indigenous African 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Dei, Bella, Mandingo, and Mende), Americo-Liberians 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves), Congo People 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who had been slaves)

Natural Resources
Iron ore, Timber, Diamonds, Gold

Main exports
Rubber, Timber, Iron, Diamonds, Cocoa, Coffee

Land Use
Arable land: 3.43%
Permanent crops: 1.98%
Other: 94.59%

Monetary Unit/Currency
Liberian dollar

Dialling Code
+231

Internet Code
.lr

Transport
Main Port: Monrovia. It is the biggest deep-sea port and only free port in West Africa
Airport: Roberts International Airport located 58km from Monrovia

Modern issues

Environmental
Poor sanitary conditions in Monrovia due to the infrastructural destruction caused by war
Large-scale e commercial concessions such as the rubber monopoly granted to the Firestone company contributed to deforestation and destruction of biodiversities
Pollution of coastal waters from oil residues left by maritime shipping. (For years, Liberia and Panama have led the world as flags of convenience for merchant shipping)

President Sirleaf wants to establish a legitimate timber trade to boost the Liberian economy. To make that possible, every legally harvestable tree and every cut log would have to carry a barcode that makes it traceable

Political
Ms Johnson-Sirleaf’s election as Africa’s first woman president was historic. However, she is still seen as part of the old Americo-Liberian elite
The ongoing peace-building in Liberia and the trial of Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone hold major implications for African countries dealing with impunity like Sudan and Kenya
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by President Johnson-Sirleaf was a milestone for the country. Incidentally, she has been mentioned among those who should be banned from holding office for collaborating with Taylor at some point
Enduring political stability depends on genuine accommodation between the Americo-Liberians and the indigenous Liberians

Economic
In 2011, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had a successful year. She was one of three women to be honoured with the Nobel Peace prize this year for "their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work". She was also named as one of the “most powerful” women on the continent in the maiden Africa edition of the US-based Forbes magazine

In the 2011 elections, despite the turbulence surrounding this year’s presidential elections, in which the election boss resigned and the main opposition boycotted the run-off, Johnson-Sirleaf came out with a victory and though political tension continues, there has been no violence

The government has set as a priority the recovery of the economy that was devastated by civil war. In 2005 it signed a deal with the international steel firm Mittal for resumed export of iron ore, the main natural resource
The civil war economy featured the alarming exploitation of the region’s diamond wealth. Over $300 million worth of Liberian and Sierra Leonean diamonds were being exported annually to fund the two country’s civil wars. This led to the coining of the infamous word “blood diamonds”

Social
Civil war left an estimated 250,000 Liberians dead
The country is trying to cope with the consequences of numerous dislocated families
There are thousands of former child soldiers in need of social rehabilitation

Foreign Affairs
President Johnson-Sirleaf has made the restoration of peace in the sub-region the cornerstone of her foreign policy. Her focus on this end has been on reciprocal peace-building initiatives in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea
Liberia is particularly keen to be regarded as the leading US ally in Africa. President Johnson-Sirleaf’s offer for Liberia to host US military’s Africa Command, however, was not taken up by the US Government

The Major Conflicts

End of the First Republic
When: 1980
Who: Non-commissioned army soldiers led by Sergeant Samuel Doe vs William Tolbert’s government
Why: Poor pay for soldiers ignited the coup but the deeper reason was the severe marginalisation by the Americo-Liberian elite of indigenous Liberians since the founding of the Republic in the 19th century
Outcome: President Tolbert and his Cabinet were shot and the First Republic overthrown

First Civil War
When: 1989 –1994
Who: Charles Taylor launched an insurgency backed by Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and later Libya. In 1990, Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana, as part of an Ecowas military taskforce, intervened
Why: Doe’s dictatorial and capricious leadership inflamed the situation. It initially gained Taylor local support. Other armed groups emerged, one of which was led by Yormie Prince Johnson who captured, tortured and killed Doe in 1990
Outcome: The civil war did not quite end but ran into a stalemate, from which the warlord Taylor emerged triumphant

Second Civil War
When: 1999 – 2003
Who: A gathering of rebel forces, some backed by Guinea, rose against Taylor
Why: Taylor’s brutal and dysfunctional administration worsened the situation. His recruitment of child soldiers and his backing of rebels, who were committing atrocities in neighbouring Sierra Leone, turned international opinion against him
Outcome: With Nigeria and the US in the lead, Taylor was forced to resign in 2003 and accepted exile in Nigeria. In 2006 he was captured and handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he was wanted for crimes against humanity arising from his involvement with the Sierra Leonean civil war. He is currently being tried at The Hague, for security reasons

What to see?
The Kendeja National Cultural Centre located along the Atlantic Ocean beach displays all aspects of tribal life, customs and traditions of Liberia.

Sports
Popular Sports
Soccer (most popular)
Basketball
Volleyball

Famous Sportsmen and Sportswomen
George Weah – retired soccer player who won the Best Africa Player, the Best European-based player, and the Best World Player, all in 1995. He ran for president in 2005 and came a creditable second after Ms Johnson-Sirleaf

Quirks
If you want a country that blatantly imitates the US ‘Stars n’ Stripes’ flag, it is Liberia. The colours and stripes are identical, only that the ‘star’ is a single one