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Liberia

LIBERIA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS LIBERIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Liberia

CAPITAL: Monrovia

FLAG: The national flag, dating from 1847, consists of 11 horizontal stripes, alternately red (6) and white (5), with a single five-pointed white star on a square blue field 5 stripes deep in the upper left corner.

ANTHEM: All Hail, Liberia, Hail.

MONETARY UNIT: The Liberian dollar (l$) of 100 cents was linked to the US dollar until January 1998, when it switched to a floating market determined rate. There are no Liberian notes. US notes in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars are in circulation and are legal tender. Both US and Liberian coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1 dollar are in circulation; as of 1982, a $5 Liberian coin was issued. l1 = $0.01821 (or $1 = l54.906) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: US and UK weights and measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Armed Forces Day, 11 February; Decoration Day, 2nd Wednesday in March; Birthday of J. J. Roberts (first president), 15 March; Fast and Prayer Day, 2nd Friday in April; National Redemption Day, 12 April; Unification Day, 14 May; Independence Day, 26 July; Flag Day, 24 August; Thanksgiving Day, 1st Thursday in November; Anniversary of 1985 Coup Attempt, 12 November; President Tubman's Birthday, 29 November; Christmas, 25 December. Good Friday and Easter Monday are movable religious holidays.

TIME: GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Located on the west coast of Africa, Liberia has an area of about 111,370 sq km (43,000 sq mi), with a length of 548 km (341 mi) esewnw and a width of 274 km (170 mi) nnessw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Liberia is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. On the n it is bounded by Guinea, on the e by Côte d'Ivoire, on the s and sw by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the nw by Sierra Leone, with a total land boundary length of 1,585 km (985 mi) and a coastline of 579 km (360 mi).

Liberia's capital city, Monrovia, is located on the Atlantic coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

There are three distinct belts lying parallel to the coast. The low coastal belt is about 40 km (25 mi) wide, with tidal creeks, shallow lagoons, and mangrove marshes. The land then rises to rolling hills, with elevations of 60150 m (200500 ft). The third belt, comprising the bulk of Liberia, is marked by abrupt changes of elevation in a series of low mountains and plateaus, less densely forested than the hilly region. The Nimba Mountains are near the Guinea frontier. The Wologizi Mountains reach a maximum of about 1,380 m (4,528 ft) with Mt. Wutuvi, the nation's highest point. Of the six principal rivers, all of which are at right angles to the coast and flow into the Atlantic Ocean, only the Farmington is of much commercial importance. Sandbars obstruct the mouths of all rivers, making entrance hazardous, and upstream there are rocky rapids.

CLIMATE

The climate is tropical and humid, with little change in temperature throughout the year. The mean is 27°c (81°f), with temperatures rarely exceeding 36°c (97°f) or falling below 20°c (68°f). On the coast the heat is tempered by an almost constant breeze. Yearly rainfall is as high as 510 cm (200 in) on the coast, decreasing to about 200 cm (80 in) in areas farthest inland. There are distinct wet and dry seasons, most of the rainfall occurring between late April and mid-November. Average relative humidity in the coastal area is about 82% during the rainy season and 78% in the dry, but it may drop to 50% or lower between December and March, when the dust-laden harmattan blows from the Sahara.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Liberia, together with adjoining Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, includes the greatest of Africa's evergreen forests. There are about 235 species of trees; 90 varieties are present in potentially marketable quantities, including mahogany and ironwood. The bombex (cotton tree), the oil palm, and the kola tree are common. The wild rubber tree (Funtumia elastica) is indigenous, but the cultivated Hevea brasiliensis is the source of Liberia's commercial rubber. A variety of coffee peculiar to Liberia, Coffea liberica, was formerly common but has given way to the preferred Coffea robusta. Fruit trees include citrus varieties, the alligator apple, papaya, mango, and avocado. Pineapples grow wild. Among the cultivated plants are cassava, cotton, cacao, indigo, and upland rice.

Elephant and buffalo, once common in Liberia, have largely disappeared, but several species of antelope are found in the interior; two of these, the white-shouldered duiker and the zebra antelope, are peculiar to Liberia. A lemur called Bosman's potto and several species of monkey, including the long-haired and the Diana, are found in the forests. Wild pigs and porcupines exist in sparsely settled areas, and several members of the leopard group are also found. Most of the 15 species of snakes are venomous. Termites build lofty nests throughout the country. In some areas the tsetse fly is found, and driver ants and mosquitoes are common. Several varieties of snail act as hosts in the propagation of certain enteric diseases. Among the birds are the hornbill, wild guinea fowl, cattle egret (cowbird), flamingo, woodpecker, and weaver. As of 2002, there were at least 193 species of mammals, 146 species of birds, and over 2,200 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

The nation lacks regulatory agencies to supervise the preservation of the environment. As the 1980s began, Liberia was one of the last West African countries with significant primary forest reserves, but recent estimates suggest that deforestation continues at a rate of about 2% per year. Commercial logging, firewood cutting, and a government land-clearing program all threaten primary forestland. Forests currently account for less than 40% of Liberia's land. By the mid-1980s, the country had lost over 70% of its mangrove swamps. Hunting and loss of habitat have decimated wildlife along the coastal plain, and there are no longer any large herds of big game in the interior.

The water supply is usually limited to open sources such as streams, swamps, and shallow, uncovered wells; the result, especially during the rainy season, is that insects and parasites thrive, creating a major health hazard. Safe drinking water is available to 72% of Liberia's urban dwellers and 52% of its rural population. The Mano and St. John rivers are becoming increasingly polluted from the dumping of iron ore tailings, and the coastal waters from oil residue and the dumping of untreated sewage and waste water.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 20 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 4 species of amphibians, 29 species of fish, 16 types of mollusks, 11 species of other invertebrates, and 103 species of plants. The Jentink's duiker, the whitebreasted guinea fowl, Pel's flying squirrel, the green turtle, and the Liberian mongoose are threatened species in Liberia.

POPULATION

The population of Liberia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,283,000, which placed it at number 129 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 46% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.9%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Political instability in the country has undermined the effectiveness of government reproductive health programs. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,800,000. The population density was 29 per sq km (76 per sq mi).

The population consists of indigenous Africans and descendants of American black settlers (also known as Liberico-Americans or Amerafricans), in the ratio of at least 30 to 1.

The UN estimated that 45% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.97%. The capital city, Monrovia, had a population of 572,000 in that year. More than one-third of the population lives within an 80-km (50-mi) radius of Monrovia. After Monrovia, Buchanan, Harper, and Greenville are the largest port cities; Gbarnga, Kakata, Sanniquellie, Zorzor, and Ghanpa are major interior towns.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Liberia. The UN estimated that 6.5% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.

MIGRATION

The Liberian civil war caused a great amount of migration in the early 1990s. In May 1997, there were still 210,000 refugees in Côte d'Ivoire, 420,000 in Guinea, 17,000 in Ghana, 14,000 in Sierra Leone, and 6,000 in Nigeria. Since the beginning of 1997, the situation in Liberia has improved as the warring factions have been disarmed. Repatriation is only possible after the rainy season ends in October and the roads become passable again; however, between 1997 and 1999, as many as 120,000 refugees were repatriated back to Liberia. Insurgencies that struck Lofa County in April and August 1999 caused major setbacks for the programs of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as Lofa has been the single-largest county of return for Liberian refugees, mainly from Guinea.

As of 1999, Liberia was host to 90,000 refugees from Sierra Leone. In that year all Liberian refugees who had fled were presumed to have returned to their homeland. In March 2003, armed conflict between the government and two rebel groups spread to nine of Liberia's fifteen counties. A ceasefire agreement was broken soon after signing. The end of the 14-year civil war that killed a quarter of a million people, uprooted almost a third of the population, and left the country's infrastructure in ruins did not occur until 2005. A 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force restored security to the country and disarmed and demobilized over 100,000 former fighters, allowing presidential elections to be held in November 2005.

According to UNHCR, by the end of 2004 there was an internally displaced population of 498,566 in Liberia. In addition, there were 56,872 returned refugees. In 2004 Liberia had 15,172 refugees from other countries (mainly from Côte d'Ivoire) and 5 asylum seekers. In that same year, Liberia ranked eighth-highest for the origin of refugees, with 335,500 by year end in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and the United States. In that same year over 5,000 Liberians sought asylum in Ghana, Guinea, Italy, Germany and France.

Net migration rates have vacillated widely. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated zero migrants per 1,000 population, compared to 36.5 migrants per 1,000 population in 2000. These were significant changes from 1990, when the net migration rate stood at -27.0 per 1,000 population.

ETHNIC GROUPS

Indigenous African tribes constitute 95% of the population. Besides the descendants of the early settlers, Liberia is peopled by about 28 ethnic groups, each with its own language. They are believed to have migrated from the north and east between the 12th and 16th centuries ad, bringing with them elements of Egyptian and Arabian culture, such as the spinning and weaving of cotton and the smelting of iron. Linguistically, the tribes may be divided into three main groups: the Mande people in the north and far west, the Kru tribes (including the Krahn) in the east and southeast, and the Mel in the northwest. The largest groups are the Kpellé, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella. About 2.5% of the population is Americo-Liberian, descendants of immigrants from the United States who had been slaves. There are also two tribes not strictly Liberian: the Mandingo, who are itinerant Muslim traders, and the Fanti fishermen, who come from Ghana and stay a few years at a time in Liberia.

Because of intermarriage and an aggressive national unification program, tribal divisions are rapidly becoming less distinct, especially around the capital. Nevertheless, there is a strong tendency among the indigenous people to preserve their tribal identities.

Of the non-African resident population, the biggest component consists of Lebanese and Syrians.

LANGUAGES

English is the official language, but only a minority of the people (about 20%) can speak or write it. The tribal people use their own languages, of which there are about 20. Of these, Vai, Bassa, and Loma can be written and are being used in correspondence by these tribes. The international phonetic alphabet, introduced by missionaries, has facilitated the use of many of the other tribal languages for correspondence and publication of local newsletters.

RELIGIONS

The early settlers, freed American slaves, brought with them the culture and religion of the US deep South of the slavery era. Their descendants are generally adherents of Protestant denominations. It is estimated that about 40% of the population practice Christianity exclusively or in combination with traditional indigenous religions. Christian denominations include Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME), AME Zionist, and several Pentecostal churches. About 20% of the population practice Islam. Mandingo traders, who live mainly in the northern and eastern counties, have made many Muslim converts and Egyptian and Pakistani Muslim missionaries have been active since 1956. About 40% of the population practice traditional indigenous religions exclusively. Veneration of ancestors forms the core of most Liberian traditional religion. There is also a small Baha'i community.

Though the law prohibits religious discrimination, there have been reports of violence and discrimination against Muslims and Islamic leaders complain of both social and political discrimination. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. The Inter-Religious Council of Liberia is a well-known national group that seeks mutual understanding between faiths and also promotes peace between the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).

TRANSPORTATION

In 2002 there were an estimated 10,600 km (6,586 mi) of public roads, of which only about 657 km (408 mi) were paved. Private roads built by rubber and lumber companies were mostly laterite-surfaced roads. Important paved roads connect Monrovia to the interior as far as the Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire borders. There is major deterioration reported on all highways due to lack of maintenance since the civil war began. In 2003, there were 12,000 registered passenger autos, and 35,950 commercial vehicles. Except for short-line buses, virtually all of Liberia's common carriers are taxicabs.

Railroad lines in Liberia, as of 2004, consisted of 490 km (304 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railways, of which the bulk (345 km/215 mi) were standard gauge lines. Of Liberia's three railways, all were owned by foreign steel and financial interests in conjunction with the Liberian Government, and used for the transportation of iron ore from mines to the ports of Buchanan and Monrovia. One of these, the Lamco Railroad, closed in 1989 after iron ore production ceased. The other two were shut down by the civil war. Large sections of the rail lines have been dismantled, and an estimated 60 km (37 mi) was exported for scrap.

The Free Port of Monrovia, opened in 1948, underwent substantial improvements during the late 1960s, so that ships with a draft up to 14 m (45 ft) can now be handled. A port used primarily for iron ore export was opened at Buchanan in 1963. These two deepwater ports handle over 98% of all cargo. Smaller ports, located at Greenville and Harper, handle mainly log exports. Many foreign-owned ships are registered in Liberia because of low fees and lenient labor laws. Liberia's registered merchant fleet in 2005 totaled 1,465 vessels (1,000 GRT or over) with 50,555,752 GRT.

Robertsfield, 58 km (36 mi) from Monrovia, is the site of the sole international airport. In 2004, there were an estimated 53 airports, of which only 2 had paved runways as of 2005. Medium-sized jets and small aircraft, including those of Air Liberia, provide service from Spriggs Payne Airport on the outskirts of Monrovia to destinations within Liberia.

HISTORY

It is believed that many of the peoples of Liberia migrated there from the north and east between the 12th and 16th centuries ad. Portuguese explorers first visited the coast in 1461, and Europeans traded with coastal tribes during the next three centuries. Modern Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed slaves from the United States. They were sent to Africa under the auspices of the American Colonization Society, a private organization whose purpose was "to promote and execute a plan for colonizing in Africa, with their own consent, the free people of color residing in the United States." The first settlement was on Providence Island near where the present capital city, Monrovia, is located. Although the Society, with the help of the United States government under President James Monroe (after whom Monrovia is named), had arranged with local chiefs for a settlement, the colonists were attacked by indigenous peoples, disease, and barely maintained their foothold.

The first governors of the settlement were agents appointed by the Colonization Society, but in 1847 Americo-Liberians established the Republic of Liberia under a constitution modeled after that of the United States. The state seal shows a ship at anchor in a tropical harbor, and bears the inscription, "The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here." Thus began over a 130 years of Americo-Liberian domination over the 16 indigenous ethnic groups within Liberia's borders.

Emigration to Liberia continued until the close of the US Civil War, during which about 14,000 settlers went to Liberia under the auspices of the Society, and some 5,700 captives, liberated from slave ships on the high seas by the US Navy, were sent by the US government.

Although the United States refused to extend diplomatic recognition to independent Liberia until the civil war, several European governments did, including Britain and France. However, as the scramble for Africa reached its feverish pitch, Liberia's "century of survival" began. Neighboring British and French colonial powers, on one pretext or another, and by force of arms, encroached upon the infant republic. During the last quarter of the 19th century, Liberia lost considerable resource-rich territory to adjoining British and French colonies. Pressure on Liberia's borders continued well into the 20th century.

Added to these dangers was Liberia's precarious economic position. In the 1870s, Liberia contracted for a $500,000 loan from European sources. Because of increasing world competition from Brazilian coffee, European sugar beets, and steamers, Liberia was unable to generate sufficient export revenue, and defaulted on this loan. Recession forced Liberia into a series of ever larger loans. Liberians were further compelled to allow collection of customs revenues by Europeans and Americans. Eventually, Liberia was able to secure a $5-million loan from a US firm, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., which set up rubber plantations in the country in 1926. The depression of the 1930s brought Liberia to the verge of bankruptcy, and government revenues fell in 1933 to a low of $321,000.

In the early 1930s, Liberia's political sovereignty was also severely threatened. Accusations had begun to circulate internationally that Liberian laborers, with the complicity of high government officials, were being recruited for shipment to the Spanish island of Fernando Póo (now Bioko, in Equatorial Guinea) under conditions that resembled slave trading. A commission of inquiry, set up by the League of Nations at the request of Liberia's President Charles D. B. King, found some basis for the charges and implicated the vice president, who was forced to resign. President King also resigned.

Exportation of rubber from the new Firestone plantations began in 1934. The establishment of a US air base in Liberia during World War II and the building of an artificial harbor at Monrovia further stimulated the country's development. William V. S. Tubman, elected president in 1944 and reelected for five additional terms, sought to unify the country by attempting to bridge the wide economic, political, and social gaps between the descendants of the original American ex-slaves and the tribal peoples of the interior. President Tubman, affectionately called "Uncle Shad," died at the age of 74, after 27 years in office. He was known as the "Maker of Modern Liberia" for his open door policy of unrestricted foreign investment and his Unification Policy.

Upon his death in 1971, Vice-President William R. Tolbert, Jr. assumed the reigns of power. Tolbert was nominated by the True Whigs, Liberia's only legal political party, and, having been elected without opposition in October 1975, was inaugurated for an eight-year term in January 1976. Unfortunately, Tolbert's term coincided with a deep economic depression, which sparked Liberia's colonial revolution. The Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) organized a protest against proposed increases in the price of rice. The meeting turned violent resulting in looting. Tolbert was forced to subsidize rice to restore order, a sign that the True Whig government was coming to an end.

Doe Takes Power

On 12 April 1980 army enlisted men staged a coup. Tolbert and at least 26 supporters were killed in the fighting. Thirteen officials were publicly executed 10 days later. The People's Redemption Council (PRC) led by Sgt. Samuel K. Doe, a Krahn tribesman, became head of state. Doe suspended the constitution, but a return to civilian rule was promised for 1985. Despite two coups attempts in 1981, the government declared an amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles. Forty political prisoners were released in September of that year, and another 20 were released in December. A draft constitution providing for a multiparty republic was issued in 1983 and approved by referendum in 1984.

In the elections of 15 October 1985, nine political parties sought to challenge Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), but only three were allowed to take part. Doe was elected with 51% of the vote, and the NDPL won 21 of the 26 Senate seats and 51 of the 64 seats in the House of Representatives. Foreign observers declared the elections fraudulent, and most of the elected opposition candidates refused to take their seats.

In November 1985, military leader Thomas Quiwonkpa and an estimated 500 to 600 people died in an unsuccessful coup attemptthe seventh since Doe took power. Krahn troops retaliated, killing thousands of Gio, considered supporters of the coup leaders. In late December 1989, a small group of insurgents calling themselves the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by Charles Taylor invaded Liberia. The rebel invasion soon pitted ethnic Krahn sympathetic to the regime against those victimized by it, Gio and Mano. Thousands of civilians were massacred on both sides. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes.

By June 1990, Taylor's forces laid siege to Monrovia. A third force led by Prince Yormie Johnson, split from the NPFL. Johnson quickly controlled parts of Monrovia prompting evacuation of foreign nationals and diplomats by the US Navy in August. To restore order, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) created the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) comprising some 4,000 troops from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Guinea.

ECOWAS invited the principal Liberian players to meet in Banjul, Gambia to form a government of national unity. Exiled members of Liberia's leading political parties and associations elected Dr. Amos Sawyer, leader of the LPP to head an interim government of national unity (IGNU). Bishop Ronald Diggs of the Liberian Council of Churches became vice president. However, Taylor's NPFL refused to attend the conference, and the AFL, which formerly supported Doe, and the INPFL allied themselves against Taylor. Within days clashes erupted.

On 9 September 1990, Johnson's forces captured Doe at the port. His torture and execution were videotaped by his captors. ECOMOG was reinforced in order to protect the interim government headed by Dr. Sawyer. Sawyer was able to establish his authority over most of Monrovia, but the rest of Liberia was in the hands of various factions of the NPFL or of local gangs.

Repeated attempts to get Taylor and Johnson to cooperate with Sawyer proved fruitless. The war spilled into Sierra Leone, further complicating peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts. In April 1996, violence escalated in Monrovia. Roving gangs of heavily armed, leaderless teenagers recklessly sprayed the city with machine-gun fire and grenade launchers. More than 3,000 people were killed in the next two months and nearly every building in the capital suffered damage. Looters targeted international relief organizations for their radios, medicines, and cars.

On 8 May 1996, after more than 150,000 deaths and 13 peace accords, Liberia's four principal militias approved a peace plan that required an immediate halt to fighting, the removal of weapons and ammunition from the capital city of Monrovia, and the return of about $20 million worth of vehicles and equipment stolen from international relief organizations. Additional troops from Ghana, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin were brought in to enforce the peace accords, bringing the total number of foreign peacekeeping troops to 13,000. Meanwhile, it was apparent that disagreements over establishing an electoral commission and other difficulties in preparations would delay the proposed elections.

On 19 July 1997 some 500 international observers, including former US president Jimmy Carter, monitored the elections. They reported peaceful, mostly free and fair elections, although runners-up Johnson-Sirleaf and Kromah complained of irregularities. The official results gave Taylor the victory with 75.3% of the vote, while Johnson-Sirleaf obtained 9.6%. Taylor's National Patriotic Party (NPP) took 49 House seats and 21 seats in the Senate (out of 64 and 26 total seats respectively). On 2 August Taylor was inaugurated. He appointed a cabinet with some members of the transitional administration, and he established a nine-member national security council to maintain civil order.

Although insecurity prevailed in parts of Liberia, especially Lofa County, the last ECOMOG troops began leaving the country in October 1999. In July 1999, Taylor presided over the burning of a huge stockpile of weapons. By May 2000, much of Liberia was still in ruins, but international donors had made some progress in restoring agricultural production, reintegrating ex-combatants, and helping refugees and internally displaced persons resettle in their home areas.

Renewed fighting in 2000 led to a declaration of a state of emergency on 8 February 2002. Taylor lifted the emergency in September 2002, but by February-March 2003, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) had made gains deep into territory previously held by government troops. Under ECOWAS supervision, the two sides met in Bamako in March 2003, the first such official encounter, and peace talks continued in Accra, Ghana. On 17 June, the two sides signed a cease-fire with commitments to a transition government without Taylor, but three days later Taylor declared that he would serve out his term to January 2004 with the possibility of seeking reelection.

On 11 August 2003, Taylor succumbed to international pressure, handed power over to his vice president, Moses Blah, and sought asylum in Nigeria where he has remained in exile. A week later, under the auspices of ECOWAS and the international donor 'Contact Group' (ICGL), the government, the LURD, and a new rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model), signed a peace accord in Accra providing for an interim government, the National Transition Government of Liberia (NTGL) led by businessman, Gyudeh Bryant.

A National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), composed of warring factions, political parties, representatives of the counties, special interests, and civil society, replaced the House of Representatives and the Senate. A 15,000-strong peacekeeping forcethe UN Mission in Liberia(UNMIL) was established with a one-year mandate to enforce the peace. The mandate was later extended until March 2006. UNMIL began to demobilize and disarm combatants, but because donors underestimated the number of soldiers, funds were insufficient to implement rehabilitation and reintegration. Repatriation through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of the estimated 350,000 Liberian refugees has been slow, but some 100,000 refugees were thought to have returned on their own.

The political transition formally ended following the 11 October 2005 election between front-runners George Weah, an internationally renowned soccer (football) player, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated international civil servant and national politician. Despite protests of fraud by Weah's youthful supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the winner on the 8 November second-round ballot with 59.6% of the vote to Weah's 40.4%. The new government was formed on 6 January 2006, making Johnson-Sirleaf Africa's first woman head of state.

Pressure for Taylor's extradition to face trial for alleged war crimes was mounting into 2006. His extradition was demanded by the UN Special Court of Sierra Leone, which charged him with 17 counts of war crimes. In addition, over 300 African and international human rights and activist groups and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded his extradition. However, unless sufficient evidence supporting the allegations was available, Nigeria stated that it would not hand Taylor over. In February 2006, it was announced that Johnson-Sirleaf had inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed 19792003, marking the end of civil war.

GOVERNMENT

The Liberian republic is modeled after the United States. Its constitution approved on 3 July 1984 and effective 6 January 1986, provides for a president and vice president elected jointly by universal suffrage (at age 18) for a six-year term with a limit of two consecutive terms. Candidacy is again allowed after the lapse of at least one term. The president is both the chief of state and head of government. He or she nominates judges from a list submitted by a commission, serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has the right to veto legislation. Vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses. The legislature is divided into a Senate, its 26 members elected by counties for nine years, and a House of Representatives, its 64 members elected by equally apportioned constituencies for six years.

The constitution proscribes the one-party state and guarantees fundamental rights, such as free speech, press, and assembly. The president has the right to suspend certain rights by declaring a state of emergency in cases of war or serious civil unrest. A state of emergency, which must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses, does not empower the president to suspend or abrogate the constitution, dissolve the legislature, suspend or dismiss the judiciary, or suspend the right of habeas corpus. The constitution guarantees fundamental freedoms to all persons irrespective of ethnic background. But because of the country's unique history, the constitution stipulates that "only persons who are Negro or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia," and only citizens may own land.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The president and all members of the legislature were formerly members of the True Whig Party, which was organized in 1860 and held power continuously from 1878 to 1980. The Progressive People's Party (PPP), formed in 1979, claimed to represent the interests of Liberia's indigenous peoples, in contrast to the Americo-Liberian stance of the True Whigs.

In March 1980, several PPP members were arrested, a move that may have triggered the April coup. Although all political activity was banned, many True Whig members retained their government posts.

The National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), established by former president Samuel K. Doe, was victorious in the 1985 elections. The newly formed Unity Party, Liberian Action Party, and Liberian Unification Party were allowed to take part in these elections. The United People's Party (UPP), probably the largest opposition grouping, was founded by Gabriel Baccus Matthews, formerly head of the PPP. The UPP was not allowed to field candidates in 1985 but was legalized in 1986. The National Patriotic Party (NPP) was led by Charles Taylor.

In May 2000, the opposition led by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, formed a loose coalition of eleven entities called the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which aimed to present a common candidate in 2003. In mid-2001, several key opposition leaders including Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf met in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss political strategies. The opposition made a number of demands, which it advanced as pre-conditions before going to elections. Among these were the restructuring the armed forces as stipulated by the Abuja Accords, holding elections for chiefs and mayors, conducting a census, dissolving NPP party cells in the civil service, stopping 'illegal' funding of the NPP, guaranteeing opposition parties equal air time and reconstituting the elections commission (ECOM). Opposition political activity upcountry has been virtually nonexistent because of extreme insecurity.

In June 2003, Charles Taylor's NPP, held 49 of 64 House seats, and 21 of 26 Senate seats. The Unity Party held 7 House seats and 3 Senate seats. The All Liberia Coalition Party held 3 House seats and 2 Senate seats. Three other parties held the 5 remaining House seats among themselves.

In the first round of the 2005 elections, George Weah emerged with around 28% of the vote, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with 20%, and Charles Brumskine was third with 12%. Neither the Mandingo-backed LURD, nor the Krahn-dominated and Côte d'Ivoirebacked Model were able to transform themselves into political parties. In the Senate, the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) won 7 seats followed by the NPP 4, the CDC, 3; the Liberian Party (LP) of Charles Brumskine, 3; the Unity Party (UP) of Charles Clarke, 3; and the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) of Togba-na Tipoteh, 3. In the House of Representatives, the CDC secured 15 seats followed by the LP, 9; UP, 8; COTOL, 8; APD, 5; and NPP, 4. The next presidential and Senate elections were scheduled for 2014 and House of Representatives elections for 2011.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Liberia is divided into 13 counties, 2 territories, and the federal district of Monrovia. The counties are Grand Cape Mount, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Maryland, River Cess, Bomi, Grand Kru, Margibi, Lofa, Borg, Grand Gedah, Nimba, and Montserrado. The territories are Marshall and Gibi.

The central government is supposed to appoint the county and territory superintendents. Counties are subdivided into districts headed by commissioners. There are also paramount, clan, and town chiefs. Cities elect their own mayors and councils.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The legal system is closely modeled on that of the United States. The 6 January 1986 constitution provides for the establishment of a Supreme Court consisting of a chief justice and four associate justices, to be appointed by the president from a panel recommended by a Judicial Service Commission. The consent of the Senate is required for these appointments and for the confirmation of lower court judges, to which a similar procedure applies. In theory, cases originate in magistrates' courts and may be taken for appeal to one of 10 circuit courts or to the highest court. Serious cases originate in the circuit courts. Traditional courts are presided over by tribal chiefs. A labor court was created in 1986.

For many years, the judicial system has suffered from corruption and domination by the executive. By mid-1990 the system had collapsed and justice administration was co-opted by the military commanders of various factions. In 1991, the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNV), revived the court system in the Monrovia area, and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) reopened courts in the areas under its control. After 1997, donors trained paralegals and human rights monitors to protect citizens up-country, and the US Department of Justice rebuilt magistrate courts, compiled 30 years of Supreme Court decisions, and published the Liberian Code so that judges and lawyers could have recourse to those decisions. Rebuilding the courts was expected to become a major thrust of the Johnson-Sirleaf government.

ARMED FORCES

As of 2005, active armed forces numbered between 11,000 and 14,000 personnel, including militias supportive of the government. Plans for a reorganized military include an army, navy, and an air force. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $1 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Liberia is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 2 November 1945; it takes part in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as UNESCO, FAO, ILO, the World Bank, UNIDO, IMF, and the WHO. Liberia belongs to the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, G-77, the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. The government is participating in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Liberia has participated in various African conferences and has advocated a cooperative association of African states to further such matters of mutual concern as public health, education, and trade. A customs bloc, the Mano River Union, was established in 1973 with Sierra Leone and Guinea. Leaders of the three countries signed a nonaggression and antisubversion pact in 1986. Technical assistance activities of the UN in Liberia have emphasized agricultural development, teaching, vocational training, and control of yaws and malaria. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established in 2003 to serve as a peacekeeping operation in support of the transitional government. At least 48 nations have offered support for UNMIL. Liberia is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Liberia is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.

ECONOMY

The Liberian economy has come to a virtual standstill since civil war broke out in 1989. The country has an agricultural economy with the majority of the population earning its living in this sector. The principal crops are rice, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, sugar cane, and cassava. Financial mismanagement and the effects of civil war have divided the country into two economic zones, one centered in and around the major urban centers, the other comprising the bulk of the country's rural hinterland. Although the country is rich in natural resourcesparticularly minerals (gold, diamonds, and iron ore) and forestslittle investment has entered the country since hostilities began. The 1996 Abuja peace accords initially provided some hope of an economic recovery in the coming decade, but fighting broke out again in 1999 and was ongoing in 2003. In August 2003, a comprehensive peace agreement ended 14 years of civil war and led to the resignation of former president, Charles Taylor, who was exiled to Nigeria. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to power. However, the security situation is still volatile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country remains sluggish.

Even prior to the civil war, Liberia faced serious financial problems. Deficits created in the 1970s were deepened by a wave of military spending resulting from the 1980 coup. To try to compensate, cuts in civil service salaries and currency manipulation were used as policy tools. A US-led effort to bring better fiscal management to the Liberian economy failed, and in 1988 the World Bank closed its offices in Monrovia. In March of 1990, the IMF threatened to expel Liberia for nonpayment of its debt.

The civil war has left most of Liberia's infrastructure in shambles. Businessmen and capital have left the country and continuing turmoil has prevented normal economic life. The remaining economic assets were plundered or destroyed by factional forces. In addition, President Charles Taylor's support for rebels fighting in Sierra Leone negatively impacted the climate for foreign investment. Although there are no official statistics, it is estimated that 85% of the population was unemployed in 2003 and that GDP grew at a negative rate of 31.3% during this year. However, with the end of political turmoil, GDP grew at a rate of 8% in 2005.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Liberia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $2.6 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8%. The average inflation rate in 2003 was 15%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 76.9% of GDP, industry 5.4%, and services 17.7%.

Foreign aid receipts amounted to $107 million or about $32 per capita and accounted for approximately 28.3% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Liberia totaled $420 million or about $124 per capita based on a GDP of $442.0 million, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.

It was estimated that in 2002 about 80% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

Since the tribal people of the interior form the bulk of the population and engage primarily in subsistence agriculture, there were few skilled laborers in Liberia until recent years. Although there is still a dearth of highly skilled mechanics and technicians, an increasing number of Liberians are becoming able plant and machine operators. Approximately 70% of workers were engaged in agriculture, with 22% in services, and 8% in industry as of 2000. As of 2003 there has been only a gradual economic recovery since the civil war, with an estimated 85% of the labor force unemployed.

Before the onslaught of civil war, the labor force totaled about 1,349,000 persons. In 1988, total civilian employment stood at 701,000 and unemployment at 43%. The principal private employer then was Firestone, with 9,000 employees in 1987. The policy of foreign-owned companies has been to employ Liberian labor in the first instance and to encourage the training of skilled workers, especially in mechanical pursuits. There are still shortages of middleand higher-level technicians and managerial personnel. From time to time, labor shortages are reported in large agricultural enterprises. The government has enacted a minimum wage law, but the larger employers have generally paid wages in excess of the legal minimum.

The Labor Congress of Liberia (LCL), formed in 1951, was the first significant trade union. Following the first major strike in 1955, the LCL leadership was arrested and the union dissolved. In 1958, it was revived under the leadership of the Ministry for Social Affairs and functioned mainly as a government organ. As a protest against government interference in the LCL, the Congress of Industrial Organizations of Liberia (CIOL) was organized in 1960. The Liberian Federation of Labor Unions was formed in 1980 by a merger of the LCL and CIOL. In 2002, there were a total of 30 functioning unions with a total of 60,000 members, most of whom were unemployed. Despite their organized strength, unions have little actual power.

There are minimum working ages, statutory minimum wages, and occupational safety and health standards but none of these are effectively enforced. Child labor laws are similarly not enforced, especially in rural areas. Most people engage in any work available despite wages or conditions.

AGRICULTURE

Before the civil war, agriculture was the main source of livelihood for the great majority of Liberians. Except on plantations operated by foreign concessionaires and wealthy Liberians, farming techniques are primitive. The "bush rotation" system of shifting cultivation is followed, in which the farmer clears up to two hectares (five acres) of wild forest or low bush each year, lightly cultivates it with crude hand tools, and plants rice or cassava as the rainy season begins. In 2003, agriculture engaged about 70% of the labor force on 6.3% of the total land area. Estimated production of field crops in 2004 included cassava, 490,000 tons; sugarcane, 255,000 tons; and rice, 110,000 tons. The government maintains a retail price ceiling on rice. Rice and wheat productions are insufficient to meet local needs.

The rain forest soils, while well drained, are strongly leached, making Liberia better adapted to tree-crop agriculture than to annual field-crop production. The major rubber, rice, coffee, cocoa, vegetable, and fruit producing areas lie outside of Monrovia. Rubber is the leading cash crop, with production in 2004 estimated at 115,000 tons. Before the war, six foreign-owned concessions produced over two-thirds of the rubber crop, with Firestone's Harbel plantation as the biggest in the world. Firestone ended its long association with Liberian rubber production with the sale of its interests to the Japanese-owned Bridgestone in 1988.

The principal export crops produced by small farmers are coffee, oil palm nuts, sugarcane, and fruits. Estimated production in 2004 was coffee, 3,200 tons; palm oil, 42,000 tons; and palm kernels, 11,000 tons. Banana production came to 110,000 tons; plantains, 42,000 tons. In 2004, Liberia had an agricultural trade deficit of $21.7 million.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

The limited number of goats and sheep does not supply an adequate amount of protein for the Liberian diet, but poultry farming and marketing of eggs are on the increase; there were an estimated 5.3 million chickens in 2005. Experiments in crossing West African and Brahman cattle have not yet produced breeds resistant to the tsetse fly, but the potential remains for developing good beef animals. In 2005, Liberia had an estimated 220,000 goats, 210,000 sheep, 130,000 pigs, and 36,000 cattle.

FISHING

The fishing industry is dominated by the oceangoing trawlers of the Mesurado Fishing Co. The company also maintains a domestic distribution system that supplies a substantial amount of fish to the interior areas of the country. The total Liberian catch in 2003 was estimated at 11,314 tons.

FORESTRY

An estimated 31% of Liberia is covered by forest, its use largely confined to production of lumber for local needs. National forests constitute about 18% of the land area. In 2000, Liberia had 119,000 hectares (294,000 acres) of forest plantations. There were five major reforestation areas with a total of 4,260 hectares (10,500 acres). About 235 timber species grow in Liberia, of which 90 are potentially marketable, but natural stands of a single species are not common. This fact, plus difficulty of access and lack of practicable means of transportation, has tended to discourage commercial logging operations, despite the known existence of such valuable woods as African mahoganies and red ironwood. A number of foreign companies, mainly from the United States, have been granted concessions. The timber cut in 2004 yielded 5.912 million cu m (208.7 million cu ft) of roundwood, of which 94% was burned as fuel. Forest product exports in 2004 were valued at $97.7 million.

MINING

In 2004, mineral production in Liberia was limited to diamonds, hydraulic cement, and gold. Since December 1989, when mining revenues accounted for 22% of gross domestic product (GDP), the mining sector has been severely damaged by 14 years of civil war and political instability. Estimated production of gold in 2004 was 20 kg, unchanged from 2003. Diamond production in 2004 was estimated at 10,000 carats, down from an estimated 40,000 carats in 2003, and from an estimated 80,000 carats in 2002. All of the country's diamond production comes from artisanal alluvial mining. In 2004, the country also produced hydraulic cement, of which production in 2004 was an estimated 40,000 metric tons, up from an estimated 25,000 metric tons in 2003. Liberia's undeveloped resources included barite, chromium, kyanite, manganese, nickel, palladium, platinum, titaniferous sands, and uranium. Liberia's New Mining Law of 2000 gives the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy the responsibility of issuing four types of mining licenseexploration, Class A (for up to 25 years; are limited to 1,000 sq km; and are open to foreign investors), Class B (for 5 years; are renewable; allow mechanized production; and are open to foreign ownership), and Class C (covers artisanal mining; are good for one year intervals with expiration on December 31; and is open only to Liberians). Eastern Liberia was made up of rocks of Birimian age with significant potential for gold. Western Liberia was made up of rocks of Archean age that contained diamond, gold, iron ore, nickel, manganese, palladium, platinum, and uranium.

ENERGY AND POWER

Liberia, as of 1 January 2003, had no known reserves of crude oil or natural gas, and as of June 2003, no known recoverable reserves of coal. As a result, Liberia's demand for petroleum products, natural gas, and coal are met by imports. In 2002, Liberia's imports and demand for petroleum products each averaged 3,200 barrels per day. There were no recorded imports of coal in 2002 or imports of natural gas in 2003. However, Liberia has a small refining capacity, that as of 1 January 2003 was put at 15,000 barrels per day.

As of 2002, all of Liberia's electric generating capacity used fossil fuels. For that year, installed capacity was put at 0.330 million kW, with production at 0.489 billion kWh. Demand for electricity in 2002 came to 0.455 billion kWh.

INDUSTRY

Before the civil war, Liberia's industrial sector was dominated by processing plants associated with its key agricultural outputs: rubber, palm oil, and lumber. The Liberian-owned Mesurado Group manufactured detergent, soap, industrial gas, and animal foods. Liberia also produced soft drinks, cement, plastics, shoes, recycled steel, and refined petroleum products. In addition, Liberia's industrial base produced rice and sugar, cookies and candy, candles, foam rubber, hand tools and aluminum parts, umbrellas, and batteries.

Between 1990 and 1996, faction leaders and business accomplices exploited the industrial wealth of the country. Using forced labor, stolen goods, and fuel, they engaged in forestry, mining, and rubber production techniques that were environmentally unsound and threatened future industrial capacity. Profits from these enterprises were used to acquire more munitions. Increased fighting in 2003 further aggravated the poor industrial climate. In 2004, industry accounted for only 9.8% of GDP, 5% of which was attributed to manufacturing. The 1975 "Liberianization" law protects the production of rice, gasoline, and cement; and the operation of travel agencies, gas stations, and beer and soft drink distributors from foreign interference, despite free trade agreements.

Liberia was a leading purveyor of transportation for the world's merchant fleet, but its position has declined rapidly. In 1995, the Liberian fleet consisted of 1,601 vessels with a gross tonnage of 59.4 million tons. This represented a decline of over 55% since 1982, due primarily to civil war, a reduction in oil tanker numbers, competition from other registry states, and opposition to the open registry system itself. The port of Monrovia was not even operational in 1999.

The oil refinery at Monrovia was closed in 1984. No viable oil or natural gas deposits have been discovered, although limited oil exploration has occurred.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Liberia has an agricultural experiment station in Suakoko; a geological, mining, and metallurgical society in Monrovia; and a research laboratory for the Mt. Nimba region, with headquarters in Robertsfield. The University of Liberia, founded in 1862, has colleges of agriculture and forestry, medicine, and science and technology. Cuttington University College, originally founded in 1889, has a science division, and the William V. S. Tubman College of Technology, founded in 1978, offers a three-year associate degree in engineering technology. All three institutions, as well as the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research founded in 1952, are at Monrovia. Booker Washington Institute offers agricultural and industrial courses.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Before the civil war of 198996, internal trade was carried on mainly by large firms located in Monrovia with branches in other principal towns. However, conflict destroyed nearly all businesses and production facilities and most foreign investors left the country. The infrastructure around major cities also suffered. As of 2002, domestic trade and manufacturing was still limited. A small business sector has resumed operations, but primarily through Lebanese and Indian investors. The economy of the nation is highly dependent on revenues from maritime licensing and timber exports. About 70% of the nation's work force is employed in agriculture (2000 est.). Among rural peoples, trade is often by barter.

FOREIGN TRADE

Liberia had a history of trade surpluses before the war. Exports in 1998 were led by diamonds, followed by iron ore, rubber, and timber. Imports were led by mineral fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and rice and other foodstuffs. In 2004 rubber accounted for $93.4 million of exports, followed by cocoa which brought in $3.5 million, and others that accounted for a total of $6.9 million.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Liberia has a chronic payments deficit, with large capital outflows and debt-service payments. Since civil war broke out in 1989, exports of foreign currency-earning raw materials (iron, rubber, timber, diamonds, and gold) have plummeted, and massive emergency aid operations began.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Liberia's exports was $110 million while imports totaled $295 million resulting in a trade deficit of $185 million.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

In 1974, the government established the National Bank of Liberia. It became the exclusive banker and fiscal agent of the government, introduced reserve requirements for commercial banks, and undertook their supervision. Liberia's commercial banks had their main offices in Monrovia. The Liberian Bank for Development and Investment was established in November 1965 to provide additional mediumand long-term financial aid to worthwhile industrial projects. A National Housing and Savings Bank was established in 1972, with priority given to low-cost public housing. An Agricultural and Cooperative Development Bank provided credit to facilitate capital investment in agriculture.

In the 1980s, Liberia was plagued by the outflow and hoarding of US dollars, the only legal notes. The government minted a l$5 coin to restore liquidity, but this action only led to more hoarding of US bills, which traded informally at a premium compared to similarly denominated Liberian coins.

In November 1996, the chairwoman of the ruling Council of State, Ruth Perry, imposed a freeze on all government spending. She said the step was necessary to stabilize state finances and provide for civil service salaries, many of which had not been paid for months. The only bill in circulation in 1999 was the l$5 piece. Banks were only available as a repository for funds and did not pay interest or make loans. Banks operating in 1999 included the International Trust Company of Liberia, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), the National Bank of Liberia, the National House and Savings Bank (NHSB), and the Tradevco Bank.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $35.1 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $58.5 million.

INSURANCE

There is no information available on insurance.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Government budgets, roughly in balance up to the mid-1970s, have since run heavily into deficit. Since civil war erupted in 1989, Liberia's fiscal management has collapsed. The country relies heavily on foreign aid, especially from the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, China, and Romania. In recent years, Taiwan and Libya have surfaced as the largest direct donors to the Liberian government.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 Liberia's central government took in revenues of approximately $85.4 million and had expenditures of $90.5 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$5.1 million. Total external debt was $3.2 billion.

TAXATION

Before civil conflict began in Liberia, concession agreements negotiated between foreign interests and the Liberian government often provided tax exemption or modification for periods of 10, or more, years after the start of operations.

A moderately progressive tax on net income earned from Liberian sources by individuals, partnerships, and corporations was the largest source of government revenue. Net income was taxed at rates ranging from 11% to a maximum of 65% on income over $99,000. Corporate tax rates ranged from 2034% of taxable income with marginal rates of up to 50%.

An additional national reconstruction tax of up to 8% on income over $1,000, was imposed in 1981, and was still in effect in 1991. Also levied were a sales tax of 0.52%, inheritance and gift taxes, and social security payroll taxes. In 2003, the violent chaos into which the society had descended while waiting on the international community to send aid made most questions about the tax regime irrelevant. In recent history, Liberia's wealth has been smuggled out, not taxed. In 1999, for instance, imports were improbably over three times the reported exports, a sign that not all exports were being reported. Of the $60 million in tax revenue collected in 1999, only 22.4% came from income taxes on corporations and individuals. Sales taxes accounted for another 16%. The main sources of tax revenue have been import duties (almost 30%) and fees paid to Liberia's "flags of convenience" maritime registry (more than 23%).

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Imports are subject to tariff duties, ranging from 2.525%, which constitute a major source of government income. Import duties are specific (based on weight) for some commodities, ad valorem (based on cost, insurance, and freight value) for others. Specific duties apply to foodstuffs, beverages, petroleum products, and certain rubber and textile products. All exports and some imports require licenses. Customs duties are 25% on luxury items such as alcoholic beverages, apparel, cosmetics, electronics, jewelry, and tobacco.

Goods may be landed, stored, sorted, manufactured, repacked, reforwarded, or transshipped within the area of the Free Port of Monrovia without payment of customs duties, but the port was closed as of 1999.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Liberia has historically maintained an "open door" policy toward foreign investment, but since 1989 this policy has given way to the protectionist practices of the government. It has allowed a limited period of exemption from certain types of taxes and permits an unrestricted flow of dividend payments, but only in certain sectors. A 1975 "Liberalization" Law prohibits foreign ownership in many small and medium operations (such as travel agencies, gas stations, beer and soft drink distributors) and mandates the employment of Liberians at all levels. The law is often ignored but can also be invoked at any time.

In 1989, interest on long-term debt stood at 105% of exports. Attempts to bring financial stability to the economy failed dramatically in the early 1990s with the failure of the US-sponsored oversight mission and the breakdown in relations between Liberia and the IMF. Liberia plunged into a civil war from 1990 to 1997, which besides causing upwards of 150,000 deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands, destroyed the country's infrastructure. The end of the fighting, with Charles Taylor's accession to power as the only way to deter his followers from further destruction, brought little relief since his administration did not fulfill promises to fix what they had "broke." Professions of adherence to principles of free trade and an open door to foreign investment also rung hollow as the state established monopolies in rice growing, gasoline distribution, cement import, and cement production. The free port at Monrovia continued to operate, but stevedore services have been monopolized by the National Port Authority, canceling the contracts of seven other companies. Corruption reached to the highest levels during Charles's Taylor's administration.

Most of Liberia's principal enterprises were foreign owned before the civil war, with US investmentabout $300 million in 1987foremost. Substantial investments were also made by the British, French, Swedish, Israelis, Swiss, Dutch, Italians, and Lebanese. After the civil war, some US companies resumed (Firestone) or began operations (some gold mining companies). However, most investors have been deterred by the regime's failure to meet IMF targets, pervasive corruption, arbitrary administration, and the reemergence of violent rebellion.

In 1997 and 1998, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow averaged $15.5 million a year. From 1999 to 2001, average FDI inflow was $11.3 million. According to the World Bank publication, World Investment Report, 2005, foreign direct investment into Liberia was almost nonexistent in 2002 and 2003 (about $3 million and $1 million respectively) but did increase modestly in 2004 to $20 million, following the end of the civil war.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The civil war and international financial obligations dim the prospects of economic development. While refugee resettlement looms as an early postwar priority, future economic development depends on reestablishing international confidence in Liberia's financial management.

Liberia formed the Mano River Union (MRU) with Guinea and Sierra Leone, to promote development and regional economic integration. Although the civil war caused the MRU to become all but defunct, in 2002 discussions on reviving the MRU took place. Foreign assistance to Liberia has declined, but Taiwan and Libya remain the largest donors of direct financial aid to the country. Western countries avoid direct aid to the government by sending assistance through international aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In 2003, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended Liberia's voting rights in the Fund. As of February 2003, Liberia's arrears to the IMF amounted to $685 million.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that for quite sometime wealthy international donors, who are ready to assist reconstruction efforts in postwar Liberia, were withholding funding until Liberia's National Assembly signed onto a Governance and Economic Management Action Plan (GEMAP). The Plan was created by the International Contact Group for Liberia to help ensure transparent revenue collection and allocationsomething that was lacking under the transitional government and that has limited Liberia's economic recovery. This plan was agreed to and officially signed into law by the chairman of the transitional government, Gyude Bryant, on September 15th, 2005. The reconstruction of infrastructure and the raising of incomes in this ravaged economy will largely depend on generous financial support and technical assistance from the donor community under GEMAP.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A social insurance and social assistance program was implemented in 1972. The current program covers public employees and employees of firms with five or more workers. The pension program is funded by equal contributions from employers and employees, while welfare is funded by the government. Work injury laws area also in place. Workers' medical benefits include reasonable expenses for medical and surgical care, hospitalization, drugs, and appliances. However, most programs and institutions were disrupted by warfare.

In 2005, after 14 years of civil war, a Harvard-educated woman was elected president of Liberia. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is said to be a beacon of hope for women in Africa. However, rights for most women in the country are limited. Rural women remain largely subordinate in both public and private life. Women married under civil law have inheritance and property rights, but women married under tribal laws are considered property of their husbands. Domestic violence is widespread, and abused women have no recourse. Female genital mutilation is practiced by some ethnic groups.

Ethnic discrimination is explicitly prohibited by law. Despite this provision, citizenship is legally available only to blacks. Only citizens can own land, and noncitizens are restricted from owning certain types of businesses. The government had a poor human rights record, which includes disappearances, and beatings and torture by security forces.

HEALTH

Liberia has one of Africa's highest fertility rates; in 2000 it averaged six children for every woman surviving through her childbearing years. Average life expectancy was 38.89 years in 2005, one of the shortest in the world. As of 2004, there were an estimated 2 physicians, 6 nurses, and 4 midwives per 100,000 people. Only about 39% of the population has access to health care services. Few Liberians had access to safe water (40%) and sanitation (24%) in 1994. More recent figures are unavailable.

Programs such as the Combating Childhood Communicable Diseases Program are credited with reducing mortality rates for children five and under. The infant mortality rate was 161.99 per 1,000 live births in 2005, the fourth highest in the world. The maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths per 100,000 live births. Contraceptive use is low. The level of measles immunization has dropped by 11% in the last few years from 55% in 1988 to 44% in 1994 (the most recent year for which figures are available). From 1990 to 1994, children up to one year were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 84%; diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, 43%; and polio, 45%.

The general mortality rate in 2002 was an estimated 16 per 1,000 people. The Liberian staple diet of rice or cassava (manioc) is deficient in protein and children in particular suffer because of this. The major causes of death are malaria and gastrointestinal disease, attributable in part to poor sanitation. AIDS is a serious problem in Liberia. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 5.90 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 100,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 7,200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Nearly 900,000 women, or 60% of the female population, suffer female genital mutilation. Although the Liberian government has published policy opposing female genital mutilation, no law currently prohibits its use.

HOUSING

In the aftermath of the 198996 civil war from, over 60,000 families were displaced or living in very poor housing conditions. About 80% of the total housing stock was affected by the war. During the 1980s (the latest period for which housing data is available), the number of dwellings more than doubled, from 216,206 in 1981 to 500,000 as of 1988, with 4.8 people per dwelling.

The 19982000 National Reconstruction Program placed housing issues as a priority for government consideration. This was followed by the formulation of a five-year plan (200105) which also focused on reconstruction and new construction of adequate housing.

Many of the older corrugated-iron structures in Monrovia have been replaced with more modern dwellings, and houses of advanced design have been privately built to accommodate the growing urban population. The typical dwelling of the tribal people in the Liberian interior is the rondavel, a circular, one-room mud-and-wattle thatch-roofed hut, windowless and with a single low door. These rondavels are being replaced by large rectangular huts, also of mud and wattle, subdivided into two or more rooms and equipped with windows.

EDUCATION

Education is compulsory from ages 6 to 16. Elementary school (primary) covers six years of study. This is followed by three years of junior high and three years of senior high school. The largest secondary school is the Booker Washington Institute, a vocational school located at Kakata, with about 1,500 students. The academic year runs from March to December.

In 2001, about 56% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated at about 70% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 18% of age-eligible students; 22.8% for boys and 13% for girls. It is estimated that about 21% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 38:1 in 2003.

There are three institutions of higher learning: the government-operated University of Liberia in Monrovia (established in 1862); Cuttington University College at Monrovia, an Episcopalian institution; and a three-year engineering school, the William V. S. Tubman College of Technology, founded at Monrovia in 1978. In 2001, there were about 44,000 students enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 55.9%, with 72.3% for men and 39.3% for women.

On average, 11% of the government's total annual budget is allocated to education.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The government maintains a central public library in Monrovia, with 15,000 volumes. UNESCO also operates a library in Monrovia, and the Liberian Information Service has a research library in the same city. The University of Liberia and the Cuttington University College libraries have been slowly rebuilding their stock of books following looting during the 1990s.

The National Museum of Liberia is housed in the renovated Supreme Court building in Monrovia and the Tubman Center of African Cultures is located in Robertsport. Other museums include the National Cultural Center in Cape Mount, the Africana Museum at Monrovia, the W. V. S. Tubman Library-Museum at Harper, and the Natural History Museum at the University of Liberia.

MEDIA

In 2003, there were an estimated two mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there was approximately one mobile phone in use for every 1,000 people.

The first national television station was opened early in 1964; although government owned, it is partly commercial. The state-owned Liberian Broadcasting System operates one service that does not have national range. As of 2005, there were five FM radio stations and three local television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 274 radios for every 1,000 people. The number of television sets was unavailable in the same survey. In 2003, there were about 1,000 Internet subscribers nationwide. In 2004, there were 14 Internet hosts.

Many existing newspapers and magazines ceased publication when the Doe regime was overthrown in 1990. Afterward, a number of new ones were begun. As of 2005, there were at least five daily newspapers, including: The Inquirer, The News, and The Analyst. The New Liberian, published daily except Wednesday, is the official government newspaper. In 2005, there was a total of 18 newspapers published in Monrovia.

Freedom of speech and the press are provided for in the constitution, and the government is said to generally respect these rights in practice. However, years of civil strife have destroyed many facilities and disrupted all media in Liberia; many have failed to resume publication or broadcasting. A restrictive media law, instituted during the Doe regime, remains in force and provides the government with wide powers for licensing and regulating the media.

ORGANIZATIONS

Civic groups in Monrovia include the YMCA and YWCA, the Antoinette Tubman Children's Welfare Foundation, the Liberia Evangelistic Women Workers, the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. The Liberia Chamber of Commerce has its headquarters in Monrovia. Numerous secret societies are found among all the ethnic groups. Cultural groups include the Society of Liberian Authors, Liberian Arts and Crafts Association, and Liberian Research Association. There are sports associations promoting amateur competition in a variety of pastimes. The Boy Scouts of Liberia and Girl Guides have active troops. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Habitat for Humanity.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Continued civil unrest has had an adverse effect on tourism. Hotels in or near Monrovia are suitable for tourists; there are missionary organizations and a youth hostel that also accommodate visitors. Safaris are offered in the Sapo National Park and water sports are popular along the many beaches. Football (soccer) is the national sport. Visitors must obtain a visa and passport as well as provide proof of a yellow fever vaccination.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of travel in Monrovia at $241.

FAMOUS LIBERIANS

Joseph Jenkins Roberts (180976), who was governor under the Colonization Society at the time the republic was established, became its first and later its sixth president (184856, 187276) and gained the respect of the European colonial powers by his able exposition of Liberia's rights as a free and independent nation. The national heroine is Matilda Newport, who helped to repel an attack on the first struggling settlement. Among white Americans who went to Liberia to assist the early black settlers were Jehudi Ashmun (17941828) and Ralph Randolph Gurley (17971872), who together reorganized the colonists in 1824. William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman (18951971) was president of Liberia from 1944 until 1971. Angie E. Brooks-Randolph (b.1928) served as president of the 1969/70 UN General Assembly. William Richard Tolbert, Jr. (191380) succeeded Tubman as president. He was killed in the 1980 coup led by Samuel Kanyon Doe (195090), who subsequently assumed the titles of commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of the PRC. Doe was in turn tortured and killed in 1990 by rebels loyal to Charles G. Taylor (b.1948), the leader of the faction that gained control during the civil war. Taylor, who had become president in 1997, was forced into exile in 2003. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (b.1938) became the first elected female president of an African country in 2005.

DEPENDENCIES

Liberia has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adebajo, Adekeye. Building Peace in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Beyan, Amos Jones. African American Settlements in West Africa: John Brown Russwurm and the American Civilizing Efforts. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Burin, Eric. Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

Clapham, Christopher. African Guerrillas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Dolo, Emmanuel. Democracy Versus Dictatorship: the Quest for Freedom and Justice in Africa's Oldest RepublicLiberia. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1996.

Dunn, D. Elwood. Historical Dictionary of Liberia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2001.

Liberian Women Peacemakers: Fighting for the Right to Be Seen, Heard, and Counted. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2004.

Lyons, Terrence. Voting for Peace: Post-conflict Elections in Liberia. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1999.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

Republic of Liberia

Major City:
Monrovia

Other Cities:
Buchanan, Gbarnga, Greenville, Harbel, Harper, Robertsport, Sanniquellie, Voinjama

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Liberia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

Editor's Note: Liberia experienced a devastating civil war in the 1990s. The capital, Monrovia, and other parts of the country were heavily damaged. Some parts of this entry are based on conditions in Liberia prior to this war.

The name LIBERIA , from the Latin liber, meaning "free," was chosen to signify the intent of the republic's founding on the west Guinean coast. The present-day history of Liberia began in 1822, when the American Colonization Society was chartered by Congress to sponsor in Africa a colony of freed slaves from the United States. Several thousand emancipated blacks, who had been held in servitude on British and American naval vessels, joined the settlement and, in 1847, Liberia became the first independent republic in sub-Saharan Africa. In the ensuing years, the young nation struggled for survival against a hostile geographical environment, financial uncertainty, and the threatened encroachment of European colonialism.

Although there are many political, social, and economic links with the U.S., Liberia has a rich culture of its own. It shares a multitude of problems with other developing nations in striving toward economic self-reliance, and in using its natural and human resources. Liberia is a country in transition, attempting to redefine its national identity and aims.

MAJOR CITY

Monrovia

Monrovia is situated on a long narrow cape, with one side facing a vast expanse of mangrove swamps drained by the Mesurado River and the other facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Founded in 1822 with the arrival of the first settlers, many localities are still identified by the names of original villages, settler communities, and the ethnic tribal districts that grew up around them, all becoming incorporated into the city of Monrovia as it expanded. Originally named Christopolis, it was renamed after one of the settlement's most prominent sponsors, U.S. President James Monroe.

Downtown Monrovia, with its markets, stores, offices, and apartment buildings, occupies the tip of Cape Mesurado, rising to the promontory of Mamba Point. The narrow body of the Cape is taken up by the mostly residential Sinkor area. Beyond Sinkor, a number of suburbs extend towards the base of the Cape, and along fingers of land jutting out into the mangroves. Between the downtown and Sinkor areas is Capitol Hill, where the Executive Mansion, government office buildings, and the University of Liberia campus are located.

Two bridges cross the Mesurado River from the downtown area to Bushrod Islandthe industrial section of the city, with many factories, the refinery, the Freeport of Monrovia, and many low, overcrowded buildings. Another bridge at the far end of the island crosses the wide St. Paul River.

Monrovia's population, estimated at 15,000 in 1950, is currently 1,413,000. Growing at twice the national average, the population is exerting great stresses on the city's health, sanitation, and transport services. Modern apartments and government buildings are often surrounded by squatter settlements.

Monrovia's business community includes many Americans and Europeans. Lebanese and Indian nationals operate most of the large stores and commercial enterprises. A sizable group of non-Liberian Africans (mostly Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, Guineans, and Nigerians) also live in the city. In addition, tourists and business persons visit the capital.

Education

Most dependents attend the American Cooperative School (ACS) in the Congotown area of Monrovia. This private, coeducational school offers a U.S. style education from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. A seven-member board of directors, elected for two-year terms by the membership of the American Cooperative Education Association, governs the school. Associate membership is automatically conferred on parents and guardians of all children enrolled in the school.

The curriculum resembles that of U.S. public schools. French, Spanish, art, typing, computer science, journalism, photography, African cultural studies, chess, drama, choir, yearbook, sports, and other electives are offered in grades nine through 12. Personal computers are maintained for class use. Numerous field trips and study opportunities to local industries as well as various cross-cultural experiences are provided. Proximity to the ocean allows for practical instruction in marine biology. The school year runs from late August to early June, and usually includes a two-week break at Christmas. All Liberian holidays and U.S. Thanksgiving Day are observed.

ACS, accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges, is one of only three American high schools in Africa so accredited. The major effect of accreditation is to ensure the acceptance of school credits when students transfer or present transcripts for college entrance. The school is housed in an air-conditioned building with 22 classrooms, an administrative office, gymnasium, library, counselor's office, and teacher's lounge. There are two athletic playing fields. An American superintendent directs the school, assisted by an American principal. All teachers have U.S. teaching credentials. Bus service is provided.

Recreation

The national sport in Liberia is soccer, the leading teams having large and enthusiastic followings. Matches are played either at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia, or at a modern sports complex located five miles beyond the Sinkor area. Soccer enthusiasts have praised the performance of West African teams. Basketball is a growing sport.

There is ample opportunity for participation in a wide variety of sporting activities in Liberia, and especially around Monrovia. Local recreation associations and other expatriate organizations provide a great number of activities in a variety of settings.

The Monrovia Sporting Club, located in the modern Hotel Africa complex, offers a large swimming pool, a private beach and lagoon, windsurfing, tennis, horseback riding, and other activities.

The Voice of America (VOA) complex has a nine-hole golf course, swimming pool, and tennis courts, available through membership.

Golf is very popular. There are courses at VOA, Firestone, and Bong Minesall within two hours of Monroviaand at several other locations as well.

The Liberia Squash Club in Monrovia offers low rates for an increasingly popular sport among both Americans and Liberians. The YMCA, the first on the continent, offers a number of programs and facilities, including an active Tae Kwon Doe karate club.

The American community and other expatriate organizations often join in intramural activities. During the dry season softball leagues are often organized, while the less conventional "Hash House Harrier" runs are fast becoming an institution. Leagues often grow up around a single individual with organizational abilities and enthusiasm. Even when formal facilities do not exist or special equipment is required, one will often hear of an individual or group that has outfitted itself as necessary. For example, scuba diving, ultra-lite flying clubs, weight training, and other groups have been organized.

All sports equipment must be brought to Liberia. While some equipment can be borrowed, practically none is available in town.

Outdoor activities abound in Liberia, with water sports being the most accessible. A number of beautiful local beaches have their own distinct attractions, depending upon the mixture of those who frequent them, the facilities, and relative isolation. One beach may have a popular restaurant and bar, another may have nothing but isolated beaches and beautiful lagoons. Robertsport, a few hours from Monrovia, offers pristine beaches and a small hotel near Liberia's largest lake. Fish and other seafood can be bought from local fishermen as they land their canoes.

Harper, an hour's flight down the coast, was the center of the Maryland Colonization Society's settlements, and is a small attractive town out of the last century. Buchanan, a two-hour drive southeast of Monrovia, has isolated beaches and lagoons.

In all locations, care must be exercised when swimming because of strong currents and undertow. Children should always be supervised, and should preferably stay in the lagoons. Snorkeling, spear fishing, and scuba diving are all practicable, but one must establish connections with small local groups that can service equipment. Boating and fishing, centered on the St. Paul River area, are popular. A number of boats owned by members of the expatriate communities are used for deep sea, surf, and river fishing.

The Bong Mining Company, in the Bong Mountains about two hours north of Monrovia, has extensive recreational facilities, including a golf course, two German and one Italian restaurant, and aircraft and shooting clubs. Weapons must be borrowed locally. A large swimming pool, soccer fields, tennis courts, weight facilities, and a guest house make the area a pleasant weekend stay. The LAMCO mining community in northeastern Liberia, about eight hours from Monrovia, similarly offers modern facilities in a mountain setting.

In contrast to these resort type areas, Liberia's interior offers a vastly different and rich experience. Liberia has the largest remaining areas of intact tropical rain forests in West Africa, with an incredible diversity of birds, plants, and wild-life. Over 500 species of birds are listed for the country and many more remain to be discovered. Elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and pygmy hippos still live in the interior regions. The privately owned Monrovia Zoo offers a glimpse of some of this natural wealth. Gardening and bird watching are enjoyed near Monrovia. Regionally, the Sahel zone of Africa to the north holds the escarpment dwellings of Mali and the European-influenced cities of Banjul, Dakar, and Abidjan. Morocco and the Canary Islands also offer changes of scenery and culture.

Entertainment

Evening entertainment in Monrovia centers around the home, where a casual atmosphere prevails. Activities include barbecues, cocktail parties, and televised sports events. Although there are several movie theaters in town, most Americans frequent only one, the Relda in the Sinkor area, which shows American and European films. Local dramatic groups occasionally present amateur theater productionsthe most active of these is the Monrovia Players, but activity depends on the interest, efforts, and talents of city residents. Productions are staged at the Ducor Hotel, with buffet dinners preceding the performances.

Monrovia's several good restaurants offer a variety of international cuisines (Lebanese, German, Liberian, French, Italian, Spanish, Oriental, and Indian). The food is generally good, but service is sometimes slow. Prices are comparable to those in U.S. cities. Nightclubs range from the popular disco at Hotel Africa to a number of clubs in town. Movie houses usually play Indian and karate movies, but some have begun to introduce a few African films.

Cultural exhibitions take place on Providence Island, the original landing place of the settlers, while African musicians frequently perform in town.

The American Women in Liberia is an organization which provides interesting activities and fellowship for U.S. expatriates; it encourages associate memberships for non-Americans. The U.S. Mission Women's Club and the teen club also sponsor a variety of activities. Since many other countries have diplomatic missions in Liberia, international social contacts are numerous.

Most Monrovians have an up-country hometown. One of the richest local experiences is being introduced to up-country life by Liberian friends, either at small town church socials outside of Monrovia, or at "coming out" feasts for bush schools. Initiative and friendliness can open many doors. Generally speaking, Liberians are friendly and open people. The pace in this country is easier than many places, and patience, courtesy, and a sense of humor are necessary traits.

OTHER CITIES

BUCHANAN , formerly called Grand Bassa, is the largest of Liberia's other cities, although it only has a population of about 25,000. It is located in Grand Bassa County, about 70 miles southeast of the capital, and is the port from which Mount Nimba's iron ore is exported. Africa's first iron-ore washing and pelletizing plant was opened here in 1968. The city was founded in 1835 by a black group, the Quakers of the Young Men's Colonization Society.

GBARNGA (also spelled Gbanga and Gbanka), with a population of about 10,860, is located northeast of the capital near the Guinean border. Poultry farming and a rubber factory dominate its commercial activities. There are also secondary schools, churches, and a mosque in Gbarnga.

Nestled on the Atlantic coast, GREENVILLE is a port city approximately 150 miles south of Monrovia. It was established by freed American slaves in 1838 and was once known as Sino (also spelled Sinoe). Its main exports include lumber, rubber, and agricultural products. Linked to the capital and to Tchien in the north, Greenville has a population of about 9,000.

Home of the Firestone rubber plantation, HARBEL is less than 50 miles northeast of Monrovia. Harbel plays a crucial role in the exportation of liquid latex and crepe rubber. Firestone maintains the city's hospital, power plant, radio service, as well as roads, housing, schools, and a literacy program. The Liberian Institute of Tropical Medicine and Roberts International Airport are two miles southeast of the city. Roughly 11,500 people live in Harbel.

In the extreme southeast, near the border of Cote d'Ivoire, is the town of HARPER , a commercial seaport for the vast rubber plantations of the interior. Named for Robert Goodloe Harper of the American Colonization Society, the town is the site of Maryland College of Our Lady of Fatima, the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology, the J.J. Dossen Memorial Hospital, a public library and several churches. A sugar refinery was opened here in 1978.

ROBERTSPORT , also a seaport, is in Grand Cape Mount County. It is named for Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberia's first president. It is connected to Monrovia by air and by road. The town experiences heavy rainfall, roughly 205 inches annually. Inhabitants engaged in fishing and rice farming. It is noted for such tourist attractions as picturesque Lake Piso and Massating Island, which is rich with wildlife and small fishing villages.

SANNIQUELLIE is the northern trading center at the foot of Mount Nimba, and VOINJAMA , Liberia's most northern city, is above the Wologisi Range, where a national park is being created.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Liberia, about the size of Ohio, lies on the west coast of Africa, some 150 miles north of the equator. It shares borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea on the north and northwest, with Cote d'Ivoire on the east, and courses the Atlantic Ocean on the south. Largely covered by rain forests, it has a sea-level coastal area that gradually rises to a low plateau and ends in the low-lying mountains (4,000 feet) on the Guinea-Cote d'Ivoire border. Liberia has a relatively long coastline of 350 miles and no point is further than 170 miles inland.

Because of its proximity to the ocean and the equator, and its low altitude, Liberia's climate is tropical. The only variation is a six-month rainy season from May through November, marked by frequent, long-lasting, and often torrential rainfalls. Occasional sunny days break up this long rainy interval, and some areas are refreshed by sea breezes.

Liberia receives very heavy rainfall, with roughly 200 inches a year in Monrovia. Temperatures average 81°F.

The dry season (December through April), sometimes characterized by a dust-laden atmosphere, is the hottest period. However, the country maintains its green look throughout the year. Liberia's temperatures are less noticeable than its oppressive humidityone of the world's highest. Averaging between 70 and 80 percent, the humidity deteriorates vehicles, furnishings, and clothing, and encourages household pests. Constant precautions must be taken to avoid mildew and rust.

Population

Liberia's population is estimated at 3.1 million, a figure that does not count the refugees who fled the country during the civil war (more than half Liberia's population at the time). Monrovia's population is approximately 1.4 million. Liberians are either members of indigenous ethnic groups, 95 percent, descendants of black Americans who began settling in the area in 1822, or, increasingly, a mixture of both. Influences of American settlers are reflected in both family and Christian names, as well as in the designations of towns, cities, and counties. The current trend, however, is to recover or adopt African names. In a relationship unique in Africa, Liberia has maintained strong cultural, social, familial, and business ties with Americans.

The 16 major ethnic groups are the Kru, Kpelle, Mandingo, Gola, Loma, Krahn, Bassa, Grebo, Vai, Mano, Mendi, Dey, Gise, Gio, Belle, and Gbande. Many tribal customs are still practiced; others have disappeared or changed over the years. The increasing educational level, economic modernization, migration toward urban centers, and the spread of both Christianity and Islam have exerted strong pressures on traditional culture.

English is Liberia's official language, but tribal dialects are widely spoken. Most Liberians with whom Americans come in contact, either socially or in business, speak fluent English. Many government officials have been educated in the U.S. or Europe. The less educated, on the other hand, speak a "Liberian English" with distinctive idioms and pronunciation.

Government

In 1847, Liberia became the first African republic with the declaration of its independence from the founding American societies and adoption of a constitution based on the U.S. model. The dominant True Whig Party ruled virtually uncontested until 1980, when the government was overthrown by a group of noncommissioned officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe.

In 1984, a new constitution guaranteeing personal and political freedoms was ratified by referendum, an Interim National Assembly was appointed, and the ban on political activities was lifted. Multi-party elections were held in 1985 and, amidst much controversy, Samuel K. Doe was declared the winner. Throughout 1988 and 1989, the Doe government cracked down on all political opposition.

In January 1990, a small group of rebels led by Charles Taylor launched a series of attacks against Doe's government troops. The skirmishes quickly degenerated into a bloody civil war, with fighting along tribal lines. The rebels called themselves the National Patriotic Forces of Liberia (NPFL). A second rebel group, calling itself the Independent NPFL and opposed to Taylor's group, formed with Prince Johnson as its leader. The government, which was now forced to fight against two rebel groups simultaneously, lost control of Monrovia to Prince Johnson's rebels in July 1990. Doe and remnants of his army retreated to the heavily fortified Presidential Palace.

In August 1990, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a 4,000-man peace-keeping force (ECOMOG) to Monrovia in an attempt to end the fighting. However, President Doe was capture, tortured, and executed by Prince Johnson's rebels in September 1990. Despite three peace agreements, fighting continued into the 1990s.

On May 8, 1996 Liberia's rival factions approved a peace plan requiring an immediate cease-fire. Charles Taylor was elected president in mid-1997 and took office in August. Liberia's civil war cost as many as 200,000 lives and displaced about 700,000 people from their homes.

The flag of Liberia consists of six red and five white horizontal stripes. In the upper corner, near the staff, is a dark blue square with a white star. Liberia's flag is very similar to the American flag.

Arts, Science, Education

The isolation of the interior until recent times has left much of the traditional culture intact. The main socializing forces have been the age grades of Eastern Liberia and the "secret" initiation societies, such as the men's Poro and women's Sande societies of the western and central portions of the country.

Traditionally, village children attend a society's "bush school" for a period of years, while those attending modern schools participate only for shorter periods between semesters. In the society bush school, they are taught the skills and traditions needed for life, forge the bonds of society membership, and pass together into adulthood.

In addition, much traditional knowledge reposes in special societies that incorporate, or have developed around, particular special skills and needs, such as the use of herbal medicines, blacksmithing, and bridge building.

Traditional arts still thrive in Liberia. Dancing, story-telling, brass-casting, and carving are widely practiced. The endless variety of masked and costumed "devils" serves not only to delight and entertain, but also to teach traditional values and judge litigations in traditional life; some are viewed as the embodiment of forest spirits and are powerful agents of social control.

Statues, masks, and other carvings are not only great aesthetic works; they serve as links to the spiritual world. The carvings of one group in particular, the Dan of northeast Liberia, are world renowned. Many of these arts are performed or displayed as vital components of public occasions. Efforts are being made to record the oral histories, knowledge of plant medicines, and the manufacture of items characteristic of traditional life. The National Museum in the capital is expected to play a leadership role in this effort.

The University of Liberia in Monrovia and Cuttington University College in the interior were founded in the mid-and late 1800s. The Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) is working to increase the fertility of Liberia's weathered soils, and to develop alternatives to the destructive slash-and-burn agriculture practiced by most farmers. The Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, working with chimpanzees captured in the interior, was instrumental in developing a vaccine for Hepatitis B, a disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide. Research into other major tropical diseases continues.

The formation of technical institutes and public foundations, such as the Tubman Institute of Technology, the Liberian Association of Writers, and the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, has resulted in a growing awareness of the benefits of technology, as well as its possible threat to traditional culture and the environment. As with many African countries, Liberia is struggling to realize the promise of its resources and cultural wealth, under increasingly unfavorable circumstances.

Commerce and Industry

Civil war during the 1990s destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia. Expatriate businessmen fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them. There is concern that many of them will not return. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products, while local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, has been small in scope. Currently, economic priorities include restoring infa-structure and developing sound fiscal policies to spur growth.

Prior to the civil war, agriculture was the most important sector of the economy. In 1989, it contributed nearly 40 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed nearly 70 percent of the work force. Principal cash crops were coffee, cocoa, rubber, and timber. Rice, cassava, and vegetables were the main food crops.

Liberia's industrial capacity is extremely small and contributes only a small percentage of GDP, currently 10 percent. Industries included rubber processing, palm oil processing, food processing, furniture, and construction materials.

Prior to the civil war, Liberia was one of the world's major producers and exporters of iron ore. However, the fighting has severely damaged the mining sector. In the past, diamonds and gold were also mined in small quantities. Liberia has deposits of bauxite, manganese, barite, and uranium, but these have not been exploited.

Iron ore, rubber, timber, and coffee were Liberia's primary exports. Most of these products were destined for the United States, countries of the European Community, and the Netherlands. Liberia imported chemicals, machinery, transport equipment, and foodstuffs from the United States, Japan, China, the Netherlands, and its West African neighbors.

Liberia maintains a Chamber of Commerce at Capitol Hill, P.O. Box 92, Monrovia; telephone: 223738; telex: 44211.

Transportation

Public transportation in Monrovia consists mainly of taxis and buses. Vans or buses from central "parking stations" serve the country, any point being reachable by changing vehicles at appropriate stations along the way. Overcrowding and a high rate of accidents discourage most Americans from using this system, but vehicles can be chartered at a negotiable price. Small aircraft charter service is available to Monrovia to all towns which have airfields. Roberts International Airport, 36 miles from Monrovia, is serviced daily by a number of African and European airlines.

Since taxi service partly substitutes for public transportation, it is operated as such. Passengers constantly enter and leave taxis, and frequently numerous stops are made before the individual destination is reached. If the driver is requested not to make stops, a negotiable and higher fare must be paid. Drivers generally know the way to familiar landmarks or major street intersections, but often they must be directed to less well-known locations. Although the accident rate among taxis is high, many expatriate Americans who own private cars choose taxis for going downtown, rather than having to look for parking spaces on the crowded streets. It should be noted that all taxis in Monrovia are yellow.

Liberia has about 400 miles of paved roads, including those in the capital. The rest are laterite dirt. During the rainy season, laterite roads are made difficult or impassable by erosion and mud. In the dry season, long drives can be uncomfortably dusty. Personal cars should be undercoated and equipped with heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers. Air conditioning is advantageous, as it not only provides relief from the heat and humidity, but also from the dust. The humid climate has a dramatic effect on vehicles; rust is the most serious problem, but car interiors also eventually develop mildew odors.

Unleaded gasoline is not available in Liberia. Catalytic convertors must be removed from cars shipped to the country.

Small cars are the most convenient on narrow, crowded city streets. Nonfuel-injection engines should be specified for any cars being shipped to Liberia because of the lack of repair facilities and spare parts for fuel-injection models. All locally purchased auto parts are costly, and certain items must be ordered from abroad. The following spare parts are useful to have on hand: alternator or generator, fan belts for car and air conditioner, wiper blades, heavy-duty shock absorbers, extra set of points, battery, muffler, exhaust pipe, and tires.

Chevrolet is represented in Monrovia by dealers who have repair facilities. Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen are also among models sold and serviced in the capital.

A Liberian driver's license (including vision test) is required, and third-party liability insurance is mandatory. Insurance costs vary according to the car's value, age, and engine. Full coverage for personal liability and collision insurance are additional. The Liberian Government requires annual vehicle inspections.

Communications

Telephone and postal services are in short supply in Monrovia, having been severely disrupted during the civil war. Prior to the war, these services were generally inadequate.

The government-controlled Liberian Broadcasting Corporation, which overseas all broadcasting, operates commercial radio and commercial television stations. There were approximately 790,000 radios and 70,000 television sets prior to the fighting in Monrovia in mid-1990.

Many of the English-language newspapers and magazines published during the Doe regime ceased publication during late 1990. In 1991, a number of new papers had been launched. The titles include The Inquirer, New Times, and The Patriot.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, many resident Americans received copies of the International Herald Tribune and international editions of Time and Newsweek. The magazine Africa Now appeared sporadically.

Health

Major medical and surgical cases among expatriates are always referred to either European or American hospitals. Missionary hospitals operate in Liberia, but facilities for treating complicated conditions which require specialized equipment or in-patient care are not available locally.

Community health and sanitation in Liberia are far below American and European standards. Even in Monrovia, garbage collection is sporadic. Frequent breaks in water lines and lack of adherence to plumbing codes necessitate the boiling and filtering of all drinking water. Food inspection is inadequate. All locally purchased meat must be thoroughly cooked before consumption, and vegetables should be well cleaned and soaked in chlorine solution.

Malaria is endemic throughout the country, as are schistosomiasis and several other parasitic diseases. Poisonous snakes, although present, are not a health hazard.

Diarrhea and general fatigue are common ailments experienced by Americans living in Liberia. For protection from the more serious preventable diseases prevalent in the country, several recommendations are made: boiling and filtering of all drinking water; regular use of malaria suppressants (initiated two weeks before arrival, and continued for six weeks after departure); eating only fruits and vegetables that have been treated with chlorine; staying out of fresh water, particularly up-country, where the water is infested with schistosomes; and keeping all immunizations current (yellow fever, typhoid, polio, cholera, tetanus, and gamma globulin). It is imperative that yellow fever inoculations are current for entry into Liberia. Currently, AIDS is a minimal risk in Liberia. Health conditions throughout Liberia have deteriorated greatly as a result of the civil war.

Clothing and Services

Because of the hot, humid climate and the poor quality of dry cleaning, loose-fitting, washable clothing is recommended. It is acceptable for all occasions. With year-round wear and frequent laundering, clothes rarely last long; an initial good supply is needed for an extended stay. Local markets sell a limited selection of ready-made (usually inferior) clothing at high prices. Dressmakers do satisfactory work and, in addition to making African-style, loose-fitting dresses, they will copy simple catalogue styles or favorite garments reasonably well. Tailors make good quality leisure and dress suits, shirts, and women's dresses from lappa cloth, tie-dyed material, or imported fabrics. African styles are popular for work or casual parties for both men and women.

A wide selection of European shoes is available, but many Americans find that the fit is quite different. An adequate supply of footwear is a must, since moisture, mud, and dust play havoc with shoes. Local shoe repair is mediocre.

Raincoats are not often worn because of the heat, but it is wise to have one for the occasional torrential downpours. An umbrellapreferably largeis essential for each member of the family during the rainy season, and galoshes are needed for small children.

Most people wear only cotton clothing outdoors. Although synthetic fabrics are attractive, wash easily, and pack well, items made of these materials become uncomfortable in Liberia's extreme heat. Swimsuits and beachwear are hard to find locally; each family member will need at least two swimsuits, as well as sunglasses and some sort of head protection. One special recommendation is a beach umbrella for relief from the intense heat and sunlight.

Business wear is more relaxed than in the U.S. In offices, men wear wash-and-wear suits (often without ties) or locally made slacks and short-sleeved jackets; these correspond to the usual coat and tie worn elsewhere. Working women wear either dresses or skirts and blouses and, since all offices are air conditioned, many also find hosiery and light sweaters comfortable. Otherwise, warm-weather clothing is suitable everywhere. Long cotton skirts or African dresses (usually beautifully embroidered) are as popular for parties as are short dresses. Women are much less influenced by fashion trends than in the U.S. The dress code is relaxed and informal. However, shorts and halter tops should never be worn in town.

Children's clothing is locally available in limited supply and at high prices. Children's wear is much the same as at home, but in the lightest-weight materials possible. Jeans and T-shirts with sneakers or sandals are popular. Preschool children wear play clothes most of the time. Infant clothing is available, but at prices higher than in the U.S.; all baby equipment is expensive.

In general, almost anything can be bought in Monrovia if one is willing to search for it and to pay inflated prices. However, the "buy it if you see ittomorrow it may be gone" approach should be followed, as stocks are often small and selections poor compared to those in Western countries. Items usually found in American supermarkets can also be found in Monrovia, but favorite brands of toiletries, patent medicines, and cleaning and repair supplies should be included in one's household shipment if substitutes are unacceptable. Many people planning extended stays ship artificial Christmas trees and decorations.

Dry cleaning is fair. Shoe repair is adequate. Commercial laundry service is available, but servants usually do the work at home. Several beauty shops in Monrovia are known for good work; they use mostly European and American products.

Automobile repair is adequate, although some jobs may take more than one trip to the mechanic. Repair of electrical appliances is scarce and poor.

Domestic Help

Household in Liberia traditionally employ domestic help of some kind. Most Americans hire domestic servants, the number and type depending on individual preferences and requirements. Most Americans hire housekeepers, at least on a part-time basis. Others hire cooks and nannies. Some households employ gardeners and launderers. Employers provide uniforms and pay for recommended medical examinations. If meals are not provided, employers provide a food allowance. Domestics require supervision to ensure personal cleanliness and suitable performance. Many domestic employees are not literate.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

As of February 2002, the U.S. Department of State reaffirms its warning to U.S. citizens against travel to Monrovia. Liberia's declaration of a state of emergency marks a further deterioration in security. Travel outside of Monrovia is difficult and dangerous due to an absence of central authority and inadequate living conditions. Many Liberians and foreign nationals, including some Americans, have been detained in rebel-controlled territory, or have been prohibited from traveling freely between rebel-controlled territory and other areas. Only limited air service exists between Freetown, Sierra Leone, Conakry, Guinea, or Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and Monrovia and no overland routes to the capital are open. All Americans who decide to travel to Liberia should register with the U.S. Embassy immediately upon arrival.

Regardless of the type of passport, and of any information to the contrary, all Americans must have visas to enter Liberia. This requirement cannot be overemphasized. Both official and nonofficial persons without proper documentation have been detained at the airport. Yellow fever and cholera inoculations are required.

Pets must be fully immunized before arrival, and accompanied by a veterinarian's certificate containing the date of rabies inoculation (neither more than 120 days, nor less than 30 days, before entry). The certificate must be plainly identifiable, authenticated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and stamped with the Liberian Government seal. If a pet is imported from a country without a Liberian diplomatic post, U.S. authorities will advise about policy. Failure to comply with these instructions may require the pet to be quarantined in Liberia. Some areas of Monrovia are infested with tsetse fly, and dogs in these areas are subject to contracting canine sleeping sickness. There is no risk to humans. While this illness in dogs is readily treatable by a veterinarian, there are reoccur-rences and some animals have died.

Importation of individual firearms is prohibited.

Religious denominations conducting services in Monrovia include: Episcopal, Assembly of God, Roman Catholic, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Presbyterian, Baptist, Baha'i, Lutheran, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Pentecostal. The capital city has Muslim mosques, but no Jewish synagogues or temples; occasionally Jewish laymen hold services in their homes.

The time in Liberia is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The currency used in Liberia is the Liberian dollar. Bills up to and including $20 denominations are readily acceptable. No limit is placed on the amount of currency taken into the country. Chase Manhattan, Citibank, and International Bank of Washington have branches or affiliates in Monrovia. ATMs are not available and credit cards are not generally accepted. Traveler's checks can be cashed, but transactions are subject to fees.

The English system of weights and measures is used.

The U.S. Embassy in Liberia is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, P.O. Box 10-0098, Monrovia; telephone: (231) 22291/4; FAX: (231) 223710.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 11 Armed Forces Day

Feb. 14 Literacy Day

Mar. Decoration Day*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar. 15 J.J. Robert's Birthday

Apr. National Day of Fasting & Prayer*

Apr. 12 Redemption Day

May 14 Unification Day

May 25 Africa Day

July 26 Independence Day

Aug. 24 Flag Day

Oct. 29 Youth Day

Nov. Thanksgiving Day*

Nov. 29 William V.S. Tubman's Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

*Variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Beyan, Amos J. The American Colonization Society & the Creation of the Liberian State: A Historical Perspective, 1822-1900. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.

Dunn, D. Elwood and Svend E. Holsoe. Historical Dictionary of Liberia. African Historical Dictionaries Series, no. 38. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1985.

Greene, Barbara. Too Late to Turn Back: Barbara & Graham Greene in Liberia. New York: Viking Penguin, 1991.

Hope, Constance M. Liberia. Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World Series. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Humphrey, Sally. A Family in Liberia. Families the World Over Series. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1987.

Lerner Publications. Liberia in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1988.

Miller, Randall M., ed. Dear Master: Letters of a Slave Family. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Moran, Mary H. Civilized Women: Gender & Prestige in Southeastern Liberia. Anthropology of Contemporary Issues Series. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Nimley, Anthony J. Government and Politics in Liberia. 2 vols. Nashville, TN: Academic Publishers International, 1991.

Smith, James W. Sojourners in Search of Freedom: The Settlement of Liberia by Black Americans. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

Republic of Liberia

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Liberia is situated on the West African coast, bordered by Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, and the Côte d'Ivoire to the east. Liberia also has 300 kilometers (186 miles) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Its land area is 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles). The capital, Monrovia, is on the Atlantic coast.

POPULATION.

Liberia's population was estimated at 3,255,837 in July of 2001, and in normal circumstances the country has had a high population growth rate of 3.3 percent (1980-87). However, the most recent estimate puts the figure at 2.3 percent for 1990-96 and just 1.92 percent for 2001, as war has lowered the birth rate and raised the mortality rate. An estimated 5 percent of the population died in the civil war of 1989-96.

Even before the war, the urban population was high at 40 percent, but during the conflict it rose to 46 percent, as people sought refuge in the towns. In early 1995, the capital's population stood at 1.3 million, a tripling of its size compared with 1986.

During the war about 1 million Liberians fled abroad, some of whom returned during the lulls in fighting, often to flee again as violence intensified in 1992, 1994, and 1996. Since the end of the war, further tensions have meant the refugees in neighboring countries have been reluctant to return, and an outflow has continued. In 1997, with international help, the government began resettling refugees.

The vast majority95 percentof Liberia's people are members of indigenous African tribes, with descendants of U.S. immigrants and Congolese both making up 2.5 percent of the population. Forty percent of the people practice indigenous religious beliefs, 40 percent are Christians, and 20 percent are Muslims.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Liberia has traditionally relied on mining (of iron-ore, gold, and diamonds), rubber, timber, and shipping registration revenues as its major sources of income. Nearly 8 years of war ending in the mid-1990s destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and has brought mining to a halt. Most of the country's inhabitants are engaged in agriculture. Apart from small farmers producing rubber, however, almost all agriculture is subsistence farming . The government has not produced systematic data since 1989, and such information that is available has come from limited surveys by prospective aid donors.

Liberia's economic boom in the late 1960s and early 1970s was due to strong rubber and iron exports, with the real gross domestic product (GDP) growing at 9 percent a year. In the late 1970s, with a general slowdown in the world economy, growth slowed to 1 percent. In the 1980s the economy declined. Real GDP was 10 percent lower in 1986 than in 1979, as companies cut back on investment. The civil warwhich lasted from 1989 to 1996displaced much of the population and destroyed the productive infrastructure. Iron ore output ceased relatively early on in the hostilities, although other resources, particularly diamonds, continued to be exploited by the various factions. The formal economy came to a standstill as the population turned to subsistence production for survival. Since the end of the war in 1997, the formal sector has started up again in the major towns, but the lack of reliable data makes it difficult to be confident about the extent of the recovery. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), domestic production has rebounded strongly, though it still only stands at one-third of its pre-war level. The GDP is thought to have doubled in 1997 and grew at 25-30 percent in 1998 due to increases in agricultural output. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the GDP grew at the rate of 15 percent in 2000, reaching US$3.35 billion at purchasing power parity in that year.

The abrupt stop in formal economic activity at the start of the war produced a drastic fall in revenues and substantial capital flight . The rise in military spending took an increasing share of government revenues. A string of interim governments relied principally on funds from the Liberian maritime shipping registry, which was largely unaffected by the war. In 1999 agriculture and reconstruction were allocated funds far below the levels required to revive the economy. Alleged human rights abuses and allegations of Liberian government support for destabilizing forces in neighboring Sierra Leone caused some donors to be reluctant to resume aid.

In Liberia, unlike most of Africa, a high proportion of revenue comes from direct taxation on incomes and profits, particularly from iron ore mining and shipping registration fees. However, revenues have invariably been inadequate to meet spending plans, and until a return to budgetary control in 1999, the government failed to pay salaries, accumulated debts, and financed budget deficits by printing money.

From January to June 2000, the Liberian government operated an IMF-monitored program to improve the country's fiscal position, liberalize import controls, and reform the civil service and the state-owned enterprises. The initial response by the government to this program has been encouraging, but the task facing the government in reforming the economy is considerable, and it will take several years to improve tax revenues, re-structure the civil service, and privatize the state-owned enterprises.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Liberia is the only West African state never to have been formerly colonized. The country was formed in 1820 when U.S. philanthropists negotiated rights to settle freed slaves from the United States in the area. Liberia was declared a republic in 1847 and operated with political institutions modeled on those of the United States.

For the next 133 years the True Whig Party, which mostly consisted of the descendants of freed slaves, was the only significant political force. The party's rule ended in 1980 when President William Tolbert was assassinated. Following Tolbert's death Sergeant Samuel Doe took power as head of the ruling 15-member military People's Redemption Council (PRC).

The following decade was marked by growing opposition to the military regime, with many alleged or actual coup attempts resulting in executions. Rigged multi-party elections in 1985 brought Doe back to power as president with a tiny majority. In the next month a coup led by Brigadier General Quiwonkpa was put down, 600 people died, and reprisals were taken against Quiwonkpa's ethnic group, the Gio, adding further to the tensions.

On 24 December 1989, Charles Taylor, a former government employee, invaded the country with a small armed force from Côte d'Ivoire. Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) gained popular support, and by June 1990 only Monrovia remained under Doe's control. The fight for the capital became a 3-way contest with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the NPFL, and a splinter group from the NPFL, the INPFL, vying for control.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), anxious about regional destabilization, sent in a 6,000-strong monitoring group, ECOMOG, to take control of the capital. ECOMOG was made up of many nations, but the main constituent was Nigerian. Despite ECOMOG also offering Doe protection, Doe was kidnapped and killed. A cease fire was signed in November 1990, but the NPFL refused to recognize the interim government.

By March 1991, fighting had resumed, spilling over into Sierra Leone, with the NPFL backing a Sierra Leonian rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Sierra Leone army was backed by the new United Liberation Movement for democracy in Liberia (Ulimo), who went on to attack the NPFL in north-west Liberia.

Amid this shifting chaos of armed rebel groups and failed peacemaking, diplomatic efforts continued. Finally, in June 1995, Charles Taylor visited Nigeria, and all sides agreed to a peace accord in August. The accord set out plans for elections in 1996, with an interim 6-man Council of State that included representatives of the main factions and civilians. Renewed violence in April 1996 threw this initial agreement off track, but a second peace agreement, again signed in Nigeria, called for disarmament and elections, with the threat of sanctions if this was not achieved. Disarmament started slowly but in early 1997 was completed, and the militias were formally disbanded.

Elections took place in July 1997, which allowed time for preparations and campaigning and were undertaken in a calm and relatively peaceful atmosphere. Taylor won 75 percent of the vote, and Taylor's National Patriotic Party (NPP) won a majority in both Houses. However, prospects for a viable multiparty system receded by 1998 with all the main opposition leaders in exile. Currently the country is not completely secure, as witnessed by invasions from armed bands in 1999 and 2000.

Liberia's political history has been dominated both by the struggle between American Liberians and ethnic Liberians (which was resolved in the 1980 coup with the ethnic Liberians gaining the upper hand) and conflicts between ethnic groups within Liberia (both to gain power and avenge past wrongs). Ethnically motivated killings and harassment were undertaken by all sides during the civil war, and reconciliation has proved to be slow and difficult. Taylor was initially seen as a welcomed alternative to Doe but was later seen as preventing stability by not honoring the peace agreements. The murder of Samuel Dokie, a former member of the NPFL, and the intimidation of other opposition leaders led to greatly reduced opposition power and to fears of Liberia becoming a de facto 1-party state, with all power in the hands of the president.

Under the 1986 constitution, the president and vice-president have executive roles, and legislative power rests in Congress and the House of Representatives. Both houses were elected for 6 years, although this was reduced to 4 years before the 1997 elections. New legislation has endorsed the 1986 constitution, although the rebuilding of democratic institutions has been hampered by limited funding and enduring tensions.

The links with Sierra Leone's rebel RUF and the allegations of material support for the group have caused significant problems for Taylor's regime. Taylor has used his influence over the RUF in constructive ways, for example, by helping to negotiate the release of captured United Nations troops. However, renewed violence in May 2000 prompted the United Kingdom to accuse Liberia of supplying arms for diamonds and led to the suspension of a US$60 million European Union (EU) aid package for Liberia. Recently, government forces have reinforced the Sierra Leone border, and the Liberian government has accused the United Kingdom of trying to destabilize Taylor's regime.

Relations with Guinea, in the light of reports of armed incursions being launched from there as well as from Sierra Leone, have improved little despite the president of Mali's attempts to broker a reconciliation. Relations with the United States have got better since 1998, but Liberia's oldest ally is critical of civil rights abuses.

There is little recent information on government finances. In 1988 total government revenue was 18 percent of the GDP, with taxes on income of individuals and corporations raising 33 percent of government income, indirect taxes 25 percent, customs duties and export levies 34 percent, and other sources contributing 8 percent. General administration accounted for 24 percent of expenditure, defence 10 percent, health 5 percent, economic activities 28 percent, and other expenditures (including social services) 33 percent.

Extensive corruption and a near complete lack of respect for the law makes Liberia an extremely unfriendly place for foreigners to do business. According to the U.S. State Department, corruption and lawlessness permeates every level of the government: requests for bribes, red tape, and a lack of enforcement for legal contracts has kept investment to a minimum. The government has done little to address these problems.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Liberia has a limited infrastructure that was severely damaged by the country's long civil war. Roads in Liberia are in poor condition due to poor maintenance and heavy rains. Only 6 percent of the national road network of 10,600 kilometers (9,942 miles) is paved. There are no passenger rail services, and the iron ore rail transport links are in need of serious repair as large sections of the rail network were dismantled and sold for scrap during the civil war.

The country's 5 ports of Monrovia, Buchanan, Greenville, Harper, and Robertsport handle 200,000 tons per year in general cargo (80 percent of which is iron-ore deposits) and 400,000 tons a year of petroleum products. Ports in the south-east of the country handle timber exports.

Robertsport had an international airport until it was destroyed by fighting in 1990. It now carries some regional commercial flights but will need major repairs to carry international flights. Harbel, 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Monrovia, remains the only international airport.

Liberian state television, ELTV, was off the air for most of the war but has resumed broadcasts as a largely commercial station. There are 2 private TV stations broadcast for a proportion of the day, and there are 6 FM radio stations and 4 shortwave stations. Independent newspapers emerge from time to time, but invariably fail to establish themselves. There were only 6,000 telephone main lines in the country in 1997 and no cellular phones.

In 1999 Liberia produced 432 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, but much of the electricity-generating infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged. Two-thirds of electricity is generated from diesel and one-third from hydro-electric sources. Access to electricity is very restricted, and those who can afford it use private diesel generators. Poor provision of electricity is a major cause of criticism of the new government. All petroleum products are imported, and so far surveys have shown no local oil reserves. 38 percent of diesel consumed in Liberia is used to produce electricity, and most domestic energy needs are provided by charcoal and wood.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Agriculture (including fishing and forestry) employed an estimated 70 percent of the labor force in 1999 and contributed 60 percent of the GDP in 2000. Industry

Communications
Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Liberia 6,000 0 (1995) AM 0; FM 6; shortwave 4 (1999) 790,000 2 (2000) 70,000 1 300
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Nigeria 500,000 (2000) 26,700 AM 82; FM 35; shortwave 11 23.5 M 2 (1999) 6.9 M 11 100,000
Sierra Leone 17,000 650 (1999) AM 1; FM 9; shortwave 1 (1999) 1.12 M 2 (1999) 53,000 1 2,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

(including mining, manufacturing, construction, and power) employed an estimated 8 percent of the workforce in 1999 and provided just 10 percent of the GDP in 2000. The services sector employed 22 percent of the work-force in 1999, and contributed an estimated 30 percent of GDP in 2000. Each sector of the economy was impacted by the civil war, and each is still recovering from the damage done by that war.

AGRICULTURE

The devastation caused by Liberia's civil war has helped to make agriculture the dominant sector in the economy. That dominance, however, reflects not the strength of the agricultural sector but rather the complete failure of the other sectors. Liberia's agricultural production is primarily aimed toward subsistenceproviding enough food for individual farmers to survive. Liberia's main staple food is rice, but the country has low yields despite improvements arising from new varieties. Taylor's government has given high priority importance to the sector. In 1998 the FAO reported that rice and cassava production reached 70 percent and 90 percent of prewar levels respectively, and the IMF estimates indicate good growth in the 2000 harvest.

Rubber is the most important cash crop , though cocoa, coffee, and palm oil are also produced. The U.S.-based Bridgestone company is a major producer in Liberia's rubber sector and owns 30 percent of rubber plantations. Despite falling world prices, rubber production rose to 106,000 tons in 1989 and was high throughout the 1980s, though the coming of war brought desertion of the plantations and production fell to a fifth of its pre-war level. Recovery has been steady, reaching 28,000 tons of production in 1997 with some reports suggesting output is now more than 50,000 tons. Depressed world prices have hampered recovery.

Liberia has large forest reserves, with estimated production of 317,000 cubic meters of commercial production in 1997, and 4.8 million cubic meters consumed as fuelwood. There is considerable possibility for expansion. Some Asian companies involved in the logging operations have been criticized for their poor environmental practices, and it has been suggested that they have been able to ignore environmental considerations because of involvement by key figures in the government, or their relatives, in the companies concerned.

INDUSTRY

In the 1960s Liberia was one of the biggest exporters of iron-ore, with deposits of 800 million tons of 35-to 67-percent purity ore, and new deposits of 1 billion tons of high grade ore had been discovered. Many international companies were exploiting the ore from Liberia, but in the 1980s the industry suffered from depressed steel prices and the parastatal NIOC closed in 1985. Other companies made cutbacks, leading to a reduction in production to only 1 million tons in 1989, from a high of 15 million tons in the mid-1980s. All production halted early in the war, and no figures have been produced since 1992, when production was estimated at 145,000 tons. Revival of the sector will take huge investments to repair mines and replace equipment, though several international companies have appeared interested.

Diamonds and gold are produced by small-scale mining, though reliable figures have never been available due to smuggling. In 1988, diamonds accounted for US$9 million of exports officially, and gold production yielded an estimated US$6 million a year in the mid-1980s. The illicit mining and export of diamonds remains widespread. In early 1999, the government estimated that there were 5,000 unlicensed and 1,000 licensed mines in Liberia. The government does not have the resources to tackle the problem of unlicensed mines. Official diamond exports tripled between 1998 and 1999, but this is almost entirely due to smuggling of diamonds from Sierra Leone now that there are restrictions on Sierra Leone diamond export to prevent the proceeds supporting the rebel movement there.

Before the civil war manufacturing and construction accounted for around 20 percent of the GDP; that figure dropped to 10 percent by 2000. Manufacturing was dominated by iron-ore production and rubber processing, but domestic and industrial consumption goods were also produced. The size of the local market in Liberia is very small (the United States market is 15,000 times larger in terms of purchasing power), and this makes investment to produce goods for domestic consumption in Liberia unattractive. Political instability has further discouraged investment, particularly from foreign sources. Looting during the civil war means substantial investment is needed to revive the sector. Construction should be stimulated in the post-war period due to reconstruction.

SERVICES

The services sector consists mainly of wholesale and retail distribution, telecommunications, postal service, transport, hotels and restaurants, repairs, financial services, tourist services, and government administration, but all such services are quite limited. For the most part, these services support the other sectors of the economy. The main exception is the charges made for the use of Liberian registration by merchant ships owned by private shipping companies from other countries, the so-called "flag of convenience."

Liberia's standing as the second largest flag of convenience was scarcely affected by the war, with revenue amounting to about US$20 million in 1995, providing the interim government with virtually its only source of income. Registration fees were collected by the International Trust Company of Liberia (ITC) on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Liberian Maritime Programme, which has controlled the Liberian registry since 1948. In 2000 the registry was taken over by the Liberian International Ship and Corporation Registry.

The financial sector is made up of 12 banks, but 8 were closed in 1996 when fighting erupted in Monrovia. By the end of 1997, about 80 percent of the loans held by Liberian banks were non-performing (that is, borrowers were not making interest payments or repaying the principle). Only 17 percent of the notes and coins in circulation in the country were thought to be in the banking system in 1995, implying a great lack of confidence in the banking system and reducing the ability of the banks to make loans. In April 2000 the Central Bank of Liberia stepped in to administer a leading bank, LUBI, due to liquidity problems and insolvency.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

In normal times, Liberia was highly dependent on external trade; trade generated some 44 percent of the GDP in 1989. But the civil war severely limited Liberia's ability to produce goods for export and led to huge deficits in the trade balance. In 2000 the value of exports stood at US$55 million, compared to US$170 million in imports. However, there is a substantial unrecorded trade in diamonds, which in part explains the financing of Liberia's apparent trade deficit .

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Liberia
Exports Imports
1975 .394 .332
1980 .589 .535
1985 .436 .284
1990 N/A N/A
1995 N/A N/A
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

In 1999, Belgium took 53 percent of Liberia's exports, followed by Switzerland (9 percent,) the United States (6 percent), and France (4 percent). Imports in 1999 came from South Korea (30 percent), Italy (24 percent), Japan (15 percent), and Germany (9 percent).

MONEY

The Liberian dollar and the U.S. dollar are the 2 legal currencies and are officially interchangeable (that is, the official exchange rate is L$1:US$1). However, it is not possible for the public to purchase U.S. dollars at this rate, and in 1999 the actual exchange rate stood at L$40:US$1. Huge volumes of capital flight (the movementof money out of the country) after the coup in 1980 caused the government to mint new coins to fill the resulting gap. In 1989, coins were replaced by notes, but due to the theft of notes from the banks during the civil war, the notes were replaced by the liberty dollar in 1992. This attempt to restore monetary stability was also designed to undermine the position of the rebel leaders, whose wealth was mainly in the old currency. Hence the liberty dollars were not allowed by the rebels in rebel territory, and old notes became illegal in government territory. During the 1997 election campaign, the successful candidate, Charles Taylor, announced that he wanted U.S. dollars to be the only currency

Exchange rates: Liberia
Liberian dollars (L$) per US$1
Dec 2000 39.8100
2000 41.0483
1999 41.9025
1998 41.5075
1997 1.0000
1996 N/A
Note: From 1940 until December 1997, rates were based on a fixed relationship with the US dollar; beginning in January 1998, rates are market determined.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

in Liberia, but a commission in 1998 argued that a new family of notes and coins, which entered circulation in 2000, would allow the government to benefit, on the new issues, from seigniorage (the situation that occurs when increased amounts of new notes and coins are allowed to enter circulation, allowing the issuer to make a profit to the extent that the face value of the notes and coins is greater than their cost of production).

In October 1999 the ineffective National Bank of Liberia was replaced by the Central Bank of Liberia with Mr. Saleeby, the former finance minister, at its head. The Central Bank of Liberia is pledged to a tight monetary policy by limiting the supply of base money to cover replacement only, and will not lend to the government to monetize budget deficits (budget deficits are monetized when the central bank prints money to lend to the government to meet its budget deficit, sparking off an increase in inflation ). Inflation in 1999 averaged 4 percent, one of the best inflation performances in Africa.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Using the exchange rate conversion, the GDP per head was around US$175 in 1999, with the purchasing power parity conversion (which allows for the low price of many basic commodities in Liberia) setting the GDP per head at around US$1,000. Both these measures place Liberia among the poorest 20 or so countries in the world. It was estimated in 1999 that 80 percent of Liberia's population was living below the poverty line, most of them engaged in subsistence agriculture, farming small plots of land.

Before the war there were 1,635 schools, 8,804 teachers, and 303,168 pupils. Primary and secondary education was free, though only 50 percent of the primary school age groups attended school. Although most education provision broke down during the war, new efforts to rehabilitate schools and pay wages to teachers have brought about some recovery. The adult literacy is still low at 48 percent, compared to the sub-Saharan average of 58 percent.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Liberia N/A 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,100
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Nigeria 1,380 N/A 960 970 950
Sierra Leone 980 540 530 500 510
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

Life expectancy at birth was 41 years in 1960, 39 during the war, and 47 in the post-war period. Infant mortality stands at 194 per 1,000 live births (as compared with 7 per 1,000 in the United States). The good health care and nutrition levels of the pre-war period have fallen, and disease is rife. In 1995 clean water was available to 79 percent of urban dwellers and 13 percent of rural dwellers, and sanitation was available to 56 percent of urban dwellers. About half the pre-war medical centers have been rehabilitated since the war.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The government is the largest employer in Liberia, but it is a sad truth of Liberia's decimated economy that there is little formal employment. In 1999, estimates indicated that large-scale agriculture engaged 8 percent of the labor force, industry 8 percent, and services 22 percent, with the remaining 62 percent of the working population engaged in small-scale, family, mostly subsistence, agriculture. However, it was also estimated that 70 percent of the country's workforce was unemployed. Clearly, the majority of the population of Liberia works outside the formal economy, most likely in subsistence agriculture, bartering , illegal mining, and other informal economy activities.

What little legislation there is for the protection of workers is often ignored. The civil war in Liberia has seen a collapse in government services, and regulation of employment conditions is not seen as a priority by the government. There is no minimum wage, and children are often made to work in agriculture on small family farms from the age of 5 upwards, contributing to low attendance figures at schools. Slavery is officially banned in Liberia, but the civil war has produced a situation where it has been possible for people to be intimidated or coerced into working without any payment or the right to leave. Recent regimes in Liberia have given international observers great cause for concern over human rights, particularly over employment conditions and the plight of children.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1820. U.S. philanthropists establish a settlement for U.S. freed slaves in Liberia.

1847. Liberia becomes a republic and adopts governmental institutions similar to those in the United States.

1945. William Tubman becomes president.

1971. Tubman dies, and William Tolbert succeeds him as president.

1980. After Tolbert is assassinated, Sergeant Samuel Doe rules through a military council.

1989-96. Civil war hurts the country. In 1989, Doe is returned to power in multi-party elections, but the elections are widely considered to be flawed. Violence between ethnic and political factions begins a civil war.

1990. A coup led by Brigadier General Quiwonkpa is crushed, and 600 are killed in post-coup violence. Samuel Doe is kidnapped and killed as violence worsens.

1991. Forces led by Charles Taylor invades from Côte d'Ivoire, and the civil war becomes more violent and concentrated. For a time, fighting spills over into neighboring Sierra Leone.

1995. After many failed attempts, a peace accord is signed in Nigeria calls for future elections.

1997. The disarmament of the various military forces is completed, and Charles Taylor is elected president in multi-party elections.

1998. Opposition leaders are sent into exile. Taylor continues his support for rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

FUTURE TRENDS

Though the long civil war that so devastated Liberia's economy ended in 1996 and economic growth has increased since that time, Liberia still faces real obstacles to economic stability and recovery. With the Liberia-backed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) continuing to destabilize Sierra Leone in 2001, international donors have remained reluctant to extend aid to Liberia, and UN sanctions are a possibility. Border confrontations can be expected to continue to hinder development. This ongoing situation makes for negligible economic progress in Liberia, and the misery of most people there will continue. In 2001, it was estimated that 80 percent of the people do not have enough income to meet the barest minimum requirements for food, shelter, and clothing.

Economically, President Taylor has demanded more control over strategic commodities, there have been calls for an embargo on timber exports, and oil exploration permits for foreign companies have been withheld. These measures, while increasing the power of the government over the economy, are not calculated to improve the conditions of ordinary people. The government has announced plans to privatize the main public utilities, which, when implemented, should introduce improvements in electricity, water, and telecommunication services. However, it will be many years before economic stability returns to Liberia, and prosperity remains a distant dream.

DEPENDENCIES

Liberia has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Liberia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Hodd, Michael. "Liberia." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

Kelly, R. C., et al., eds. Country Review, Liberia 1998/1999. Commercial Data International, Inc., 1998.

Liberia: Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, Washington D.C. <http://www.liberiaemb.org>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency . CIA World Factbook 2000: Liberia. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/li.html

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Liberia. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2000/africa/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.

Michael Hodd

CAPITAL:

Monrovia.

MONETARY UNIT:

Liberian dollar (L$). One dollar equals 100 cents. The dollar is equivalent to the U.S. dollar. There are coins of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 and 5 dollars. No Liberian notes are in circulation, and U.S. notes are used as the paper currency.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Diamonds, iron ore and concentrates, natural rubber and gum, timber, coffee, cocoa.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, food and live animals, mineral fuels, lubricants.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$3.35 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$55 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$170 million (f.o.b., 2000).

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Liberia

Liberia

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Liberia
Region: Africa
Population: 3,164,156
Language(s): English
Literacy Rate: 38.3%
Compulsory Schooling: 10 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 147,216
  Secondary: 54,623

History & Background

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 birthsmore than 1 children in 10while 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 200049.6 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 servicesquite 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.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Liberia is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency shaping the direction of Liberian economic, political, and social life. The country's Constitution of 6 January 1986, outlines the basic structures of governance. Liberia's dual system of statutory law features a legal system for the modern sector based on Anglo-American common law and a system of traditional African customary law transmitted by oral tradition for the indigenous sector. All Liberians, women and men alike, are eligible to vote at age 18; men are considered fit to serve in the military from ages 15 through 49 years of age. Despite these age limits, significant recruitment of child soldiers has taken place during Liberia's unsettled recent decades. The UN estimated that up to 20,000 children might have taken part in Liberia's 7 year civil war from 1989-1996, serving with both the government and the opposing warring factions. Some of the child soldiers reportedly were as young as six years.

Liberia's chief executive is the president, elected by popular vote to six year, renewable terms of office. The president is both head of the government and chief of state. Since 1997 the elected president of Liberia has been Charles Ghankay Taylor, a faction leader from Liberia's civil war who rose to power with the death of former President Samuel Doe, Liberia's president from 1989 until 1990 who was killed in the armed uprising. The executive branch of Liberia's national government also includes a cabinet of ministers, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

At the national level the Liberian legislative branch consists of the bicameral National Assembly composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The House has 64 members, elected to 6-year terms by popular vote, and the Senate has 26 members, elected to 9-year terms by popular vote as well. The third branch of the national government is the judicial system, which consists of a Supreme Court.

Despite its problems with numerous human rights abuses and continuing political unrest and military insecurity, Liberia received rather substantial overseas development assistance from international agencies and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations during the late 1990s after its civil war ended. By 2001, however, many bilateral and international donors allegedly were growing weary of providing assistance to support sustainable development in a country where the government itself seemed to be doing little to help its own people, despite the mineral wealth and other natural resources Liberia had at its disposal. As of 2001 Liberia was not receiving any World Bank assistance due to the country's failure to repay its loans. US$3.5 million of funds from the International Finance Corporation had been allocated to acquire and recommence a large rubber operation owned by the Liberian Agricultural Company, whose work had been halted by the civil war, but this and other international support was being held in reserve in 2001 pending improvements in the country's security status and governmental willingness to cooperate with international partners on a number of issues. Cross-border trading in illicit diamonds, weapons trading, and support to other armed conflicts in the West African region allegedly by persons associated with the Liberian government were having a decidedly negative impact on the enthusiasm of other states and nongovernmental organizations who otherwise might have chosen to do business in Liberia or support development projects in the country.


Educational SystemOverview

In 1995 the adult literacy rate for Liberia was estimated to be only 38.3 percent53.9 percent for men 15 years of age or older and just 22.4 percent for adult Liberian women. That year Liberia had an estimated 1 million adult illiterates, nearly two-thirds of whom (62 percent) were women. School attendance in Liberia has been considerably lower on average for girls than boys, especially in the rural areas. (Education-related statistics for the 1990s were not regularly recorded due to the social disruptions and physical damage caused by the civil war, making accurate and reliable counts for this period hard to come by.) School attendance quite naturally declined sharply during the war. The scale of disruption of normal social relations was enormous, especially for those children and youth pulled into the violence as direct participants in the fighting and as "soldier's wives" (the euphemism for the many young women and girls kidnapped by combatants and forced to submit to repeated sexual violence). Studies of the demobilization programs following Liberia's civil war of the 1990s indicated that significant problems had arisen in ending and recovering from the war. Approximately just 4,000 child soldiers of up to 20,000 who had participated in the fighting had been demobilized by 2001. Furthermore, many of the child soldiers who were awaiting demobilization (89 percent of the total) disappeared before the demobilization process was completed in 1997, with large numbers suspected of having returned to the bush or government side to continue the fighting. Clearly, special efforts continue to be needed to encourage young women and men who were part of the violence to return to school, recover from their trauma, and rebuild their lives. Flexible and responsive education programs are most definitely in order to suit their special needs.

The Ministry of Education is the principal government agency charged with overseeing the planning and implementation of education and school policies in Liberia. Though the reconstruction of the country's social infrastructure has taken place at a rather slow pace, educational opportunities also have been provided to Liberian students by a range of nongovernmental organizations (local, national, and international) and with the financial support of bilateral partners and intergovernmental agencies. For example, in the year 2000 UNESCO celebrated 50 years of partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Education in development programming, and UNESCO has continued to provide substantial funding to Liberia in the post-war years to support a wide variety of educational and cultural programs.

English is the official language of instruction in Liberian public schools, aimed at fostering a sense of national unity and facilitating communication across the country's many ethnic groups by the use of a common language. The country's low economic development and inconsistent electric supply complicate access to educational technology, computing, and Internet services. Very limited Internet access is available in Monrovia in those parts of the city where electricity is either generated by the consumer or provided by the government. For most schools in Liberia, finding sufficient texts and school supplies at a much more basic level than computers is still a formidable challenge.


Preprimary & Primary Education


The first 10 grades of schooling in Liberia technically are compulsory, comprising of a preprimary grade followed by nine years of basic education6 years at the primary level and 3 at the junior secondary level. However, schooling is not free, and parents increasingly have had to hold their children out of school to avoid having to cover their expected educational contributionschool feesdue to the country's dire economic situation. The primary grades normally include 6- to 12-year-olds; although with high repetition rates, older students generally are included as well.

Participation rates dropped dramatically in preprimary, primary, and secondary education during the 1990s due to Liberia's civil war. School enrollment rates in rural areas also have been considerably lower than in urban areas of Liberia. Moreover, educational enrollment and attainment statistics were not regularly or reliably collected during the 1990s. As a point of comparison with other countries, one source of educational statistics reported the 1985 gross enrollment ratio at the primary level in Liberia to be 40 percent (51 percent for boys and 28 percent for girls). In 1995 the overall ratio had dropped significantly to just 33 percent, due primarily to the war and Liberia's ravaged economy. Another source identified male and female gross primary enrollment ratios for the year 2000 to be 72 percent and 53 percent, respectively, with corresponding net enrollment figures of 43 percent for boys and 31 percent for girls. One more source noted the net primary enrollment ratio to be 40 percent in Liberia in 2001.


Secondary Education


At the secondary level of education, gross enrollment ratios were reported by UNICEF in 2000 to be 31 percent for boys and a very low 12 percent for girls. This nonetheless marked an improvement over the reported rate 5 years earlier, when the overall secondary education gross enrollment ratio was supposedly only 15 percent. Secondary schools in Liberia are designed to provide education for children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18: 3 years of junior high school for students ages 12 through 15, leading to the Junior High School Certificate upon graduation, and 3 years at the senior secondary level, with programs for students ages 15 through 18, culminating in the Senior High School Certificate. Following the three junior high years, viewed as a guidance cycle where general instruction is provided, Liberian students take their senior high school instruction in either a technical secondary school or a classical secondary school. At the end of grade 9 and again when they complete grade 12 (i.e., at the close of the 3 junior and the 3 senior high years), students take an examination covering mathematics, science, social studies, and language.

The demand for vocational and technical education carefully matched to labor market needs increased appreciably in Liberia during the 1990s, particularly with the collapse of the economy and the destruction of the social and physical infrastructures. UNESCO in 2000 consequently sponsored a consultant in technical/vocational and science education who was to develop strategies for the implementation of an accelerated technical and vocational training program for Liberia in the post-war years.


Higher Education


An entrance examination provides the means to access higher education in Liberia. In 1995 the gross enrollment rate for higher education in Liberia was only 2.5 percent overall3.7 percent of males and 1.2 percent of females of higher education age attended tertiary level schools. Nearly 5,000 students were enrolled in tertiary studies in the mid-1990s. Of the Liberian population older than 25 years of age, just 2 percent in 1995 had completed their tertiary education. Liberia has just one publicly supported university, the University of Liberia at Monrovia. In addition, Cuttington University College (a private institution associated with the Episcopalian Church) and William V.S. Tubman College of Technology provide education at the postsecondary level. The national legislative charters all degree-granting institutions of higher education in Liberia, and each educational institution has its own appointed board of trustees or directors whose tasks are specified in the charter for that institution. In the case of the University of Liberia, the Ministry of Education and the Board of Trustees are in charge of setting and implementing policy. Non-university postsecondary education also is provided in Liberia through two year courses in junior colleges that provide students with instructional programming leading to an Associate's degree. Some non-university programs also provide mid-level technical training and education in the liberal arts.

Bachelor's degree programs are the principal form of education offered at universities in Liberia, where the length of study is generally four years: two years of basic and general courses followed by two years of specialization in a particular, chosen area of study. (A plurality of students graduating at the Bachelor's level from the University of Liberia in February 2000 opted for a specialization in businessno doubt anticipating this would provide them with the practical training needed to become at least somewhat better off financially in Liberia's decidedly difficult economic climate at the time.) To obtain a Bachelor of Laws degree, students follow a course of study that includes at least two years of higher education followed by three years of specialization. Master's degree programs in regional planning, offered at the University of Liberia, culminate in the Master of Science degree after two years of graduate study beyond the Bachelor's. Medical degrees are awarded after seven years of study at the university level: three in the natural sciences followed by three in medical studies.

Teacher training is provided through three-year courses of study for students planning to pursue careers as primary school teachers. Successfully completing these programs allows graduates to teach in Liberia's elementary and junior high schools. Secondary school teachers are trained at the Teachers' College of the University of Liberia and through Cuttington University College's Department of Education. If prospective teachers already hold a higher education degree and wish to teach in another subject area, they can qualify by following a two-year study program that leads to a Grade A Teaching Certificate. Otherwise, training for a secondary level teaching career requires four years of study, after which the Bachelor's degree in Education is awarded.


Nonformal Education


Distance education in Liberia has been somewhat impeded by the lack of economic means of most Liberians, the relative lack of computers and Internet service in the country, and the general absence of necessary physical infrastructure, such as electrical supply. Additionally, state censorship of the media acts as a brake on the free transmission of ideas in the country, public discussions, and on teaching methods emphasizing the development of creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in students. This said, there were about 70,000 televisions and 790,000 radios in Liberia in 1997, all of them potentially useful for distance education. In 1999 Liberia had six FM radio stations and four short-wave radio stations, while the number of television broadcast stations in the country in the year 2000 was two. In the year 2000 UNESCO was involved in collaborating with UNICEF and UNDP to develop a "Distance Learning" program for Liberian teachers that would include sponsorship of an academic chair in the University of Liberia's Tubman Teachers College.

Many self-help-oriented programs exist in Liberia that are funded by international donors and run by nongovernmental organizations. Through such programs Liberian youth have developed their knowledge and abilities not only in specialized marketable skills, such as carpentry or tailoring, but also in starting, running, and managing their own businesses so they can better ensure their gainful employment after graduation. Fewer wage paying jobs existed after the war, and students generally have been encouraged to develop self-help skills, business skills, and entrepreneurial strategies to provide themselves with the means to generate their own employment, evenand perhaps especiallywhen they have been trained in vocational or technical skills. Micro-enterprise training and support programs run by nongovernmental organizations (local, national, and international) often include seed money and tool kits for trainees upon their graduation so that new skills can be put to immediate use to the financial benefit of the graduates, since regular bank loans generally are not available to those of low financial means and only some banks have resumed their normal operations after the war.


Summary


At the turn of the millennium, Liberia, in collaboration with UNESCO, was implementing a special UNDP-funded project, the Rehabilitation Support to the Education Sector project, designed to strengthen Liberia's national capacity in planning, supervising, monitoring, and evaluating; to enhance training opportunities for educational personnel; and to produce new curricular materials. US$1.3 million has been allocated for this project, whose positive impact will extend far beyond those educators and administrators directly served. By developing personnel who can plan more appropriate educational programs and carry out their projects with efficiency and understanding, fortified with the necessary teaching materials to properly implement the programs, projects like this one can have lasting effects.

The development of a vital civil society in Liberia has been encouraged since before the civil war ended. This occurs through technical and financial support from a range of intergovernmental and nongovernmental agencies and organizations in Liberia, such as UNESCO. Peace building, conflict resolution, and tolerance education programs also have been developed and implemented by a number of the same organizations in these crucial post-war years. As Liberia further emerges from its years of political and social unrest and violent upheaval, additional programming in the areas of psychosocial trauma counseling and community reconciliation will need to be more broadly disseminated among the population, implemented by professionals whose goal is to further the peaceable, democratic development of their country with respect for all ethnic groups and individuals.

A broader range of support directed toward rebuilding Liberia's internal structures, including its educational system, must become the top priority in the minds of many more individuals responsible for tending to the welfare of the Liberian people. The role of appropriate educational programs directed toward building a more peaceful, stable society dedicated to promoting human rights and guaranteeing that the basic human needs of the inhabitants of the country are met without fear of back-sliding into war is an essential role indeed. Liberia is fortunate to have had so many willing partners to share in the joint enterprise of educating her children and youth up to this point. The country may well prosper again in the very near future if sufficient attention and resources are directed toward finding the ways and means to develop an educational system for allnot one that neglects the needs of the impoverished by catering to the wealthy, but a system where all learners from all walks of life can come together to celebrate the rich diversity of this verdant country that once welcomed her forsaken children back to their original shore, regardless of what had transpired in between.


Bibliography

Amnesty International. "Liberia" in Amnesty International Report 2001. Available from http://web. amnesty.org/.

Association for the Development of Education in Africa. Statistical Profile of Education in sub-Saharan Africa (SPESSA). Available from http://www.adeanet.org/.

Brenner, Mary B. "Gender and Classroom Interactions in Liberia." In Women and Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Power, Opportunities, and Constraints, ed. Marianne Bloch, Josephine A. Beoku-Betts, and B. Robert Tabachnick. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998.

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. "Liberia" in Global Report on Child Soldiers 2001. Available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/.

International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Centre on Higher Education. World Higher Education Database 2000. Available from http://www. unesco.org/.

International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa, UNESCO. The Establishment of Teacher Education NetworkMultimedia Resource Centers in Liberia. Available from http://www.unesco-iicba.org/.

Johnson, Tarnue. "Empowerment Education: A Guide to Curriculum Reforms in Liberia." The Perspective (10 May 2001). Available from http://allafrica.com/.

Library of Congress. African-American Mosaic: Liberia. Available from http://www.loc.gov/.

Programme Coordination Unit, Ministry of Education, Liberia. UNESCO Liberia Partnership: 50 Years of Effective Technical Co-operation. Available from http://www.dakar.unesco.org/.

The Task Force on Higher Education and Society. Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2000.

UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Africa. LiberiaNational Commission for UNESCO. Available from http://www.dakar.unesco.org/.

UNICEF. Liberia. Available from http://www. unicef.org/.

U.S. Department of State. LiberiaConsular Information Sheet. 11 July 2001. Available from http://www.travel.state.gov.

World Bank Group. Country Brief: Liberia. Available from http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/.

. Liberia at a Glance. Available from http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/.

. Liberia Data Profile. World Development Indicators database. Available from http://devdata. worldbank.org/.

World Bank, Human Development Network. Education Sector Strategy. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 1999.

Barbara Lakeberg Dridi

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Liberia

Liberia (lībēr´ēə) (New Lat.,=place of freedom), officially Republic of Liberia, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,482,000), 43,000 sq mi (111,370 sq km), W Africa. Liberia fronts on the Atlantic Ocean for some 350 mi (560 km) on the southwest and is bordered on the northwest by Sierra Leone, on the north by Guinea, and on the east by Côte d'Ivoire. Monrovia is the capital, largest city, main port, and commercial center.

Land and People

Liberia can be divided into three distinct topographical areas. First, a flat coastal plain of some 10 to 50 mi (16–80 km), with creeks, lagoons, and mangrove swamps; second, an area of broken, forested hills with altitudes from 600 to 1,200 ft (180–370 m), which covers most of the country; and third, an area of mountains in the northern highlands, with elevations reaching 4,540 ft (1,384 m) in the Nimba Mts. and 4,528 ft (1,380 m) in the Wutivi Mts. Liberia's six main rivers flow into the Atlantic. Vegetation in much of the country is dense forest growth. The climate is tropical and humid, with a heavy rainfall, averaging 183 in. (465 cm) on the coast and some 88 in. (224 cm) in the southeastern interior. There are two rainy seasons and a dry, harmattan season in December and January. In addition to the capital, other important towns include Buchanan and Harper, both ports.

The majority of the population belong to 16 ethnic groups, including the Kpelle, the Bassa, the Gio, the Kru, the Grebo, and the Mano. Traditional religions are practiced by about 40% of the people; another 40% are Christian, and 20% are Muslim. English is the official language, but is spoken by only about 20% of the people; African languages are used extensively. Far less numerous, but of great political importance in the past, are the descendants of freed slaves who immigrated from the United States to Liberia in the 19th cent. These people, formerly called Americo-Liberians, are concentrated in the towns, where they have provided the country's Westernized leadership and, for the most part, are adherents of various Protestant denominations. There are also communities of Lebanese merchants and European and American technicians.

Economy

The civil warfare that raged from 1990 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2003 had a disastrous effect on the Liberian economy, with many business people fleeing the country as rebels gained control of vast quantities of gold, diamonds, natural rubber, and tropical hardwoods. Until the 1950s, Liberia's economy was almost totally dependent upon subsistence farming and the production of rubber. The American-owned Firestone plantation was the country's largest employer and held a concession on some one million acres (404,700 hectares) of land. With the discovery of high-grade iron ore, first at Bomi Hills, and then at Bong and Nimba, the production and export of minerals became the country's major cash-earning economic activity. Gold, diamonds, barite, and kyanite are also mined. Mineral processing plants are located near Buchanan and Bong.

About 70% of the population work in the agricultural sector, which produces rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava, palm oil, sugarcane, and bananas. Sheep and goats are raised, and there is lumbering. Much rice, the main staple, is imported, but efforts have been made to develop intensive rice production and to establish fish farms. Much of the country's industry is concentrated around Monrovia, where civil war disruption was highest, and is directed toward mineral, rubber, and palm oil processing. The lack of skilled and technical labor has slowed the growth of the manufacturing sector.

The government derives a sizable income from registering ships; low fees and lack of control over shipping operations have made the Liberian merchant marine one of the world's largest. Internal communications are poor, with few paved roads and only a few short, freight-carrying rail lines. Rubber, timber, iron ore, diamonds, cocoa, and coffee provide the bulk of the export earnings; fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs are the principal imports. In general, the value of imports greatly exceeds that of exports, and the country has accumulated massive international debts. Liberia's main trading partners are Belgium, South Korea, and Japan.

Government

Liberia is governed under the constitution of 1986. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is popularly elected for a renewable six-year term. The president is both the head of state and the head of government. The bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consists of the 30-seat Senate, whose members are popularly elected for nine-year terms, and the 64-seat House of Representatives, whose members are popularly elected for six-year terms. Administratively, Liberia is divided into 15 counties.

History

Founding to 1980

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. From 2014 to 2015 an Ebola epidemic that began (Dec., 2013) in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone killed some 4,700 people in Liberia. Government corruption remains a significant problem in Liberia.

Bibliography

See C. H. Huberich, The Political and Legislative History of Liberia (2 vol., 1947); P. J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1816–1865 (1961); C. M. Wilson, Liberia (1971); J. K. Sundiata, Black Scandal, America and the Liberian Labor Crisis (1980); J. G. Liebenow, Liberia (1987); D. E. Dunn and S. B. Tarr, Liberia (1988).

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Liberia

Liberia

Recipes

Palava ......................................................................... 40
Jollof Rice .................................................................... 41
Sweet Potato Pone ...................................................... 41
Rice Bread................................................................... 41
Ginger Beer................................................................. 42
Lemon Grass Tea......................................................... 42
Goat Soup................................................................... 43

1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT

Located on the west coast of Africa, Liberia has an area of about 43,000 square miles (111,370 square kilometers), slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. The Nimba Mountains, near the Guinea border, rise to 4,528 feet (1,380 meters), and the Wologizi Mountains reach a maximum of about 4,450 feet (1,356 meters). There are six principal rivers, all of which flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Liberia includes some of Africa's most impressive evergreen forests. Fruit trees include citrus varieties, the alligator apple, papaya, mango, and avocado. Pineapples grow wild. Agricultural crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, plantains, and bananas.

2 HISTORY AND FOOD

Liberia was founded in 1822 for the resettlement of freed American slaves. Its name comes from the Latin word that means "free." The capital city of Monrovia is named after the U.S. president James Monroe, who established the Republic of Liberia. Much of the culture and foods from Liberia are adapted from African American culture. This can be seen in the American currency that is often used to purchase groceries and in the American English language that is spoken on the streets of Monrovia. Rioting Liberians calling for cheaper rice in 1980 supported a failed coup against the American-Liberian government. There are thirty native Liberians for every one American Liberian, but American Liberians have control over the official government. Native Liberians fought a civil war against American Liberians from 19881995. Since then, the country has struggled to recover and make enough food for its people.

3 FOODS OF THE LIBERIANS

Many Liberians grow their own rice, sugar cane, and cassava (a starchy root). Rice is eaten at least twice a day (much more than any other starch). Foreign rice, or pasava, is considered much better than locally grown rice because of the rocks that get mixed up with the local rice during harvesting. Palm oil or palm butter usually comes with the meal, and wine is also made from the palm nut. Cassava leaves and potato leaves are both boiled and eaten like spinach. Sugar cane is either refined, or after cutting through the tough bark, the sweet juice is sucked straight out of the cane bought at the marketplace.

Fufu (a doughy food that accompanies most meals) can be made from rice, plantain, cassava, corn, or yam. The starchy food is dried, pounded until ground, boiled, and rolled into two-inch ovals. Most Liberians use cassava to make fufu; a variation, called dumboy, is boiled before mashing. Fufu is swallowed instead of chewed. It is popularly eaten with a spicy soup. Beef internal soup is made with beef, dried codfish, tripe, and other smoked fish caught from the nearby ocean. Hot peppers are added to many foods for an extra kick, and ground cayenne peppers are used as flavorings and preservatives. Favorite dishes include palava sauce, made traditionally with plato (okra) leaves, dried fish or meat, and palm oil; and jollof rice, a chicken, beef, and bacon dish with vegetables and rice. Palava sauce comes primarily from the counties of Maryland and Grand Kru.

Palava

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds cubed beef
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
  • Ginger, to taste
  • Red pepper, to taste
  • ¼½ cup peanut oil
  • 2 10-ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach

Procedure

  1. Boil meat in a little water until tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Fry onion, tomatoes, and spices in oil.
  3. Add spinach and meat to the onions and tomatoes, and simmer 1015 minutes.

Serves 6.

Jollof Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless chicken
  • ½ pound beef cubes
  • ½ pound bacon
  • ½ cup oil or shortening
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1½ pounds cabbage, cut into chunks
  • 1½ cups rice
  • 6 cups water

Procedure

  1. Cut chicken, beef, and bacon into ½-inch chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and coat with flour.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan, add the meat in small batches, and brown the meat. Remove the meat, setting it aside in a bowl.
  3. Sauté the onions and pepper in the oil in pot until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Return the meat to the pot and add the tomato paste.
  5. Add water, cover, and heat to boiling. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add rice, bring to a boil. Reduce heat.
  7. Add cabbage, and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
  8. Serve while hot.

Serves 12 or more.

Sweet Potato Pone

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed and chilled
  • Oil for deep-frying

Procedure

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and stir well to combine.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sweet potatoes together.
  3. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until a stiff dough is formed.
  4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ½-inch thickness and cut into shapes.
  5. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a deep saucepan. Fry dough in batches for about 4 minutes.
  6. Drain, cool, dust with powdered sugar (optional), and serve.

Rice Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice, cooked and mashed
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup oil

Procedure

  1. Mix together rice, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add bananas, eggs, milk, and oil.
  3. Bake in a greased 9- by 12-inch pan at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Ginger Beer

Ingredients

  • 25 pieces ginger
  • 2 pineapples, unpeeled and cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 gallon water
  • 3½ cups molasses

Procedure

  1. Beat ginger pieces in a large kettle until soft.
  2. Add pineapple and yeast.
  3. Boil water and pour into ginger mixture. Let stand overnight.
  4. Strain, and add the molasses.
  5. Chill and serve.

Lemon Grass Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped lemon grass leaves (can be found at Asian or health foods stores)
  • 2 cups water
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Milk (optional)

Procedure

  1. Put the lemon grass leaves in a teapot.
  2. Boil water and pour over leaves. Steep for five minutes.
  3. May serve with sugar and milk.

Serves 2.

4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS

Liberians celebrate Independence Day on July 26; it is the biggest holiday in the country. They also celebrate most American holidays like New Year's (January 1), Thanksgiving (the first Thursday in November), and Christmas (December 25). Christmas is celebrated with a large meal, without gift-giving or Christmas trees. Goat soup is the national soup, served on important occasions. Coffee is also served after special meals. Each former and current president's birthday is celebrated annually: J.J. Roberts (March 15), William V.S. Tubman (November 29), William R. Tolbert, Jr. (May 13), Samuel Doe (May 6), and Charles Taylor (January 29). However, each county celebrates a president's birthday on a rotating basis, so that a county celebrates only one president's birthday a year. A county is lucky if it gets to celebrate the birthday of the current president because of the extra money and publicity that county receives for the festival.

Goat Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds goat meat (can substitute lamb or beef)
  • Hot peppers
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 8 ounces tomato paste
  • Salt, black pepper

Procedure

  1. Cut up the meat into 23 inch pieces.
  2. Marinate with peppers, salt, black pepper, and onion for about an hour.
  3. Add water and boil until meat is tender.
  4. Add tomatoes and paste and cook until tomatoes are soft.

5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS

In Liberia, the table is set with turned over plates and glasses with a napkin on top, so that the guest may turn over the clean dishes for use. Those at the meal greet each other by shaking hands. While shaking, they take the middle finger of the other person's right hand and snap it up and down. This tradition comes from the days of slavery, when the slave owner would break a slave's finger in order to establish ownership. The handshake (or "snapshake") celebrates Liberia's freedom from slavery.

The cook brings out all the food at once, and stays seated at the table during the entire meal. All the dishes remain on the table until the end of the meal. Most Liberians will eat with their fingers, although American customs have brought utensils to the dining rooms of many city people. A typical Liberian dinner consists of dumboy or fufu served with palm butter and palava sauce, meat stew, country chop (a mixture of meats, fish, and greens cooked in palm oil), jollof rice, and beef internal soup. Rice bread and sweet potato pone are served for dessert, and ginger beer is drunk throughout the meal. Coffee is served only on special occasions.

In the city of Monrovia, there are some modern restaurants, but in most towns there are small "cook shops" that offer stews and fufu. Most cooking is still done outside on a stone hearth.

6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION

About 42 percent of the population of Liberia are classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, over 33 percent are stunted (short for their age).

According to the Liberian government, only about 39 percent of the population have access to health care services, and there are virtually no functioning social services. The Liberian staple diet of rice or cassava is deficient in protein, and children in particular suffer from the malnutrition.

7 FURTHER STUDY

Books:

DeWitt, Dave. Flavors of Africa: Spicy African Cooking. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998.

Hachten, Harva. Best of Regional African Cooking. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998.

Hultman, Tami. The Africa News Cookbook. New York: Hamilton Printing Company, 1986.

Odarty, Bill. A Safari of African Cooking. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1992.

Websites:

Liberian Connection. [Online] Available http://www.liberian-connection.com (accessed February 14, 2001).

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Liberia

Liberia

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Liberia
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 3,225,837
Language(s): English, ethnic group languages
Literacy rate: 38.3%
Area: 111,370 sq km
Number of Television Stations: 2
Number of Television Sets: 70,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 21.7
Number of Radio Stations: 10
Number of Radio Receivers: 790,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 244.9

Background & General Characteristics

The Republic of Liberia is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee in the United States. Liberia is a democratic country situated on the western African coast and borders the Atlantic Ocean along its entire southwest coastline of 579 kilometers. Much of Liberia is covered with tropical rain forest while 10 percent is water and the country's terrain ranges from coastal plains to plateau to low mountains. Liberia's climate is tropical.

A low literacy rate of 38.3 percent (male 53.9 percent and women 22.4 percent) makes radio the preferred medium of communication, with about 800,000 radio receivers nationwide.

The legal and constitutional frameworks exist for a free and independent press in Liberia, but the reality is that government routinely shuts down independent media houses. Journalists who are critical of the government are frequently jailed without due process. Most press activities are concentrated around Monrovia, the capital. The press exercises self censorship and continues to criticize the government at their own risk.

In 2002, Liberia was home to two independent daily newspapers, the Inquirer and the News. Another independent newspaper, New National, publishes biweekly. A fourth independent newspaper, The Analyst, published sporadically until police closed it down on April 25, 2002. The government's Ministry of Information publishes the New Liberian bi-weekly. The ruling National Patriotic Party publishes the Pepperbird sporadically. Two government ministers own the Monrovia Guardian and Poll Watch, respectively; both are bi-weekly. Three other independent newspapers, The Journalist, the Concord Times, and the Daily Times remain closed.

Economic Framework

A seven-year civil war which began on Christmas Eve 1989 ended with elections in July 1997 and brought President Charles Taylor to power. The years of fighting coupled with an unsettled domestic security situation has led to the flight of most businesses and has disrupted formal economic activity. The rebuilding of the social and economic structure of Liberia is stagnant. An United Nations-imposed sanction is in place until May 2003. The government relies on revenue from its maritime registry and lumber exports to provide the bulk of its foreign exchange earnings. Eighty percent of Liberia's 3.2 million people live below the poverty line and unemployment is 70 percent.

Most newspapers print a maximum of 1,000 copies and the advertising rates are abysmally low. A full-page ad costs about $100 (U.S.) in a daily newspaper with 1,000 circulation. All newspapers are printed in English, the official language. Beside English, Liberia has sixteen ethnic groups and four language families.

The currency exchange rate between the American dollar and Liberian dollar is about 1:50. Newspapers pay approximately $200 (U.S.) or $10,000 (L) to print 1,000 copies of an 8-page paper. Newspapers typically retail for $20 (40 cents U.S.), the same price of a pint of rice, Liberia's food staple.

Sabannoh Printing Press had a monopoly on newspaper printing until March 2002 when the government granted a permit to the Press Union of Liberia to operate Liberia Printing Incorporated.

Press Laws

The Liberian Constitution guarantees press freedom. Article 15(a-e) states:

  1. Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression being fully responsible for the abuse thereof;
  2. The right includes freedom of speech and of the press;
  3. There shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries;
  4. Access to state-owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas expressed;
  5. This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights to privacy.

Liberia, in theory, has an independent judiciary but the president exercises strong executive powers that frequently cross the lines that separate it from the legislative and judicial branches.

Censorship

Self-censorship is very common. A Communication Act promulgated by government on August 28, 1989, empowers a National Communications and Regulation Commission to "devise policies and/or regulations to govern the creation, establishment and operation of all electronic and print media within the territorial confines of the Republic of Liberia."

State-Press Relations

There is mutual suspicion between government and the independent press. The Press Union of Liberia, established in 1964, is dynamic and defends the rights of journalists.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Foreign journalists need a clearance from the Ministry of Information. There are documented cases of foreign journalists who were charged with espionage, detained and had their equipment and tapes confiscated. All were released after appeals from the international community.

Broadcast & ELECTRONIC News Media

The Liberia Communications Network (LCN), owned by Liberia's president Charles Taylor, has a nationwide reach and broadcasts on FM and short wave frequencies. There are three other stations with short wave frequency capability; two of which are religious stations. The first of these, Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) has broadcast in Liberia off and on since 1954. The second, Radio Veritas, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Liberia, has been shut down frequently because of Veritas's stance on human rights and social justice issues. STAR Radio, another independent radio station with short wave transmittals remains closed.

The government-owned Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) is heard only around Monrovia as are the privately owned FM radio stations DC-101, Liberia Christian Radio, and LOVE-FM. Stone FM is heard mostly around Harbel, near the Firestone rubber company. There are two television broadcast stations plus four low-power repeaters. Private video clubs proliferate. The Liberia News Agency (LINA) rarely sends out wire stories.

The only public Internet service, Data Tech, launched in early 1999 is controlled by a family with close personal ties to the president (World Reporter).

Education & TRAINING

The University of Liberia awards a bachelor of arts in mass communications. Civil strife has led to frequent closures of the University. A brain drain has mitigated the quality of trained journalists in the country. The Liberian Institute of Journalism, the Press Union of Liberia, and some diplomatic missions offer occasional in-service training. Many journalists acquire skills through apprenticeship.

The Press Union of Liberia gives annual merit awards to individuals and media institutions.

Summary

Liberia's current president, Charles Taylor, tolerates minimal criticism yet the independent press remains strong partly because it is unified by the dynamic Press Union of Liberia. Press freedom is protected by the constitution, but like most developing nations, the press laws in Liberia are only as good as the government that enacts, enforces, and interpret such laws.

Bibliography

Allen, William C. "Soaring Above the Clouds of Mediocrity: The Challenges of the Liberian Press in the '90s." Liberian Studies Journal (XV:1, 1990):74-84.

Best, Kenneth Y. "The Liberian Press: Quo Vadis?" Liberian Studies Journal (XXII:1, 1997): 45-67.

Burrowes, Carl Patrick. "Modernization and the Decline of Press Freedom: Liberia 1847 to 1970." Journalism & Mass Communication Monographs 160 (Dec. 1996).

Central Intelligence Agency. "Liberia." The World Factbook. Available from www.cia.gov.

Constitutional Advisory Assembly. Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. Monrovia, Liberia: Sabannoh Press Ltd., 1983.

Freedom Forum. "Liberian battle for control of short-wave radio heats up." September 5, 2001. Available from www.freedomforum.org.

. "Liberian journalists freed after more than a month in jail on espionage charges." April 2, 2001. Available from www.freedomforum.org.

Nelson, Estella. "PUL Regrets Action Against Press Freedom." The News [Monrovia]. May 6, 2002. Available from http://allafrica.com.

. "Journalists Seek Close Collaboration With Government." April 21, 2002. Available from http://allafrica.com.

Rogers, Momo K. "The Liberian Press: An Analysis." Journalism Quarterly (No. 63, 1986): 273-281.

. "The Press in Liberia, 1826-1996: A Select Chronology." Liberian Studies Journal (XXII:1, 1997): 95-120.

. "Liberian Journalism, 1826-1980: A Descriptive History." Ph.D. diss., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1987.

World Reporter. "Liberia's naked ambition?" October 30, 2001. Available from www.worldreporter.org.

Dr.William C. Allen

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Liberia

Liberia

Official name: Republic of Liberia

Area: 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Wutivi (1,380 meters/4,528 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 274 kilometers (170 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 548 kilometers (341 miles) from west-northwest to east-southeast

Land boundaries: 1,585 kilometers (985 miles) total boundary length; Guinea 563 kilometers (350 miles); Côte d'Ivoire 716 kilometers (445 miles); Sierra Leone 306 kilometers (190 miles)

Coastline: 579 kilometers (360 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Liberia, Africa's oldest reh2blic, is located at the western edge of the continent, on the Atlantic coast between Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. It has an area of 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles), or slightly more than the state of Tennessee.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Liberia has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Liberia has a hot, humid, tropical climate with little seasonal variation, although temperatures are cooler in the interior highlands than along the coast. The mean temperature is 27°C (81°F). Ocean breezes temper the tropical heat, sometimes accompanied by the dry desert wind called the harmattan, which blows in December. Most rain falls during the rainy season between April and November. Rainfall varies from about 178 centimeters (70 inches) in the northern uplands to 510 centimeters (200 inches) on the coast.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Starting from a coastal plain that is 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide, the terrain gradually rises through two more major geographical regions: a belt of forested hills and, beyond it, an upland region of plateaus and low mountains.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Liberia is bordered on the west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean. Since the country is only a few degrees north of the equator, it is also near the dividing point between the North Atlantic and South Atlantic Oceans. The surf is normally heavy all along the coast, but it is most tempestuous at the height of the rainy season.

Coastal Features

The coastal region is a belt of gently rolling low plains extending 32 to 48 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) inland. It is broken along the shore by river estuaries, tidal creeks, and swamps, as well as a few prominent rocky capes and promontories. In the northwest, not far from the border with Sierra Leone, Cape Mount rises steeply from the sea to an elevation of over 305 meters (1,000 feet). Cape Mesurado is the site of Monrovia, the capital. Farther to the southeast, several other headlands break the monotony of the low shoreline. The mouths of Liberia's rivers are so obstructed by shifting sand bars, submerged rocks, and sandpits that they provide no natural harbors.

6 INLAND LAKES

Liberia's only sizable lake is Lake Fisherman (Lake Piso), which has an area of about 40 square miles.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Most of Liberia's rivers flow in roughly parallel courses from the interior plateau to the ocean. Several of them, including the Lofa, the St. Paul, and the St. John, rise in the Guinea Highlands north of the border with Guinea. The Mano and Morro Rivers to the west form parts of the border with Sierra Leone. To the east, the Cavalla River forms the entire border with Côte d'Ivoire. The St. Paul River forms part of the border with Guinea. Rapids, waterfalls, and other barriers severely limit inland navigation.

8 DESERTS

Liberia has no deserts.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Between the coastal plain and the interior plateau is a band of heavily wooded, hilly country about 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide, with elevations of between 60 to 150 meters (200 and 500 feet).

DID YOU KNOW?

Liberia's coast was traditionally referred to as the Grain Coast, a reference to the "Grains of Paradise," or malagueta peppers, that attracted early European traders.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

There are scattered mountain ranges in Liberia's upland plateau region. They include the Putu range in the southeast, the Bong range near the center of the country, and the Wologizi and Nimba ranges in the north. The highest point in the country, Mount Wutivi, in the Wologizi range, rises to 1,380 meters (4,528 feet).

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no notable caves or canyons in Liberia.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

Beyond Liberia's coastal plain and forested hills lies a rolling plateau broken abruptly by spurs of the Guinea Highlands. Ranging in elevation from 305 meters (1,000 feet) to over 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) in the high northern uplands, Liberia's inland plateau region is the country's largest geographical region.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

The Mt. Coffee hydroelectric plant is located on the St. Paul River, the second-longest river in the country.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Daniels, Anthony. Monrovia Mon Amour: A Visit to Liberia. London: John Murray, 1992.

Greene, Barbara. Too Late to Turn Back: Barbara and Graham Greene in Liberia. Introduction by Paul Theroux. London: Settle Bendall, 1981.

Zemser, Amy Bronwen. Beyond the Mango Tree. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

Web Sites

Africa South of the Sahara. http://wwwsul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/liberia.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

Liberia Maps website. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/libhtml/libhome.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

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LIBERIA

LIBERIA. A country in West Africa. Languages: English (official), and over 20 Niger–Congo languages, including Kru and Mande. The region was mapped by the Portuguese in the 15c and later visited by the Dutch, British, and other Europeans looking for gold, spices, and slaves. The idea of a homeland for freed slaves was conceived by a group of US philanthropical societies, including the American Colonization Society, influenced by the British creation of Freetown in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Monrovia, named after President Monroe, was founded in 1822. The governors of Liberia were white Americans until Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a black born in Virginia, took over in 1841. He declared the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847. Freed slaves migrated from the US until the end of the Civil War in 1865, and black Americans have settled in small numbers ever since.

Liberian English

Liberia is the only black African country in which English is a native language and the only country in Africa owing its English more to the US than the UK. The variety originated first in contacts from the 17c between native speakers of BrE and AmE and such coastal peoples as the Kru (among whom English PIDGINS developed), and then in the settlement of repatriated blacks. Their descendants, known formally as Americo-Liberians and colloquially as Mericos and Congos, established and maintained the prestige of English and dominated Liberian society politically and economically, especially through the True Whig Party, until the 1980 coup, which was led by Samuel Doe, a non-Merico army sergeant. Sierra Leone Krio has had some impact on usage, and frequent travel to, and close political relations with, the US have given standard AmE and American BLACK ENGLISH continuing prestige and influence. English in Liberia can be described in terms of an ACROLECT (high-prestige form), several BASILECTS (low-prestige forms), and emerging MESOLECTS (intermediate forms). Standard Liberian English is acquired through, and is a mark of, a high level of education, is heard on radio and television, and is the speech of those locally referred to as civilized. At the other end of the continuum, the basilects include Kru Pidgin English (the oldest pidgin), Settler English (formerly Merico), the everyday usage of the Americo-Liberian settlers (closely related to Southern US English before the Civil War), and Liberian Interior English, used mainly by speakers of Mande in the non-coastal areas. Soldier English is a pidgin used since the early 20c by and with non-English-speakers in the army, and Vernacular Liberian English includes urban and rural mesolects that compromise between the standard and non-standard varieties.

Features

The close historical link with AmE gives Liberian English its distinctiveness in relation to other West African varieties. Phonologically, the varieties range from a rhotic standard associated with AmE to non-rhotic pronunciations influenced by Kru and Mande. Grammatically, the mesolects and basilects have the following features: (1) Non-standard auxiliaries: He done come He has come; A was not know I did not know; habitual do as in I do see boy all de time I see the boy all the time; progressive de as in I de go I am going. (2) Uninflected verbs: You see da man? Did you see the man?; A know dem I knew them; Dey kesh grahapa They caught grasshoppers. The distinction between Settler English and Kru Pidgin can be seen in Settler Da pekin cryin, Kru Di pekin de krai (The child is crying), Settler I ain see him, Kru A neva siam. Distinctively Liberian words include: bugabug termite, dumboy boiled, pounded cassava, favour to resemble (compare AmE), fresh cold a runny nose, head cold, groundpea peanut, groundnut, jina spirits, kanki measurement for rice (around two cups), kwi a foreigner, outside child a child acknowledged although born outside marriage, sasse cheeky, smart, sassy. Traditionally, the standard has been emphasized and the other varieties generally disparaged, but since the coup the compromise forms have begun to gain recognition in such public contexts as the media and informal greetings, as expressions of political and social solidarity. The mesolect in Monrovia is the centre of innovation, and is spreading throughout the country. Typically, the same kind of thing can be said at several different ‘levels’: acrolect What you're saying, it's true, and I won't do it again; mesolect The thing you talking, that true, but I will not do it again; basilect The thing you telli me you no lie, but I can't do some again. See WEST AFRICAN ENGLISH, WEST AFRICAN PIDGIN ENGLISH.

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Liberia

Liberia

Country statistics

area:

111,370sq km (43,000sq mi)

population:

2,776,800

capital (population):

Monrovia (543,000)

government:

Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Kpelle 19%, Bassa 14%, Grebo 9%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, Mano 7%

languages:

English (official)

religions:

African traditional beliefs 34%, Protestant 20%, Muslim 20%

currency:

Liberian dollar = 100 cents

Republic on the Atlantic coast of w Africa.

Land and Climate

Liberia's coastline stretches more than 500km (300mi), and is the site of the capital and chief port, Monrovia. A narrow coastal plain rises to a plateau region, with the highest land on the border with Guinea. The most important rivers are the Cavally, which forms the border with Ivory Coast, and the St Paul. Liberia has a tropical climate. There are two rainy seasons. Mangrove swamps and lagoons line the coast, while inland, forests cover nearly 40% of the land. Liberia also has areas of tropical savanna. Only 5% of the land is cultivated.

History and Politics

The American Colonization Society founded in 1821. The following year, the Society landed African-American former slaves at a coastal settlement that they named Monrovia. In 1847, Liberia became a fully independent republic. For many years, Americo-Liberians controlled Liberia's government and the US Firestone Company's rubber plantations covered more than 400,000ha (1 million acres). Under the leadership (1944–71) of William Tubman, Liberia's economy grew and it adopted social reforms. In 1980 Tubman's successor, William R. Tolbert, was assassinated in a military coup and Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe led a new military government. In 1985, Doe's brutal and corrupt regime won a fraudulent election. Civil war broke out in 1989, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a five-nation peace-keeping force. Doe was assassinated and an interim government, led by Amos Sawyer, took office. Civil war raged on, claiming c.150,000 lives and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless by 1994. In 1995, a cease-fire occurred and the former warring factions formed a council of state. Former warlord Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Council secured a resounding victory in 1997 elections. In 2001, the UN imposed an arms embargo on Liberia for trading weapons for diamonds with rebels in Sierra Leone. In 2002, Taylor imposed a state of emergency as fighting intensified with rebels on the border with Guinea. In 2003, Taylor was forced to resign and went into exile. Economy Civil war devastated Liberia's economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$1100). Agriculture employs 75% of the workforce. Chief food crops include cassava, rice, and sugar cane. Rubber, cocoa and coffee are grown for export. Timber is also exported. Crude materials, principally iron ore, account for more than 90% of Liberia's exports.

Political map

Physical map


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Liberia

LIBERIA


Liberia is a country that lies along the West African coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone borders it on the northwest, Guinea on the north, and the Ivory Coast on the east. The capital of Liberia is Monrovia.

Established in 1821, Liberia was intended as a haven for freed American slaves. Members of the American Colonization Society, which was organized between 1816 and 1817, purchased land from native tribes in Africa, with the goal of transporting freed slaves back to their African homeland. The land was named Liberia, which was derived from a Latin word meaning "freedom."

In 1822 the first returning Africans arrived in Liberia. By 1860, eleven thousand freed slaves from America had settled in Liberia; eventually fifteen thousand made the trans-Atlantic voyage. On July 26, 1847, the country was established as a free and independent republic. But constitutional issues, foreign debt, and territorial disputes soon threatened the new nation. The United States government stepped in with aid to stabilize Liberia.

The plan of the American Colonization Society had always been a controversial one: many abolitionists opposed it, as did some African Americans who believed slavery should simply be eradicated from the United States, and the freed slaves granted all rights of citizenship. The African resettlement movement declined in the mid-1800s.

See also: Abolition, Slavery

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Liberia

Liberia

Culture Name

Liberian

Orientation

Identification. Liberia lies on the west coast of Africa. The name comes from the English word "liberty" and refers to the nation's origin as a colony of free blacks repatriated to Africa from the United States in the early nineteenth century. Although the settlers and their descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, defined the boundaries of the nation-state, made English the official language, and dominated the government and economy for almost one hundred fifty years, they have never constituted as much as 5 percent of the population. The remaining people belong to sixteen broadly defined ethnolinguistic groups of the Niger-Congo family. The Mel (West Atlantic) group consists of the Gola and Kissi, who are believed to be the oldest inhabitants. The Mande group, made up of Mandingo, Vai, Gbandi, Kpelle, Loma, Mende, Gio, and Mano peoples, is believed to have entered the area from the northern savannahs in the fifteenth century. The southern and eastern areas are inhabited by people who speak Kruan (Kwa) languages; the Bassa, Dei (Dey), Grebo, Kru, Belle (Kuwaa), Krahn, and Gbee are linguistically related to the peoples of the Niger delta far to the east.

All these groups were present in the territory when the American settlers arrived in 1822. Although Liberia has been independent since 1847, making it the oldest republic in Africa, most of its citizens have never felt allegiance to the nation-state. With most government institutions concentrated in coastal cities, many inhabitants of the interior had little sense of being Liberian until the second half of the twentieth century.

Location and Geography. Liberia lies on the western "bulge" of Africa. About half the country is covered by primary tropical rain forest containing valuable hardwoods. A monsoon climate of alternating wet and dry seasons characterizes the weather. Plateaus and mountain ranges in the northern region are rich in iron ore, gold, and diamonds. The Atlantic coastline of 353 miles (568 kilometers) has no natural deep-water harbors and is pounded by heavy surf.

The capital, Monrovia, was named for the United States president James Monroe and is situated near the original landing site of the American settlers. The area had been known as the Grain Coast, in reference to the malagueta pepper that was the primary export. Negotiations with the Bassa and Dei to "purchase" land for the settlers apparently were carried out at gunpoint, and the indigenous people probably believed they were entering into a trade agreement with the newcomers rather than giving up ownership of their territory. The rest of the country was acquired though similar "purchases," conquest, and negotiation with British and French colonizers.

Demography. The population was 2,893,800 in 1994. A disastrous civil war from late 1989 to 1997 is believed to have cost at least 200,000 lives, and many Liberians live as refugees in neighboring countries and elsewhere in the world. The relative distribution of the population among the sixteen recognized ethnic groups has remained relatively constant. The Kpelle are the largest with 20 percent of the population, followed by the Bassa with 14 percent. All the other groups number less than 10 percent of the total.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English, which is used for instruction in all public and mission schools and in university education. A significant portion of the population is bilingual and often competent in several indigenous languages as well as English. Those in the regions bordering Ivory Coast and Guinea are often conversational in French. The English spoken in most common, informal settings is "Liberian English," a creole form. Educated people frequently switch between the creole form and the more standard English promoted by schools. Men tend to have more facility with both standard and creole English than do women, reflecting men's greater access to formal education and urban mores.

Symbolism. The official national symbols, such as the official language, reflect the American origin of the nation-state. The flag is a replica of the American flag, but with a single large white star on a blue field representing Liberia's long history as the "Lone Star," the only independent republic in Africa during the colonial period. The Great Seal depicts a sailing ship like that which carried the American settlers to Africa, a palm tree, and a plow and ax with the motto "The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here."

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence as a Nation. The nation's origin as a nation-state lies in a paradox of United States history. Even before the end of the war for American independence, public figures such as Thomas Jefferson were concerned about the status of free people of African descent and their integration into a free society. The American Colonization Society (ACS), dedicated to the resettlement of free people of color outside the United States, was founded in 1816. The ACS used private funds donated by wealthy white contributors to "purchase" land in west Africa and recruit African-American settlers, the first group of whom arrived in 1822. Most of the earliest immigrants had been born free; they were relatively well educated and belonged to an emerging class of free black professionals and businessmen. Although white administrators appointed by the ACS governed the colony in the early years, in 1847 the settlers declared independence and became the first sovereign black republic in Africa.

National Identity. The first settlers were augmented by recently manumitted slaves from the United States and "recaptured Africans" or "Congos" taken from smugglers after the slave trade was abolished in 1808. Over time, these disparate groups merged to become Americo-Liberians. The early history of the republic was characterized by struggles between political parties representing "mulattoes" (lighter-skinned, upper-class businessmen or "merchant princes") and "true blacks" (poorer ex-slaves and recaptives). In 1877, the True Whig Party (TWP), identified with the "blacks" and with agricultural rather than trading interests, came to power. The TWP remained dominant for almost a hundred years, making Liberia essentially a one-party state. It also created links with indigenous elites in the interior, and membership in the TWP was synonymous with national identity for most of the twentieth century.

The lack of racial difference between the colonized and the colonizers allowed individuals to "pass" into the Americo-Liberian group. Institutions such as adoption, wardship, informal polygyny, and apprenticeship brought many indigenous children into settler homes. Within a generation, they had entered the Americo-Liberian group and forgotten their "tribal" origins. Another recognizable social group, the so-called civilized natives, consisted of those who had been educated and Christianized in mission schools while maintaining their indigenous identity. This group was often a vocal source of criticism of the settler elite.

Ethnic Relations. Liberia's sixteen ethnolinguistic groups, although characterized as tribes, have never constituted unified, historically continuous political entities. In the northwestern section, Mande-speaking groups formed multiethnic chiefdoms and confederacies that coordinated trade and warfare, especially during the period of the slave trade. Although there were no precolonial states, the northwestern peoples were united in two panethnic secret societies: Poro (for men) and Sande (for women). The linked "chapter" structure of Poro and Sande lodges could in theory mobilize the entire population under the authority of elders.

South and east of the Saint John River, Kwaspeaking peoples who migrated from the east lived in smaller, less stratified communities. As the Americo-Liberians attempted to extend their control from the coast to the interior, they created administrative units that were thought to be coterminous with existing "tribes." For example, Maryland County in the southeast was treated as the home of the "Grebo tribe," even though the people there did not recognize a common identity or history beyond speaking dialects of the same language.

For most of Liberia's history, the primary meaningful division on the national level was between the tribal majority and the settler minority; with few exceptions, one's tribe made little difference in terms of life chances and upward mobility. After the military coup of 1980, however, a new tribalism or politically strategic ethnicity began to emerge. Samuel Kanyon Doe, the leader of the military government and a Krahn from Grand Gedeh county, systematically filled the elite military units and government positions with members of his ethnolinguistic group. As opposition to his autocratic and repressive regime grew during the 1980s, it took the form of ethnically identified armed factions that attacked civilians on the basis of their presumed tribal affiliation. Western journalists attributed the violence to "ancient tribal hatreds" even though these ethnically identified groups had emerged only in the previous ten years.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Before the civil war of 19891997, Liberia was predominantly rural, with the majority of the population involved in subsistence agriculture; small-scale market production of cash crops such as rubber, sugar, palm oil, and citrus fruits; or producing primary products for export (iron ore, rubber, and tropical hardwoods). Monrovia had a population of about two hundred thousand, and other coastal cities had less than one hundred thousand. Areas of resource exploitation operated by foreign-owned concessions were the primary population centers in the interior. During the war, the population of Monrovia swelled to over three hundred thousand as refugees attempted to escape from the fighting in the interior.

While rural communities still contain examples of traditional round huts with thatched conical roofs, most newer houses have a rectangular floor plan and are roofed with sheets of corrugated zinc or tin. Wattle and daub construction, in which a lattice of sticks is packed with mud and covered with clay or cement, is the most common building method regardless of the shape of the structure, but many people aspire to a house built of cement cinder blocks and may spend years acquiring the blocks. Rural communities have a "palaver hut," an open-sided roofed structure that functions as a town hall for public discussions and the hearing of court cases.

In the cities, especially Monrovia, imposing public buildings from the prewar period were built mostly in the post-World War II International Style, including the Executive Mansion, which became an armed fortress during the civil war. Houses from the nineteenth century are similar to antebellum architecture of the American South, with verandas and classical columns. The civil war reduced many buildings to ruins and left others occupied by homeless refugees.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The primary staple is rice. This complex carbohydrate forms the centerpiece of the meal, and savory sauces provide flavor. Meat or fish is used as a garnish or ingredient in the sauce rather than being the focus of the meal. In rural areas, people begin the day with a small meal of leftover rice or boiled cassava dipped in the sauce from the day before. Depending on the time of year and the work schedule, the main meal may be served at midday or in the evening. Snacks of mangoes, bananas, sugarcane, coconut, fried plantain or cassava, and citrus fruits may be consumed throughout the day.

In the countryside, rice is produced by a system of rain-fed swidden (slash and burn) horticulture. Men clear an area of the forest and burn the dried brush, and women and children do most of the planting, weeding, and harvesting. Rice is used ceremonially to make offerings to ancestors and the recently dead and is offered to social superiors when one is asking for favors or initiating a patron-client relationship. Use rights to land are acquired through patrilineal descent; men and women have the right to use land claimed by their father's lineage in the vicinity of the town in which he is a citizen. Because tropical soils are fragile, fields must be moved every year and, once harvested, allowed to rest for seven to twelve years. This system requires a large amount of available land and a low population density. Some areas have been overfarmed, with resulting damage to the tropical forest ecosystem, but the greatest constraint on agriculture is a shortage of labor.

This system is capable of providing for family subsistence but not of producing a large surplus for sale. Urban areas have depended on imported rice, mostly from the United States. Locally produced vegetables, including eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, and greens, are sold in outdoor markets. It is a sign of Western sophistication and wealth to be able to afford imported processed foods such as corn flakes, canned goods, and snack foods. During the civil war, agricultural production was almost completely disrupted and the entire population was dependent on donations of food.

Basic Economy. The prewar economy was heavily dependent on a few primary products or raw materials. In 1975, 75 percent of the value of exports came from iron ore alone; iron ore and rubber together amounted to over 80 percent. This dependence on a few income earners left the country vulnerable to the worldwide economic recession of the 1970s. There was almost no growth in the annual value of the economy between 1976 and 1980, and many workers in the mining industry lost their jobs. This economic crisis was one of the factors that led to the military coup of 1980.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is a status division between the minority claiming descent from the American settlers and the indigenous majority. The settler group contains people at all class levels, from rich to poor, who continue to maintain a sense of prestige and entitlement. In the indigenous community, a distinction between "civilized" and "native" people emerged early in the nineteenth century as a result of mission education and labor migration along the coast. Civilized ("kwi") status implies facility with English, a nominal allegiance to Christianity, a degree of literacy, and involvement with the cash rather than the subsistence sector. Although kwi people maintain their ethnic identities as Grebo, Kru, Vai, or Kpelle, an undeniable prestige difference separates them from their native neighbors and kin.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Civilized people, especially women, are distinguished by Western-style clothing and household furnishings. The association is so strong that native women are also known as "lappa women," a reference to the two pieces of cloth (lappas) that constitute native female dress.

Political Life

Government. The constitution of 1847 was patterned on the American constitution and provided for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The legislature is bicameral with an upper house based on equal representation of the thirteen counties with two senators each and a lower house based on population. This structure was retained in the revised constitution of 1986, which was intended to prevent the abuses of one-party rule that had characterized most of the nation's history. At the local level, each county is administered by a superintendent appointed by the president and further divided into districts, chiefdoms, and clans. The system of "native" administration retains much of the older system of indirect rule in which local chiefs are empowered by the central government to collect taxes and judge minor court cases.

Leadership and Political Officials. Politics has tended toward the autocratic, with the constitution more a symbol of democracy than a guide for action. Although elections were held regularly, the absence of opposition parties made them largely nationalist pageants rather than expressions of the people's will. The True Whig Party's patronage system ensured that the president never faced opposition from the other branches of government, and as a result, the executive branch was overwhelmingly dominant. The personality cult around the presidency reached its height with W. V. S. Tubman, who served from 1944 to 1971. Tubman was widely popular for creating the illusion of broad participation in national life but was extremely repressive: jailing, executing, and exiling his opponents. This tradition of concentrated power in the hands of the president has continued in the administration of Charles Taylor, who was elected in 1997.

Social Problems and Control. Liberia has long had a system of multiple and often overlapping judicial structures. A separate judiciary with hierarchically arranged statutory courts was established in 1847 but rarely has been independent of the executive branch. The statutory courts delegated most local-level social control to "chiefs' courts," where a modified version of "native law" was codified and applied in cases ranging from divorce to petty theft. Liberians who are Muslims can settle disputes in Imam's courts where judgments are based on Islamic law. Individuals in search of a favorable verdict have been known to try their luck in all three kinds of courts, claiming to be "civilized" in the statutory court, "native" in the chief's court, and Muslim in the Islamic court.

Indigenous methods of trial by ordeal have long been used in rural communities. Ordeals include the testing of suspects with hot knives, hot oil, or the drinking of poison. In the poison ("sasswood") ordeal, suspects drink a decoction of tree bark; the innocent vomit the poison and live, while the guilty die of its effects; this system combines the determination of guilt and the administration of punishment. The sasswood trial was outlawed by the central government early in the twentieth century; other forms of ordeal were tolerated through the 1960s.

During the civil war, all legal and social control institutions experienced complete breakdown. Random massacres were conducted by armed fighters as young as nine years old in the service of warlords with no political agenda beyond survival and profit. Since 1997, Liberian legal institutions have been slowly reestablished, but many abuses of civil rights have continued.

Military Activity. Since 1980, politics has been dominated by armed men. In the early years of the republic, a Frontier Force of indigenous conscripts was used to "pacify" the peoples of the hinterland and enforce the collection of taxes and corvee (unpaid) labor. In late 1970s, the ethnic split between the officer corps (made up of Americo-Liberians) and the rank and file created tension, with soldiers often used as unpaid laborers on the farms and building projects of their superiors. The men who led the coup which brought down the True Whig Party government in 1980 were all noncommissioned soldiers of indigenous background. The first military coup provided a model for many future attempts. Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe was threatened by ambitious young men like himself, leading him to institute increasingly repressive policies. Foreign aid from the United States, especially during the Reagan administration, took the form of a vast military buildup. This lethal equipment was later turned against the Liberian people during the civil war. Under the current administration, the armed forces and other security agencies continue to absorb the bulk of the national budget. According to the peace accords that led to the 1997 election, the national military was supposed to have been restructured by the West African intervention force (ECOMOG) to reflect all the parties that contested the war. Once elected, however, Charles Taylor claimed his constitutional role as commander in chief to essentially remake the armed forces along the lines of his faction, the National Patriotic Front for Liberia (NPFL). Tensions in the armed forces and among demobilized combatants remain a destabilizing factor in national life.

Social Welfare Programs

Most social welfare institutions, including those for the provision of education and medical care, remain in the hands of religious organizations and international aid agencies. Liberia was one of the earliest host countries for the United States Peace Corps.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

During the worst period of the civil war, networks of concerned Americans and Liberians living in the United States lobbied for protected status for refugees, increases in humanitarian aid, and diplomatic pressure to restore human rights. Within Liberia, a number of local organizations, such as the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, have monitored human rights issues and spoken out against repression. During the siege of Monrovia in 1990, a local group called SELF (Special Emergency Life Food) organized distribution centers for relief food.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. All of the indigenous groups are patrilineal and have ideologies of male dominance. The nineteenth-century domestic ideology brought with the American settlers also was highly patriarchal, with women assigned to roles as homemakers and nurturers of children. However, the sexual division of labor in indigenous agriculture affords women a great deal of power, if not formal authority. Women's labor is extremely valuable, as seen in the institution of bridewealth that accompanies marriage. Among "civilized people" of indigenous or Americo-Liberian background, women's domestic role in caring for clothing, household decoration, and the other symbolic means by which the status of the household is communicated has great importance. While it is acceptable for an educated woman to hold a white-collar job outside the home, she cannot participate in the most common activities of native womenfarming, marketing, and carrying loads of wood and waterwithout threatening her status.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Indigenous constructions of gender usually emphasize the breadwinner or productive role for women and the warrior role for men. Indigenous political structures have a "dual-sex" organization, that is, parallel systems of offices for men and women. Among the northwestern peoples, this takes the form of the dual organization of the Poro and Sande secret societies. In the south and east, female councils of elders use a series of checks and balances on official male power. On the national level, the last transitional leader before the 1997 election was also the first female head of state in Africa, Ruth Sando Perry. The presidential candidate who came in second to Charles Taylor was also a woman.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Among the indigenous majority, marriage is ideally polygynous and patrilocal, with the bride moving to her husband's compound to live with his extended family. Probably less than 30 percent of men actually have more than one wife at a time, and those marriages often fail because of conflicts between co-wives. Marriage is a process rather than an event, with bridewealth payments made over many years and solidified by the birth of children. The increasing access of women to cash through the marketing of foodstuffs has resulted in some women freeing themselves from unwanted marriages by paying back the bridewealth. Bridewealth establishes the right of a husband to claim any children born to his wife regardless of their biological father. The great value placed on women as agricultural workers and childbearers ensures that no woman who wants a husband is without one for long. Among the civilized native and Americo-Liberian communities, statutory marriages are limited by the Christian insistence on monogamy. Most successful men, however, have one or more "country wives" who have been married through bridewealth in addition to the "ring wife" who shares their primary residence. Children from secondary marriages often are raised by the father and his official wife and form junior lines within important families in Monrovia and other coastal cities. Before 1980, the most prominent settler families practiced formal endogamy, resulting in a situation in which most important government officials were related by kinship and intermarriage.

Kin Groups. Among the indigenous people, groups in the northwest are organized into ranked lineages of "land owners," "commoners," and "slaves." Kinship is crucial in determining social status among these groups. The ranking of lineages is mirrored in the Poro and Sande societies and dictates the "secrets" that may be learned by initiates. Chieftaincy belongs to particular families, although succession does not follow a strict father-to-son transmission. Among the less stratified peoples of the southeast, kinship determines less in terms of individual life chances but remains crucial in regard to citizenship, identity, and access to land.

Socialization

Child Rearing and Education. Children are highly valued as potential workers and supporters of their parents in old age. Babies are constantly carried, tied to the back of the mothers or another care giver. Children take on chores at an early age and are expected to learn through observation and imitation rather than through formal verbal instruction and the asking of questions. In the Poro and Sande "bush schools" for initiates, formal instruction in local history and genealogy is provided in addition to specialized training in herbalism and midwifery. Formal Western educational institutions originated with mission schools whose primary aim was conversion to Christianity; in areas of Muslim conversion, Koranic schools offer literacy training in Arabic.

Higher Education. Access to higher education at the University of Liberia was limited, especially for those of "tribal" background, until large numbers of the elite began taking advantage of foreign scholarships to send their children to Europe and the United States in the 1960s. Many of the current leaders, including President Charles Taylor, received their education in the United States.

Religion

Pre-coup Liberia often characterized itself as a "Christian nation," but a number of shifting religious identities and practices were and still are available. Active membership in a Christian denomination probably involves less than 20 percent of the population. Twenty to 30 percent of the population is at least nominally Muslim, and the remainder practices indigenous religious systems surrounding ancestor worship and secret society membership. Even in areas of widespread Christian or Muslim conversion, indigenous institutions such as polygyny, belief in witchcraft, and trial by ordeal persist. Many individuals combine elements from all three systems. Funerals are very important in all religions and are as elaborate as a family can afford, often going on for days or weeks.

Medicine and Health Care

A number of serious diseases afflict the population, including malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera. Health care facilities generally are located in or near major cities, and the majority of people have no access to Western medicine. There is a widespread belief that illness and death are caused by the evil intentions of other people. A great deal of effort is expended on the local level in the hearing of witchcraft cases. Liberians are happy to combine Western and indigenous health care systems; they eagerly seek access to Western drugs for the relief of symptoms and make heroic efforts to get family members to clinics and hospitals. The root cause of misfortune, however, is sought in disrupted social relations, often between family members who have quarreled. Much of the medical infrastructure outside Monrovia was destroyed during the civil war, and restoring at least some services remains a challenge for the new government.

Secular Celebrations

National holidays include 26 July, marking the anniversary of independence; Flag Day; and the birthdays of important presidents such as Joseph Jenkins Roberts (the first president) and W. V. S. Tubman. After the 1980 military coup, an Armed Forces Day was instituted. Images of an armed soldier were introduced as national symbols on coins, statues, and monuments. Attempts to supplant the earlier symbolism, including the flag and motto, were popularly rejected.

The Arts and Humanities

Graphic Arts. Liberia is known as the home of the "classical" African mask. The artistic ability of its wood carvers is widely recognized. Many masks are commissioned by the Poro and Sande societies for use in their initiation rituals; some powerfully charged masks may be seen only by initiates, while others are used in public masquerades. The range of forms produced by carvers is impressive as is the continuity of some styles over time. Other indigenous art forms include murals painted on the exterior walls of buildings, pottery, weaving, music, and dance. A small community of creative writers led by Bai T. Moore existed before the war.

Bibliography

Anderson, Benjamine. Narrative of the Expedition Dispatched to Musardu by the Liberian Government in 1874, 1971.

Bellman, Beryl L. Village of Cureres and Assassins: On the Production of Fala Kpelle Cosmological Catagories, 1975.

Bledsoe, Caroline H. Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society, 1980.

Burrowes, Carl Patrick. "The Americo-Liberian Ruling Class and Other Myths: A Critique of Political Science in the Liberian Context." Temple University Occasional Papers no. 3, 1989.

Carter, Jeanette, and Joyce Mends-Cole. Liberian Women: Their Role in Food Production and Their Educational and Legal Status, 1982.

Clower, Robert W., George Dalton, Mitchell Harwitz, and A. A. Walters. Growth without Development: An Economic Survey of Liberia, 1966.

d'Azevedo, Warren L. "Some Historical Problems in the Delineation of a Central West Atlantic Region." Annals of the New York Academy of Science 96: 512538,1962.

Dunn, D. Elwood, and Svend E. Holsoe. Historical Dictionary of Liberia, 1985.

and S. Byron Tarr. Liberia: A National Polity in Transition, 1988.

Fraenkel, Merran. Tribe and Class in Monrovia, 1964.

Gay, John. Red Dust on the Green Leaves: A Kpelle Twins' Childhood, 1973.

Gershoni, Yekutiel. Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland, 1985.

Hasselman, Karl H. Liberia: Geographical Mosaics of the Land and the People, 1979.

Hlophe, Stephen. Class, Ethnicity, and Politics in Liberia, 1987.

Holloway, Joseph E. Liberian Diplomacy in Africa: A Study of Inter-African Relations, 1981.

Holsoe, Svend E., and Bernard L. Herman. A Land and Life Remembered: Americo-Liberian Folk Architecture, 1988.

Huband, Mark. The Liberian Civil War, 1998.

Huberich, C. H. The Political and Legislative History of Liberia, 1947.

Johnson, Barbara C. Four Dan Sculptors: Continuity and Change, 1986.

Liebenow, J. Gus. Liberia: The Quest for Democracy, 1987.

Lowenkopf, M. "Liberia: Putting the State Back Together. In I. William Zartman, ed., Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority, 1995.

McDaniel, Antonio. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: The Mortality Cost of Colonizing Liberia in the Nineteenth Century, 1995.

Moran, Mary H. Civilized Women: Gender and Prestige in Southeastern Liberia, 1990.

Reno, William. Warlord Politics and African States, 1999.

Republic of Liberia. Planning and Development Atlas, 1983.

Sawyer, Amos. The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia: Tragedy and Challenge, 1992.

Shick, Tom. Behold the Promised Land: A History of Afro-American Settler Society in Nineteenth-Century Liberia, 1984.

Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 18161865, 1961.

Stone, Ruth. Dried Millet Breaking: Time, Words, and Song in the Woi Epic of the Kpelle, 1988.

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18331869, 1980.

Mary H. Moran

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Liberia

Liberia

MALINKE 159

The people of Liberia are called Liberians. The country has about 28 ethnic tribes, but tribal divisions are becoming less distinct. This is due to intermarriage, and to Liberia's goal of national unification of all Liberians. There are more than 1.5 million Malinke distributed over several African nations, including Liberia.

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"Liberia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Liberia

Liberiabarrier, carrier, farrier, harrier, tarrier •Calabria, Cantabria •Andrea • Kshatriya • Bactria •Amu Darya, aria, Zaria •Alexandria •Ferrier, terrier •destrier •aquaria, area, armamentaria, Bavaria, Bulgaria, caldaria, cineraria, columbaria, filaria, frigidaria, Gran Canaria, herbaria, honoraria, malaria, pulmonaria, rosaria, sacraria, Samaria, solaria, tepidaria, terraria •atria, gematria •Assyria, Illyria, Styria, SyriaLaurier, warrior •hypochondria, mitochondria •Austria •auditoria, ciboria, conservatoria, crematoria, emporia, euphoria, Gloria, moratoria, phantasmagoria, Pretoria, sanatoria, scriptoria, sudatoria, victoria, Vitoria, vomitoria •Maurya •courier, Fourier •currier, furrier, spurrier, worrier •Cumbria, Northumbria, Umbria •Algeria, anterior, bacteria, Bashkiria, cafeteria, criteria, cryptomeria, diphtheria, exterior, hysteria, Iberia, inferior, interior, Liberia, listeria, Nigeria, posterior, Siberia, superior, ulterior, wisteria •Etruria, Liguria, Manchuria, Surya

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Liberia

Liberia

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the December 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Liberia

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 111,369 sq. km. (43,000 sq. mi.). Slightly larger than Ohio.

Cities: Capital—Monrovia (est. 1,000,000 to 1,500,000). Principal towns—Buchanan (est. 300,000), Ganta (est. 290,000), Gbarnga (est. 150,000), Kakata (est. 100,000), Harbel (est. 136,000).

Terrain: Three areas—Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa's rain forest.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Liberian(s).

Population: (2006) 3.57 million.

Annual growth rate: (2006) 2.9%.

Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20%, Bassa16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.

Religions: Christian 40%, Muslim 20%, animist 40%.

Languages: English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.

Education: Literacy (2003)—20%.

Health: Life expectancy (2005)—42.5 years.

Work force: Agriculture—70%; industry—15%; services—2%. Employment in the formal sector is estimated at 15%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.

Constitution: January 6, 1986.

Political parties: 30 registered political parties.

Economy

GDP: (World Bank 2006 est.) $631 million.

Real GDP growth rate: (2006) 7.8%.

Per capita GDP: (2006) $185.50.

Average annual inflation: (2006) 7.2%.

Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold, and tin. The Government of Liberia believes there may be sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables.

Industry: Types—agriculture, iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.

Trade: (2006) Exports—$157.8 million (of which rubber $150 million). Major markets—Germany, Poland, U.S. Imports—$466.7million (petroleum $122 million; rice $62 million).

PEOPLE

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. 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 are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who comprise part of Liberia's business community. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship to only people of Negro descent, and land ownership is restricted to citizens.

Liberia was traditionally noted for its academic institutions, iron-mining, and rubber. Political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and a 14-year civil war (1989-2003) largely destroyed Liberia's economy and brought a steep decline in living standards.

HISTORY

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, “land of the free,” was founded by free African-Americans and freed slaves from the United States in 1820. An initial group of 86 immigrants, who came to be called Americo-Liberians, established a settlement in Christopolis (now Monrovia, named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820.

Thousands of freed American slaves and free African-Americans arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847. The drive to resettle freed slaves in Africa was promoted by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization of white clergymen, abolitionists, and slave owners founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister. Between 1821 and 1867 the ACS resettled some 10,000 African-Americans and several thousand Africans from interdicted slave ships; it governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847.

In Liberia's early years, the Americo-Liberian settlers periodically encountered stiff and sometimes violent opposition from indigenous Africans, who were excluded from citizenship in the new Republic until 1904. At the same time, British and French colonial expansionists encroached upon Liberia, taking over much of its territory. Politically, the country was a one-party state ruled by the True Whig Party (TWP). Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who was born and raised in America, was Liberia's first President. The style of government and constitution was fashioned on that of the United States, and the Americo-Liberian elite monopolized political power and restricted the voting rights of the indigenous population. The True Whig Party dominated all sectors of Liberia from independence in 1847 until April 12, 1980, when indigenous Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe (from the Krahn ethnic group) seized power in a coup d’etat. Doe's forces executed President William R. Tolbert and several officials of his government, mostly of Americo-Liberian descent. One hundred and thirty-three years of Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People's Redemption Council (PRC).

Over time, the Doe government began promoting members of Doe's Krahn ethnic group, who soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This raised ethnic tension and caused frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.

After the October 1985 elections, characterized by widespread fraud, Doe solidified his control. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living further deteriorated. On November 12, 1985, former Army Commanding Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa almost succeeded in toppling Doe's government. The Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa's attack and executed him in Monrovia. Doe's Krahn-dominated forces carried out reprisals against Mano and Gio civilians suspected of supporting Quiwonkpa.

Despite Doe's poor human rights record and questionable democratic credentials, he retained close relations with Washington. A staunch U.S. ally, Doe met twice with President Ronald Reagan and enjoyed considerable U.S. financial support.

On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe's former procurement chief, Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia from Cote d’Ivoire. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of many Liberians and reached the outskirts of Monrovia within six months.

From 1989 to 1996 one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars ensued, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and displacing a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened in 1990 and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson—formerly a member of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)—formed the break-away Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990. Taking refuge in Sierra Leone and other neighboring countries, former AFL soldiers founded the new insurgent United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), fighting back Taylor's NPFL.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990, headed by Dr. Amos C. Sawyer. Taylor (along with other Liberian factions) refused to work with the interim government and continued fighting. After more than a dozen peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government. A hasty disarmament and demobilization of warring factions was followed by special elections on July 19, 1997. Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerged victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.

For the next six years, the Taylor government did not improve the lives of Liberians. Unemployment and illiteracy stood above 75%, and little investment was made in the country's infrastructure. Liberia is still recovering from the ravages of war; pipe-borne water and electricity are generally unavailable to most of the population, especially outside Monrovia, and schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure remain derelict. Rather than work to improve the lives of Liberians, Taylor supported the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. Taylor's misrule led to

the resumption of armed rebellion from among Taylor's former adversaries. By 2003, armed groups called “Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy” (LURD) and “Movement for Democracy in Liberia” (MODEL), largely representing elements of the former ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions that fought Taylor during Liberia's previous civil war (1989-1996), were challenging Taylor and his increasingly fragmented supporters on the outskirts of Monrovia. On June 4, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS facilitated peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the LURD and MODEL rebel groups. On the same day, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press statement announcing the opening of a sealed March 7, 2003 indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for bearing the greatest responsibility” for atrocities in Sierra Leone since November 1996. In July 2003 the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a cease-fire that all sides failed to respect; bitter fighting reached downtown Monrovia in July and August 2003, creating a massive humanitarian disaster.

On August 11, 2003, under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. This move paved the way for the deployment by ECOWAS of what became a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). On August 18, leaders from the Liberian Government, the rebels, political parties, and civil society signed a comprehensive peace agreement that laid the framework for constructing a 2-year National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), headed by businessman Gyude Bryant. The UN took over security in Liberia in October 2003, subsuming ECOMIL into the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), a force that grew to its present size of nearly 15,000.

The October 11, 2005 presidential and legislative elections and the subsequent November 8, 2005 presidential run-off were the most free, fair, and peaceful elections in Liberia's history. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defeated international soccer star George Weah 59.4% to 40.6% to become Africa’ first democratically elected female president. She was inaugurated in January 2006 and formed a government of technocrats drawn from among Liberia's ethnic groups and including members of the Liberian diaspora who had returned to the country to rebuild government institutions. The president's party, the Unity Party, does not control the legislature, in which 12 of the 30 registered political parties are represented.

The political situation has remained stable since the 2005 elections. The Government of Liberia has made positive strides aimed at political stability and economic recovery. President Sirleaf has taken a public stance against corruption and has dismissed several government officials. The President is supported by highly experienced and technically competent senior officials, and the public has more confidence in her administration than in any of its recent predecessors. President Sirleaf enjoys good relations with international organizations and donor governments, with whom she is working closely on Liberia's development. The national legislature has enacted several key reforms despite some delays caused by the need to gain consensus among the numerous parties represented.

In order to maintain stability through the post-conflict period, Liberia's security sector reform efforts have led to the disarmament of more than 100,000 ex-combatants, the wholesale U.S.-led reconstruction of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and a UN-led effort to overhaul the Liberian National Police. The man-date of UNMIL has been extended to September 2008 and a gradual draw-down will commence in 2008, to last several years. During this period the Government of Liberia and its development partners will focus on creating jobs, attracting investment, and providing education and other essential services to Liberia's communities.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Liberia has a bicameral legislature consisting of 64 representatives and 30 senators. The 2005 election placed a spectrum of political personalities in the legislature, most for six-year terms. Senior senators were elected for nine-year terms. Party structures remain weak, and politics continues to be personality-driven. Historically, the executive branch heavily influenced the legislature and judicial system.

The judiciary is divided into four levels, including justices of the peace, courts of record (magistrate courts), courts of first instance (circuit and specialty courts), and the Suprem Court. Traditional courts and lay courts exist in rural areas of the country. Trial by ordeal, though officially outlawed, is practiced in various parts of Liberia. The formal judicial system remains hampered by severe shortages of qualified judges and other judicial officials. Locally, political power emanates from traditional chiefs (town, clan, or paramount chiefs), mayors, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. Superintendents appointed by the president govern the counties. There are 15 counties in Liberia.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

President: Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF

Vice President: Joseph BOAKAI

Min. of Agriculture: J. Christopher TOE

Min. of Commerce & Industry: Frances JOHNSON MORRIS

Min. of Education: Joseph KORTO

Min. of Finance: Antoinette SAYEH

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Olubanke KING-AKERELE

Min. of Gender Development: Varbah GAYFLOR

Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Walter GWENINGALE

Min. of Information, Culture, & Tourism: Lawrence BROPLEH

Min. of Internal Affairs: Ambulai JOHNSON

Min. of Justice: Philip A. Z. BANKS III

Min. of Labor: Samuel Kofi WOODS

Min. of Land, Mines, & Energy: Eugene SHANNON

Min. of National Defense: Brownie SAMUKAI

Min. of Planning & Economic Affairs: Toga G. MCINTOSH

Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Jackson E. DOE

Min. of Public Works (Acting): Luseni DONZO

Min. of Rural Development: E. C. B. JONES

Min. of Transport: Jeremiah SULUNETH

Min. of Youth & Sport: Jamesetta HOWARD-WOLOKOLLIE

Min. of State for Financial & Economic Affairs: Morris SAYTUMAH

Min. of State for Legislative Affairs & Legal Counsel: David MENYONGAR

Min. of State for Presidential Affairs (Acting): Willis KNUCKLES

Governor, National Bank: John Mills JONES

Ambassador to the US: Charles MINOR

Permanent Representative to the UN, NewYork: Milton Nathaniel BARNES

Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 202-723-0437.

ECONOMY

The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia's export earnings. Following the coup d’etat of 1980, the country's economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia's foreign debt amounts to about $3.7 billion. Efforts are currently underway to relieve Liberia of its bilateral and multilateral debts. Several bilateral creditors, including the United States, have pledged debt relief, and ways of clearing Liberia's arrears are being developed at the international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank).

The 1989-2003 civil war had a devastating effect on the country's economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businesses left the country. Iron ore production stopped completely, and the United Nations banned timber and diamond exports from Liberia. UN sanctions on Liberian timber were removed in 2006; activity in the timber sector is expected to resume on a large scale during the October 2007-May 2008 dry season. Diamond sanctions were terminated by the UN Security Council in April 2007, and Liberian diamond exports have resumed through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Currently, Liberia's few earnings come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world; there are more than 2,350 vessels registered under its flag, and some 35% of the oil imported to the United States is transported on Liberian-flagged ships.

The country earned almost $12 million from maritime revenue in Liberian FY 2006/2007 (July 1-June 30), accounting for 9% of total revenues. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia's Atlantic Coast.

With a democratically elected government in place since January 2006, Liberia seeks to reconstruct its shattered economy. The Governance and Economic Management Program (GEMAP), which started under the 2003-2006 transitional government, is designed to help the Liberian Government raise and spend revenues in an efficient, transparent way. Technical assistance provided by Liberia's international partners is helping the Liberian Government make key economic reforms to attract investment and qualify for eventual debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

Foreign direct investment is returning to Liberia, attracted to the more stable security situation provided by the large UN peacekeeping force and the demonstrated commitment to reform on the part of the Sirleaf administration. Investors are now seeking opportunities in mining, rubber, agro-forestry, light industry, and other sectors. Arcelor Mittal Steel has negotiated an agreement to invest over $1 billion in the mining sector, and the Liberian Government is engaged in negotiations with several other large foreign investors.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and China. Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.

During the administration of Charles Taylor, relations between Liberia and its West African neighbors became seriously strained. West African countries backed by the African Union and the United Nations negotiated a peace agreement in Accra, Ghana that subsequently led to the exile of Charles Taylor to Nigeria in August 2003. With the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia has seen significant improvements in relations with its West African neighbors and the wider world.

Relations between Liberia and its immediate neighbors in the Mano River region are back on track, and efforts are underway to strengthen relations with other countries. Liberia currently holds the chairmanship of the reinvigorated Mano River Union. Liberia signed a nonaggression pact with Sierra Leone when newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma visited in September 2007.

Liberia is a major proponent of regional integration, and the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia now issues ECOWAS passports to its citizens for easy travel in the region. Liberia hosted the conference of ECOWAS Defense Chiefs in November 2007.

Liberia has taken steps to forge closer ties with Western countries, especially the United States. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has in recent months visited several Western countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Spain, France, and Germany. President Sirleaf has also visited China and Libya, with whom Liberia maintains close ties.

U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

Congress appropriated $100,000 in 1819 for the establishment of Liberia (and resettlement of freemen and freed slaves from North America) by the American Colonization Society, led by prominent Americans such as Francis Scott Key, George Washington's nephew Bushrod, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Presidents Monroe, Adams, and Jackson. The first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States in the 1820s.

The United States, which officially recognized Liberia in 1862, shared particularly close relations with Liberia during the Cold War. The outbreak of civil war in Liberia and the long dominance of Charles Taylor soured bilateral relations. However, Liberia now counts the United States as its strongest supporter in its democratization and reconstruction efforts. Since the end of Liberia's civil war in 2003, the United States has contributed some $750 million toward Liberia's reconstruction and development and more than $750 million to support the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The U.S. plans to commit another $225 million bilaterally and through UNMIL in fiscal year 2008.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements the U.S. Government's development assistance program. USAID's post-conflict rebuilding strategy focuses on reintegration and is increasingly moving towards a longer-term development focus. Rehabilitation efforts include national and community infrastructure projects, such as building roads, refurbishing government buildings, and training Liberians in vocational skills. USAID also funds basic education programs, improving education for children, focusing on girls, and training teachers. In the health area, USAID programs include primary health care clinics, HIV/AIDS prevention, and a large malaria program.

USAID supports rule of law programs, establishing legal aid clinics and victim abuse centers, training judges and lawyers, community peace building and reconciliation efforts, and anti-corruption projects to promote transparency and accountability in public sector entities. USAID is also providing support to strengthen the legislature and other political processes. Total USAID funding program for these programs in FY 2007 was $65.9 million.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

AMB OMS:Terri L. Tedford
CON/POL ECO:Thomas Moore
ECO:Lucy Abbott
ECO/COM:Doug Carey
FM:Tim Tucker
MGT:Michael L. Bajek
OMS:Sarah Canterbury
AMB:Donald E. Booth
CON:Alma Gurski
DCM:Louis Mazel
PAO:Meg Riggs
GSO:Patricia A Miller
RSO:Peter Velazquez
AGR:Robert D. Simpson
AID:Lucretia Taylor
DAO:Ltc. James Toomey
DEA:Sam Gaye (Resident In Lagos)
EEO:Meg Riggs
FAA:Ronald L. Montgemery (Res. In Dakar)
FIN:Vacant
FMO:Marina O’Connell
IRS:Kathy J. Beck (Resident In Paris)
LEGATT:Alvie Price (Freetown)

MONROVIA (E) 111 United Nations Drive, 011-231-77-054-826, Fax 231-77-010-370, Workweek: M-F, 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m., Website: http://monrovia.usembassy.gov.

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

June 15, 2007

Country Description: Liberia is a country in West Africa that suffered from years of instability and conflict from 1990—2003, with attendant destruction of buildings, roads, infrastructure and public institutions. A comprehensive peace accord ended the conflict in August 2003 and a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNMIL) was deployed to facilitate disarmament and demobilization, help arrange democratic elections and provide for security of the country. In late 2005, Liberians went to the polls and elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. The new government was inaugurated in January 2006, and has made tremendous progress towards restoring security and stability to the country.

Despite nearly four years of peace and a renewal of economic growth, Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and many basic services (public power, water and sewage, land line phones) are either limited or unavailable. Facilities for foreign visitors are adequate in the capital, Monrovia, but virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. The official language of Liberia is English.

Entry Requirements: A passport and a visa are required for entry, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination and a physician's letter attesting to absence of communicable diseases. Visa applicants may also be asked to provide evidence of health insurance. Immigration officials no longer issue visas at the airport. Persons arriving without a visa may be deported immediately, without leaving the airport. Persons arriving from the United States must obtain a Liberian visa before traveling. There is a US $25 airport tax on departing passengers, although this is usually collected as part of the ticket price. For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees and airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, web site www.embassyofliberia.org. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to plan proposed travel to Liberia carefully and to exercise caution when traveling in Liberia. Neither public transport nor taxis are available at the international airport, which is located 40 miles outside of Monrovia; therefore, before traveling to Liberia, Americans are urged to make arrangements for transportation from the international airport into the city center. Americans traveling to Liberia are also urged to ensure that they have confirmed reservations at a reputable hotel, as rooms can be scarce and difficult to find without advance plans.

Americans who travel to or reside in Liberia should realize that Liberia's police force is in the process of being rebuilt. There is a UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), but its mandate is to ensure political stability in Liberia. Americans who travel around Liberia must realize that the role of the UN Police (UNPOL) is to serve as advisors to the Liberia National Police.

Accordingly, they do not have the authority to arrest or detain, and its members are unarmed. The Liberia National Police, for its part, has a limited presence in Monrovia, and even less of a presence outside of Monrovia. In addition, police officers can be a source of problems for visitors as often as a source of aid or assistance. Although problems with corruption have improved, travelers may be detained by police officers who solicit bribes. Americans are encouraged to carry a photocopy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when moving around, especially at night. The U.S. Embassy recommends that American citizens observe a suggested curfew of 2:00 a.m.—6:00 a.m. Travel outside of Monrovia after dark is strongly discouraged as roads are in poor condition and thus dangerous to navigate at night. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Crime in Liberia is rated high and is exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment. Theft, assault, sexual crimes, and murder are problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime, robbery, and sexual assault. Women have been attacked on deserted beaches. Residential armed break-ins occur. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection or investigation. Criminal activity is reported in both urban and rural areas.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. An increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating in Liberia should be carefully checked before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. There is also an increase in Liberian/American Internet relationships, where there are eventual requests for financial assistance under fraudulent pretenses. For additional information, please see the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochures, Advance Fee Business Scams and International Financial Scams.

Petty corruption is rampant; poorly paid government officials are not immune from the temptation to collect fees for doing their job. The result is that travelers may be asked for bribes and inconvenienced for not paying them.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Hospitals and medical facilities in Liberia are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing many services. Emergency services comparable to those in the U.S. or Europe are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and unsafe for transfusion. Americans with serious medical problems travel or are medically evacuated to the United States, Europe or South Africa. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates, and generally unavailable in most areas. As there is neither an effective garbage removal service nor a functioning sewer system, the level of sanitation throughout urban areas is very poor, which increases the potential for disease. Upper respiratory infections and diarrhea are common, as well as the more serious diseases, typhoid and malaria. All travelers to Liberia must be vaccinated against yellow fever and should carry a supply of all prescription medication, plus anti-malaria medication, adequate for their entire stay. A typhoid vaccination is also recommended.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. For travel to Liberia, obtaining separate medical evacuation insurance before arriving in Liberia is strongly recommended.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Potholes and poor road surfaces are common, making safe driving extremely challenging. Cars, trucks, and taxis are often overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Drivers overtake on the right as well as the left. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are frequent. Public taxis are poorly maintained and usually overloaded. Intersections must be approached with caution. The absence of public streetlights makes pedestrians walking in the city streets and those walking on country roads difficult to see at night. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.

Travelers should expect delays at UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war, neglect, or the heavy annual rains, which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, Sierra Leonean, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Liberia, including the capital of Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not always on a 24-hour basis.

There is no working landline telephone system in Liberia. Several cell phone companies provide service in Monrovia and some areas outside the capital. US cellular phones do not always work in Liberia and it is advisable to rent or purchase a local cellular phone. The postal system is slow and unreliable. Commercial air courier service is available through UPS, Federal Express (FedEx), and other companies.

The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia, and there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, provided one follows the specific regulations on how such transfers must be done. Sums in excess of US $10,000 must be reported at the port of entry and no more than US $7,500 in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing US $5,000 over-the-counter cash wire transfers per month. Wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees. ATMs are unavailable and Traveler's checks and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.

Photographing military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is prohibited. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, or police are liable to confiscate the camera.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. If arrested, U.S. citizens should ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy. Americans should carry a photocopy of their U.S. passport with them at all times. The consular section of the U.S. Embassy cannot give legal assistance but can provide a list of Liberian attorneys if one is required. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Liberia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Liberia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia; telephone 231-77-054-826; fax 231-77-010-370; web site http://Monrovia.usembassy.gov. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia may address letters to the Consular Section, 8800 Monrovia Place, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800, or send emails to [email protected]te.gov.

International Adoption

August 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoption are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met.

Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris,
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
Ashmun Street
(Opposite College of West Africa)
Monrovia, Liberia
Cellphone: +231 6 558851 (Direct)
Special Assistant: +231 6 520140
(Onesimus Bawon)
Secretary: +231 6 566106
(Jartu Johnson)

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements for adoptive parents. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residency Requirements: None

Time Frame: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court's processing of adoptions. The adoption process, including formal relinquishment by the parent(s) if necessary, generally takes 3 to 4 weeks.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of attorneys and a list of approved adoption agencies which may be obtained on request.

Adoption Fees: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Liberia are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees are normally less than $10 USD.

The cost of employing local counsel varies, but the adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney.

Adoption Procedures: Most adoptive parents normally work with an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Liberia prior to initiating the adoption process.

The organization in Liberia must be registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. A petition for adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence and martial status of the petitioners.

The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners’ desire to adopt the child and the child's change of name, should also be contained in the petition.

The court will also require written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents is required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent.

If the child is 16 years of age or older, only the child need consent to the adoption. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased or if a legal guardian has been appointed by the court.

During the proceedings, the biological parents may withdraw consent, which must be permitted by the court. Consent is irrevocable after the final order of adoption.

Upon receipt of a petition for adoption, the Court schedules a hearing and serves notice on all interested parties.

The petitioners or their legal representative, the parent, parents, or guardian(s) of the child and the child are required to attend the hearing, though the court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause.

This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are public, and held in open court. The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered.

In addition, since October of 2004, the Liberian Ministry of Health has required adoptive families to obtain a letter from the Ministry of Health approving the adoption of a specific child.

This is in addition to obtaining a statement of relinquishment from the guardian or caretaker of the child being adopted and an adoption decree from the Liberian Court.

The letter from the Ministry is issued only after a social worker has investigated the case thoroughly and concluded that adoption is in the best interest of the child, and the Minister or one of his deputies has reviewed all of the legal paperwork necessary to process an adoption in Liberia.

Required Documents: Petition for adoption and written consent of the biological parent(s) to the adoption acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace).

While a letter of consent is all that is required by Liberian Courts, a formal letter of relinquishment, in which the parent(s) or guardian(s) irrevocably relinquish their rights, is required by U.S. immigration law in order to classify an orphan as an immediate relative for purposes of immigration, and this letter can be used to meet the requirements of Liberian law.

Other documents required by Liberian courts in adoption cases include normal identity documentation, such as a passport and birth certificate.

Prospective adoptive parents will also need these documents to apply for the immigrant visa at the Embassy.

Embassy of Liberia .
5201 16th Street, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437
Fax: (202) 723-0436
Email: [email protected]

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
111 U.N. Drive
Mamba Point
Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: 231-077-207-326

Additional Information: For further information on international adoption, contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/family.

You may also direct inquiries to: Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4811; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Liberia

Liberia

Liberia, a nation on the west coast of Africa, emerged out of America's antislavery and abolitionist campaign of the early nineteenth century. The abolitionist movement, which comprised blacks and white northern philanthropists and clergy, adopted a strategy of emancipation and colonization in its campaign. It focused not merely on abolishing slavery, but also on colonizing freed slaves in a territory of their own outside the United States, preferably in the continent of origin of their ancestors, Africa. Many elements within the abolitionist movement believed that colonization would provide ex-slaves the opportunity to live a decent and true life of freedom in a territory of their own. Yet, colonization was also intended to allay Southern fears of perceived threat that a large, free black population posed to white society. Colonization was thus a way of ridding America of unwanted black population.

EARLY U.S. INFLUENCE

The American Colonization Society (ACS), founded in December 1816, undertook the task of the colonization of free blacks in Liberia. The society raised money, and with additional financial backing from U.S. Congress, embarked on a project to plant a colony in West Africa where free blacks could be repatriated. In January 1822, the society established the first settlement on Cape Mesurado, which later became Monrovia. Although many American blacks opposed repatriation to Africa, emigrations to the region nevertheless continued, leading to establishment of other settlements. By 1850 about 5,000 settlers lived in various settlements, which had now become incorporated as the Commonwealth of Liberia with Monrovia as capital, named after James Monroe, the sitting president of the United States when the first settlement was established. As a result of the American antislavery naval patrol off the coast of West Africa, Liberia also became home to New World-bound slaves rescued aboard slave ships still illegally engaged in slave trafficking. By 1867 the U.S. Navy had resettled about 5,700 recaptives in Liberia.

Before 1848 the international status of Liberia was anomalous. It was neither a sovereign state nor a colony of the United States. A constitution of 1825 that gave administrative authority over the commonwealth to agents of the ACS made it a private colony. Liberia's status, however, changed on July 26, 1847, when it declared its independence under a constitution strikingly similar to that of the United States. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who in 1842 had become the first black governor, was elected the first president of the sovereign state now called the Republic of Liberia. Before World War II (1939–1945), Liberia did not feature prominently in America's foreign and commercial relations. Even though Britain and other nations recognized Liberia's independence soon after it was declared, the United States did not do so until October 1862, a reflection of America's racial prejudice. Barring missionary and maritime activities in Liberia, the United States had no significant political and economic relations with the new African state. Despite historical ties, the United States lacked consistent interest in Liberia, and only responded sporadically to it, often during critical periods of challenge to its sovereignty.

Liberia did face such periods during its formative years. A number of times its sovereignty was threatened by European imperialism in Africa. Already active in the scramble for African territories in the nineteenth century, Britain and France desired to expand their conquests by annexing Liberia. Indeed, in 1883, Liberia lost a portion of its original territory in the area north of the Mano River to Sierra Leone, a British colony. Again, in 1895, the Liberian territory beyond Cape Palmas was annexed by the French colony of Ivory Coast. America's attitude to European colonial encroachment on Liberia was to oppose it and defend the nation's territorial integrity. On occasions, America's intervention in the incessant boundary disputes with the British and the French, whose colonial possessions literally encircled Liberia, did help to preserve its independence. For instance, in 1862, following an appeal from Monrovia, the United States sent a warship to West Africa to thwart possible British annexation of Liberia.

From the early years of the foundation of Liberia, the settlers faced constant uprising from the indigenous ethnic groups. The interior people were particularly fearful of the settlers' expansion and encroachment on their lands and the extension of government rule into their territories. In many instances, the United States provided Liberia with military assistance in putting down uprisings by indigenous groups such as the Kru and the Grebo.

U.S. INFLUENCE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Despite the United States' lack of consistent interest in Liberia, its sporadic support for the nation during critical times ensured that it exercised informal influence over the African nation. America's influence further increased when the Firestone Rubber Company established rubber plantations in the country in 1926. Liberia soon became an important source of rubber to the United States. Through its operations in the country, Firestone came to play a significant role in Liberia's political economy.

During World War II, Liberia assumed an unprecedented importance to the United States when it served America's economic and strategic needs. Liberian rubber and other products such as palm oil became of critical importance to the Allied powers after the Axis takeover of the traditional Far East market. Also, when the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed the control of an air ferry operation across Africa through which American bombers and other military supplies reached the Allied forces in the Middle East, Liberian ports and airfields provided strategic points along the ferry route. Liberia's support for the American war effort was rewarded with American modernization projects in the country.

In the course of Liberian history, two distinct groups have constituted the society. First were the immigrant settlers called the Americo-Liberians, born and bred in the United States, and, therefore, Eurocentric in orientation and outlook. Second were the various indigenous ethnic groups original to the area. The Americo-Liberian minority group emerged as the dominant class with special privileges, to the detriment of the indigenous population, which it relegated to a subservient position. The Americo-Liberians developed commerce, education, and social services, and a political system tailored along American democracy. Many Americo-Liberians were successful farmers and wealthy merchants, controlling a booming trade along the coast. From independence in 1847, the Americo-Liberians exercised almost total economic and political dominance of Liberia. Their political party, the True Whig, held power until April 12, 1980, when a bloody coup d'état led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, an indigenous officer, terminated their unprecedented control of power.

see also Abolition of Colonial Slavery; African Slavery in the Americas; American Colonization Society.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clegg, Claude Andrew. The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Gershoni, Yekutiel. Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

Hyman, Lester S. United States Policy Towards Liberia, 1822 to 2003: Unintended Consequences? Cherry Hill, NJ: Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers, 2003.

Reef, Catherine. This Our Dark Country: The American Settlers of Liberia. New York: Clarion Books, 2002.

Saha, Santosh C. Culture in Liberia: An Afrocentric View of the Cultural Interaction Between the Indigenous Liberians and the Americo-Liberians. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1998.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

Compiled from the January 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Liberia


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

111,369 sq. km. (43,000 sq. mi.). Slightly larger than Ohio.

Cities:

Capital—Monrovia (est. 750,000). Principal towns—Buchanan (est. 300,000), Ganta (est. 290,000), Gbarnga (est. 150,000), Kakata (est. 100,000), Harbel (est. 136,000).

Terrain:

Three areas—Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa's rain forest.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Liberian(s).

Population (2004):

3.24 million.

Annual growth rate (2004):

2.4%.

Ethnic groups:

Kpelle 20%, Bassa 16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.

Religion:

Christian 30%, Muslim 10%, animist 60%.

Language:

English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.

Education:

Literacy (2003)—56%.

Health:

Life expectancy (2003)—47 years.

Work force:

Agriculture—70%; industry—15%; services—2%.

Unemployment:

80% in the formal sector.

Government

Type:

Republic; currently under a national transitional government.

Independence:

From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.

Constitution:

January 6, 1986.

Political parties:

30 registered political parties, 22 of which had candidates running in the October 11, 2005 presidential and legislative elections. Presidential run-off elections were held on November 8, 2005.

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

$492 million.

Real GDP growth rate (2004):

2.4%.

Per capita GDP (2004):

$152.

Consumer Price Index (2004):

7.8%.

Natural resources:

Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

Agriculture:

Products—coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables.

Industry:

Types—agriculture and fisheries, iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.

Trade (2004):

Exports—$103.8 million: rubber 93%; cocoa 3.5%. Major markets—Germany, Poland, U.S., Greece. Imports—$268.1 million: mineral fuels and lubricants; food and live animals; machinery and transport equipment; manufactured goods; pharmaceuticals; and tobacco.


PEOPLE

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. 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 are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. Because of the 1989-1996 civil war and its accompanying problem of insecurity, the number of Westerners in Liberia is low and confined largely to Monrovia and its immediate surroundings. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent.

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 7-year civil war (1989-1996) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.


HISTORY

Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461 and named the area Grain Coast because of the abundance of grains of Malegueta Pepper. 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, which means "land of the free," was founded by freed slaves from the United States in 1820. These freed slaves, called Americo-Liberians, first arrived in Liberia and established a settlement in Christopolis now Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820. This group of 86 immigrants formed the nucleus of the settler population of what became known as the Republic of Liberia.

Thousands of freed slaves from America soon arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence on July 26, 1847 of the Republic of Liberia. The idea of resettling free slaves in Africa was nurtured by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization that governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847. The new Republic of Liberia adopted American styles of life and established thriving trade links with other West Africans.

The formation of the Republic of Liberia was not an altogether easy task. The settlers periodically encountered stiff opposition from African tribes whom they met upon arrival, usually resulting in bloody battles. On the other hand, the newly independent Liberia was encroached upon by colonial expansionists who forcibly took over much of the original territory of independent Liberia.

Liberia's history until 1980 was largely peaceful. For 133 years after independence, the Republic of Liberia was a one-party state ruled by the Americo-Liberian-dominated True Whig Party (TWP). Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who was born and raised in America, became Liberia's first President. The style of government and constitution was fashioned on that of the United States. The True Whig Party dominated all sectors of Liberia from independence until April 12, 1980, when indigenous Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe—from the Krahn ethnic group—seized power in a coup d'etat. Doe's forces executed President William R. Tol-bert and several officials of his government, mostly of Americo-Liberian descent. As a result, 133 years of Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People's Redemption Council (PRC).

Doe's government increasingly adopted an ethnic outlook as members of his Krahn ethnic group soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This caused a heightened level of ethnic tension, leading to frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.

Political parties remained banned until 1984. Elections were held on October 15, 1985, in which Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) was declared winner. The elections were characterized by widespread fraud and rigging. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living, which had been rising in the 1970s, declined drastically. On November 12, 1985, former Army Commanding Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa invaded Liberia by way of neighboring Sierra Leone and almost succeeded in toppling the government of Samuel Doe. Members of the Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa's attack and executed him in Monrovia.

On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe's former procurement chief, Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of Liberians because of the repressive nature of Samuel Doe and his government. Barely 6 months after the rebels first attacked, they had reached the outskirts of Monrovia.

The 1989-1996 Liberian civil war, which was one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson—who had been a member of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) but broke away because of policy differences—formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990, and Dr. Amos C. Sawyer became President. Taylor refused to work with the interim government and continued fighting. By 1992, several warring factions had emerged in the Liberian civil war, all of which were absorbed in the new transitional government. After several peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government.

After considerable progress in negotiations conducted by the United States, United Nations, Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), and ECOWAS, disarmament and demobilization of warring factions were hastily carried out. Special elections were held on July 19, 1997, with Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerging victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.

For the next 6 years, the Taylor government did not improve the lives of Liberians. Unemployment and illiteracy stood above 75%, and little investment was made in the country's infrastructure. Liberia is still trying to recover from the ravages of war; six years after the war, pipe-borne water and electricity were still unavailable, and schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure remained derelict. Rather than work to improve the lives of Liberians, Taylor supported the bloody Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, fomenting unrest and brutal excesses in the region, and leading to the resumption of armed rebellion from among Taylor's former adversaries.

On June 4, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS facilitated the inauguration of peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the rebel groups called "Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy" (LURD) and "Movement for Democracy in Liberia" (MODEL). LURD and MODEL largely represent elements of the former ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions that fought Taylor during Liberia's previous civil war (1989-1996). Also on June 4, 2003, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press statement announcing the opening of a sealed March 7 indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for "bearing the greatest responsibility" for atrocities in Sierra Leone since November 1996. By July 17, 2003 the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a cease-fire that envisioned a comprehensive peace agreement within 30 days. The three combatants subsequently broke that cease-fire repeatedly, which resulted in bitter fighting that eventually reached downtown Monrovia.

On August 11, 2003 under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. This

move paved the way for the deployment by ECOWAS of what became a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). Since then, the United States has provided limited direct military support and $26 million in logistical assistance to ECOMIL and another $40 million in humanitarian assistance to Liberia. On August 18, leaders from the Liberian Government, the rebels, political parties, and civil society signed a comprehensive peace agreement that laid the framework for constructing a 2-year National Transitional Government of Liberia, effective October 14. On August 21, they selected businessman Gyude Bryant as Chair and Wesley Johnson as Vice Chair of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). Under the terms of the agreement the LURD, MODEL, and Government of Liberia each selected 12 members of the 76-member Legislative Assembly (LA). The NTGL was inducted on October 14, 2003 and will serve until January 2006, when the winners of the October/November 2005 presidential and congressional elections take office.

The October 11, 2005 elections and the subsequent November 8, 2005 run-off elections were the most free, fair, and peaceful elections in Liberia's history. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf defeated George Weah 59.4% to 40.6%. Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa's first democratically elected female president. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) certified Johnson-Sirleaf as the winner on November 23, 2005. Johnson-Sirleaf's inauguration is scheduled for January 16, 2006.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Liberia is currently under a transitional government that took office in October 2003 and that will serve until January 16, 2006, when the government of President-elect Johnson-Sirleaf takes office. The transitional government includes a chair and vice chair and a 76-member Legislative Assembly.

On September 19, 2003 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1509, which established a peacekeeping operation (UN Mission in Liberia, or UNMIL) under Chapter VII authority. In keeping with the UN Secretary General's recommendations, it called for a force of 15,000 peacekeepers, with 250 military observers and 160 staff officers, a robust police component of up to 1,115, and a significant civilian component and support staff. Those forces essentially have been close to fully deployed throughout Liberia. By November 1, 2004, UNMIL had disarmed and demobilized over 103,000 individuals characterized as ex-combatants. UNMIL also advised the reformed National Election Commission as it executed the October/November 2005 legislative and presidential elections.

Historically, Liberia has had a bicameral legislature which consists of 64 representatives and 26 senators. The legislature was set up on a proportional representation basis after the 1997 special election. Historically, the executive branch heavily influences the legislature and judicial system, the latter being largely dysfunctional for now.

There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia. The basic unit of local government is the town chief. There are clan chiefs, paramount chiefs, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. For now, superintendents appointed by the president (or Chairman under the NTGL) govern the counties. There are 15 counties in Liberia.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 11/18/2003

Chairman: Bryant, Gyude
Vice Chairman: Johnson, Wesley
Min. of Agriculture: Kammie, George
Min. of Commerce & Industry: Wulu, Samuel
Min. of Education: Kandakai, Evelyn
Min. of Finance: Kamara, Lusine
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Nimley, Thomas Yaya
Min. of Gender Development: Gayflor, Vaba
Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Coleman, Peter
Min. of Information, Culture, & Tourism:
Min. of Internal Affairs: Morias, H. Dan
Min. of Justice: Janneh, Kabineh
Min. of Labor: Supuwood, Laveli
Min. of Land, Mines, & Energy: Mulbah, Willie
Min. of National Defense: Chea, Daniel
Min. of National Security:
Min. of Planning & Economic Affairs: Herbert, Christian
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Nagbe, Eugene Lenn
Min. of Public Works:
Min. of Rural Development: Jones, E. C. B
Min. of Transport: Kanneh, Vamba
Min. of Youth & Sport: Dixon-Barnes, Wheatonia
Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Doe , Jackson
Governor, National Bank: Saleeby, Elias
Ambassador to the US: Bull, William
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Kawah, Lamine

Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 202-723-0094.


ECONOMY

The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia's export earnings. Following the coup d'etat of 1980, the country's economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia's foreign debt amounts to about $3.5 billion.

The 1989-1996 civil war had a devastating effect on the country's economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businessmen left the country. Iron ore production has stopped completely, and Liberia depends heavily on timber and rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Relatively few foreign investors have returned to the country since the end of the civil war due to the depressed business climate and continuing instability. Timber and rubber are Liberia's main export items since the end of the war. Liberia earns more than $85 million and more than $57 million annually from timber and rubber exports, respectively. Alluvial diamond and gold mining activities also account for some economic activity.

Being the second-largest maritime licenser in the world—with more than 1,800 vessels registered under its flag, including 35% of the world's tanker fleet—Liberia earned more than $15 million from its maritime program in 2004. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia's Atlantic Coast.

Liberia's business sector is largely controlled by foreigners, mainly of Lebanese and Indian descent. There also are limited numbers of Chinese engaged in agriculture. There also are significant numbers of West Africans engaged in cross-border trade.

Liberia is a member of ECOWAS. With Guinea and Sierra Leone, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) for development and the promotion of regional economic integration. The MRU became all but defunct because of the Liberian civil war, which spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was some revival of MRU political and security cooperation discussions in 2002.

Beyond imposing a travel ban on individuals most closely associated with the Taylor regime, the United Nations imposed sanctions on rough diamond imports from, and arms exports to, Liberia in May 2001 for Liberia's support to the brutal rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in neighboring Sierra Leone. The UN renewed these sanctions in 2002 and in 2003, it sanctioned Liberia's export of timber. In December 2004, the UN essentially renewed these sanctions for one year.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and China.

Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.


U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Liberia date back to the 1820s when the first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States. As early as 1819, Congress appropriated $100,000 for the establishment of Liberia (and resettlement of freemen and freed slaves from North America) by the American Colonization Society, led by such statesmen as Francis Scott Key, George Washington's nephew Bush-rod, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and presidents Monroe, Adams, and Jackson. U.S.-Liberia relations have mostly been very cordial since independence. The United States had been Liberia's closest ally until a 7-year civil war (1989-1996), regional instability, gross human rights abuses, and good governance problems led to the souring of bilateral relations. Bilateral ties are once again improving.

During the 1980s, the United States donated hundreds of millions of dollars toward the development of Liberia. The United States also donated hundreds of tons of rice (a staple of Liberians) through its PL-480 Program. The United States, followed by the European Union, is the largest donor of relief aid which is channeled through the United Nations and other international aid and relief agencies working in the country.

In February 2004 in New York, the United States co-hosted an international reconstruction conference on Liberia. Donors pledged over $522 million in total assistance. The United States contributed $200 million for critical humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration, community revitalization, policing, independent media, rule of law, social services, agriculture, and reform of the judicial system, military, police, financial, and forest sectors. The United States also contributed $245 million for the establishment of UNMIL. In fiscal year 2005, the United States is spending close to $70 million to rehabilitate and reintegrate former combatants, reform Liberia's military, police, and financial sector, and provide humanitarian and medical relief, among other objectives. The United States has joined the European Commission, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Economic Community of West African States, and African Union in supporting and funding the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP), which aims to improve governance, combat corruption, and build capacity in Liberia.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MONROVIA (E) Address: 111 United Nations Drive; Phone: 011-231 226-370; Fax: 011-231 226-148/226-827; Workweek: M-F, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

AMB:Donald E. Booth
AMB OMS:Terri L. Tedford
DCM:Louis Mazel
POL:Alfreda E. Meyers
CON:John P. Marietti
MGT:John L. Thomas
AGR:Robert D. Simpson
AID:Wilbur Thomas
DAO:Thomas Cook
DEA:Andre Kellum (resident in Lagos)
ECO/COM:Matt B. Chessen
FAA:Ronald L. Montgemery (res.in Dakar)
FIN:Vacant
FMO:James Barber
GSO:vacant
ICASS Chair:Donna Lewis
IMO:John C. Adams
IRS:Marlene Sartipi (resident in Paris)
PAO:Vacant
RSO:Norman C. Lisenbee
State ICASS:Alfreda E. Meyers
Last Updated: 10/27/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 7, 2005

Country Description:

Liberia is a western African country that has suffered from years of instability and conflict. Since 2003, when deposed former President Charles Taylor went into exile, substantial progress has been made in the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons and the reintegration of former combatants. Reconstruction of the country's infrastructure is ongoing. Respect for human rights and the rule of law has improved. Economic development and the elimination of corruption remain problematic. In October 2005, Liberians went to the polls and elected a representative government fashioned after that of the United States. After a run-off election in November between the top two presidential vote getters, Liberians elected the first woman president on the African continent. Harvard-educated and former World Bank economist, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will be sworn into office in January 2006. Expectations are high for the future, but by most measures Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and noticeable change will take time. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent. The capital is Monrovia and the official language is English.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport and a visa are required for entry, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Immigration officials at the airport may authorize permits for a 48-hour stay only. Those wishing to stay longer must go to the Central Bureau of Immigration on Broad Street between Center and Gurley Streets in downtown Monrovia. The Central Bureau issues permits for stays up to three months for a $100 fee. There is a $25 airport tax on departing passengers. For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees and airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, web site www.embassyofliberia.org. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security:

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Liberia and weigh their personal safety with the importance of their travel. Americans who travel to or remain in Liberia should realize that the ability of Liberia's security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is uncertain. Actions of the local security forces (and former members of the security forces) also at times threaten travelers. Members of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provide limited security around Monrovia and the main population centers. Americans who must go to Liberia should check with the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section before undertaking travel and should avoid going to rural areas of Liberia due to security incidents and armed dissident activity.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when traveling. Travel outside of Monrovia after dark is strongly discouraged. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Crime in Liberia is rated critical and is exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment in the country. Theft, assault, sexual crimes, and murder are problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins occur. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection. Despite deployment of peacekeeping forces, criminal activity and occasional looting by criminal elements continue to be reported in urban and rural areas.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. Typically, the scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country.

The scenarios are varied, but the final payoff does not exist. The purpose is to get as much money as possible and to gain information about the American's bank account. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating in Liberia should be carefully checked out before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Advance Fee Business Scams, available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while in Liberia, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Hospitals and medical facilities are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing even basic services. Emergency services comparable to those in the U.S. or Europe are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and unsafe for transfusion. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates, and generally unavailable in most areas. As there is no garbage removal service or functioning sewer system, even in Monrovia, the level of sanitation throughout the country is very poor, which increases the spread of diseases. Upper respiratory infections and diarrhea are common as well as the more serious diseases typhoid and malaria. All travelers to Liberia must be vaccinated against typhoid and should bring an adequate supply of anti-malaria medication for their entire stay.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web-site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Potholes and poor road surfaces are common, making safe driving extremely challenging. Cars, trucks, and taxis are often overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Drivers often overtake on the right. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are frequent. There are no operating traffic lights in the country, so approach intersections with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed. All drivers must remain in their vehicles at the roadside with headlights turned off until any such convoys pass. It is advisable to wait at least a couple of minutes after the convoy passes since convoy stragglers often drive at high speed to catch up with the group.

Travelers should expect delays at UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war, neglect, or the heavy annual rains, which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Currently five international carriers operate flights to and from Liberia, servicing the Roberts International Airport, which is located 35 miles out-side Monrovia. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should arrange for an expediter and/or driver through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

Special Circumstances:

The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia, and there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, provided one follows the specific regulations on how such transfers must be done. Sums in excess of US $10,000 must be reported at the port of entry and no more than US $7,500 in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing US $5,000 over-the-counter cash wire transfers per month. Traveler's checks and wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees. ATMs are unavailable and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.

Photographing military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, or police or military officers are liable to confiscate the camera. Travelers are advised not to take photographs, movies, or videos in any public place.

Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not always on a 24-hour basis. There is no working landline telephone system in Liberia. Several cell phone companies provide service in Monrovia and some areas outside the capital. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. If arrested, U.S. citizens should ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see the Registration/Embassy Location section below). Americans should carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times. The consular section of the U.S. Embassy cannot give legal assistance but can provide a list of Liberian attorneys if one is required. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Liberia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Liberia. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia; telephone 231-077-054-826; there is no fax number; web site http://Monrovia.usembassy.gov. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia may address letters to the Consular Section, 8800 Monrovia Place, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800, or send emails to [email protected]

Travel Warning

November 4, 2005

This Travel Warning updates and supersedes the Travel Warning of September 23, 2005 to include security information for the period immediately preceding a scheduled run-off election for President on November 8, through the installation of a new government in January 2006.

The Department of State continues to urge American citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Liberia. Notwithstanding the UN's deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers and 1,100 police advisors nationwide, the overall security situation remains fragile and unpredictable. There was no major civil unrest during the elections held on October 11. However, political and social tensions remain high and could result in sporadic violence and instability as Liberia prepares for a run-off election between the two leading presidential candidates on November 8. Social tension and risk of spontaneous demonstrations or outbursts of violence could continue throughout the period immediately preceding the run-off election for President, scheduled for November 8, and up to and including the inauguration of a new President and the installation of a new government on January 16, 2006.

Americans in Liberia should also be aware of the possibility of civil disturbances and/or demonstrations by demobilized armed forces and civil servants who are increasingly disgruntled as a result of non-payment of salaries and other grievances. Owing to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, street demonstrations, and any gathering of security forces. By most measures, Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and the nationwide unemployment rate is very high. Foreigners, including Americans, are high-profile targets for robbery.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution in traveling. Traveling alone or after dark is strongly discouraged. Poor road conditions, especially during the rainy season, and limited telecommunications limit the U.S. Embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens outside the Monrovia area. American employees at the U.S. Embassy continue to have a strict 1:00 a.m. curfew, are strongly encouraged to not go out alone, but to use the buddy system, and may travel outside Monrovia only under strict pre-approved conditions. Americans should report any threats or suspicious activity to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and monitor the local media for developments that may affect their safety and security.

Americans who remain in or travel to Liberia despite this Warning should register with the Embassy's Consular Section through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency and provide updated security information. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy, which is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia; tel. (231) 226-370; fax (231) 226-148. American citizen services are Monday - Thursday 3:00 to 5:00 and Friday 8:00 - 2:00 and 3:00 to 5:00.

For additional information, consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Liberia, on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions in Liberia by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from all other countries.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

There is currently a travel warning for Liberia. Please consult the Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov for current information.

The Liberian Ministry of Health has informed the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia that effective October 15, 2004, adoptive families must obtain a letter from the Ministry of Health approving the adoption of a specific child. This is in addition to obtaining a Relinquishment (guardian or caretaker of child being adopted) and Adoption Decree (Liberian Court). The U.S. Embassy is seeking clarification as to whether or not adoption cases that began in good faith prior to October 15 will be grandfathered. This site will be updated as more information becomes available.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Liberian orphans adopted abroad - 3; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Liberian orphans adopted in the U.S. - 0
FY-1997: IR-3 Visas - 29;
IR-4 Visas - 5
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 6;
IR-4 Visas - 1
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 14;
IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 21;
IR-4 Visas - 4

Liberian Adoption Authority:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoptions are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met.

Liberian Adoption Procedures:

All adoptive parents recently go through an adoption agency in the U.S. prior to going through the adoption process. A petition for the adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence, and martial status of the petitioners. The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners' desire to adopt the child, and the child's change of name, should also be contained in the petition. The court will also require written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents is required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent. If the child is 16 years of age or older, only the child needs consent to the adoption. Please note that a child who is 16 years old or older is not considered a "child" by the Immigration and Nationality Act and therefore may be ineligible to immigrate to the United States. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased, or if a legal guardian has been appointed. The biological parents, during the proceedings, may withdraw consent. However, the court must permit the withdrawal of consent. Consent is irrevocable after the final order of adoption.

Following the filing of the petition, the court serves notice on all interested parties and orders an investigation by an investigator, who is appointed by the court. A written report of the investigation must be filed with the court within 30 days of issuance of the investigation order. Upon receipt of the investigation, the Court schedules the hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. The petitioners and children are required to attend the hearing. The court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause. This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are confidential and held in closed court. The court must be satisfied that the "moral and temporal interests" of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered. The court can process the adoption as fast as they want.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. Any minor child present within Liberia may be adopted. The place of birth and residence are irrelevant of the adoptive parent.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of qualified attorneys. The Embassy does not maintain a list of adoption agencies and can not recommend the services of any private attorney or adoption agency.

Doctors:

The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Liberia.

Liberian Documentary Requirements:

  • Petition for adoption
  • Written consent of the biological parents acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace)

There are no documents required within the laws concerning adoption. Normal paperwork such as a passport, and birth certificate may be needed as required by the court in a case-by-case basis. The parents will also need these documents required for the IV process.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

A Liberian child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Liberian Embassy (and Consulates) in the United States:

Embassy of the Republic of Liberia
5303 Colorado Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437

Liberia also has a consulate in New York, New York.

U.S. Embassy Liberia:

The Consular Section is located at:
Street Address
U.S. Embassy Liberia
111 United Nations Drive
Mamba Point
Monrovia, Liberia

Mailing Address
U.S. Embassy Monrovia
Consular Section
U.S. Department of State
8800 Monrovia Place
Washington, DC 20521-8800
Tel: (231) 226-370 ext. 1490

Additional Information:

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Liberia may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, telephone (202) 736-7000 with specific questions.

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Liberia

Liberia

Magazine article excerpt

By: Anonymous

Date: July 1851

Source: Anonymous. "Liberia." Living Age 30 (July 1851): 261-263.

About the Author: The Living Age (also known as Littell's Living Age) was a general readership publication that excerpted selections from English and American newspapers and magazines. The Living Age was published from 1844 through 1941.

INTRODUCTION

The idea to develop a separate nation on the continent of Africa for slaves from the American South came about in the mid-1810s. Attitudes in the southern United States were firmly pro-slavery, while northerners had yet to develop a strong abolitionist movement. Some former slaves lived as free men and women in the northern United States, and some states prohibited slavery, but employment and housing could be difficult matters for these freed slaves. In 1815 Paul Cuffee (1759–1817), an African American businessman, financed a voyage for African Americans to settle in Sierra Leone. Cuffee believed that prejudice against slaves and former slaves was too great in the United States; for former slaves and free blacks to rise to their highest potential, in Cuffee's opinion, they would have to live in a nation where African American self-determination and self-governance prevailed.

Cuffee's vision included not only the settlement, or "repatriation," of slaves in Africa, but also the exchange of information and skills between former slaves and those on the African continent; former slaves could teach Africans the skills learned while enslaved, such as horsemanship, iron work, farming techniques, and woodworking. Cuffee died in 1817 without having realized the establishment of his imagined nation. Inspired by Cuffee's idea, a group of white southern men formed the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1816. Freed African Americans were excluded from membership. The first president of ACS was former U.S. president James Monroe.

Robery Finley, a Presbyterian minister and founder of ACS, worked toward the establishment of an African colony for freed American slaves. By 1820 the colony of Liberia had been founded. ACS helped to create Liberia but did not pay for slaves to be freed for immigration to the new colony; ACS members lobbied Congress and state legislatures, however, to provide funds for existing freed slaves to emigrate.

As divisions between the North and South in the United States intensified throughout the late 1840s and 1850s, and as abolitionism rose as a force in the industrialized North—with growing support from women as well as men—Liberia became a point of interest for southerners wishing to export freed slaves from their states, and for fugitive slaves wishing to find safe harbor away from slave bounty hunters. Some states created their own settlements in Liberia, such as Maryland's Cape Palmas. Slave states used such settlements in combination with legislature-approved transportation funds to export freed blacks.

By 1847 Liberia was home to more than 10,000 freed blacks. The ACS had controlled the colony, but Liberians declared their independence on July 26, 1847, with the Liberian Declaration of Independence. Liberians noted abuses by the U.S. government and requested formal recognition from other independent nations. Britain recognized Liberia's independence in 1848, as did France; Liberia's first president, J. J. Roberts, worked to secure international recognition for the emerging country.

PRIMARY SOURCE

The new republic of Liberia is one of the notable features of our singularly progressive age. It is one of the things which the people of the eighteenth could have least expected to be produced by the nineteenth century. Yet it is probably enough that many not unintelligent persons in England never even heard of its name.

Liberia is a free negro Christian state, enjoying republican institutions, on the coast of Africa. Situated between the fourth and eighth degree of north latitude, it occupies about 500 miles of what is called the Guinea coast—a country wonderfully rich in natural productions, but heretofore blighted by the accursed slave-trade. The proper citizens of Liberia are said to be little over 7000; but they have a quarter of a million of the native population under their protection. They are distributed through a chain of well-built towns, surrounded by well-cultivated fields, they have ports and shipping, custom-houses, a president, and a national flag. Churches and schools everywhere give pleasing token of civilization. The people in general seem to be animated by a good spirit. On the whole, Liberia is a thriving settlement, and its destiny appears to be one of no mean character.

The efforts to put down the African slave-trade by a blockade have, it is well known, been signally unsuccessful. Britain's share in it costs about three quarters of a million per annum; and the money is spent not merely in vain, but to the increase of the inhumanities meant to be extinguished. Under the powerful temptations held out by the sugar-trade of Brazil, more slaves are now exported from Africa than ever—the only effect of the blockade being to cause the trade to be conducted under much more cruel circumstances than formerly. While this costly and mischievous mockery has been going on, a humble and almost unnoticed association of emancipated negroes from the United States has been doing real work, by quietly planting itself along the African coast, and causing, wherever it set its foot, the slave-trade to disappear. Strange to say, it has done this, not as a primary object, but as one only secondary and incidental to a process of colonization, the prompting causes of which were of a different, and, as some might think, partly inconsistent nature.

The situation of the free negroes in the United States is well known to be an unpleasant one. They have neither the political nor social privileges of other citizens; and though matters were put formally to rights in this respect, it is to all appearance hopeless that the colored should ever be admitted to a true fellowship with the white people. In these circumstances the man of African blood is like a small tree under the shade of a great one. His whole nature is dwarfed; his best aspirations are checked. The results are not over-comfortable for the white man either. Some American citizens, seeing and deploring these evils, were induced, about five-and-thirty years ago, to form themselves into a society, which should promote the return of emancipated negroes to their own quarter of the globe, where it was thought they might be able, to some extent, to introduce the intelligence, religion and usages of civilized communities among their heightened brethren, and form the most effective of battalions for the repression of the slave-trade—their constitutions being able to endure climatic influences under which the whites are sure to sink. The result has been this republic of Liberia. The whole movement has, we believe, from first to last, been regarded with jealousy, if not hostility, by the abolition party, who saw in it only the dislike of white for black, and shut their eyes to the religious and philanthropic objects, which were in reality alone capable of being promoted to any considerable extent; for of course a serious diminution of the colored population of America by such means is not to be expected. We do not profess to know how far this was a reasonable feeling on the part of the worthy men who are standing up for negro rights in America; but assuredly, whatever were the motives of the Colonization Society, the consequences of their acts are such as to give them no small ground for triumph. For anything that we can see, their settling of Liberia has been the most unexceptional good movement against slavery that has ever taken place. Perhaps it has not been the worse, but rather the better, of that infusion of the wisdom of this world, which has discommended it so much to the abolitionist….

SIGNIFICANCE

Liberia and the export of freed slaves for resettlement created a difficult situation for some abolitionists. Many southern slave owners supported Liberia as an alternative to abolition; if freed blacks could be sent away to Liberia, the owners theorized, then the tension between slave states and non-slave states might lessen, and the need for abolition would decrease as slave owners could point to Liberia as a middle ground in the slavery argument.

Some abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison, disagreed with the American Colonization Society and the concept of Liberia as a colony for freed slaves, while other prominent American figures such as Henry Clay supported ACS and its goals. By the 1840s abolitionists viewed Liberia as a possible threat to full emancipation of slaves.

In 1862 U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) extended official recognition to Liberia; Lincoln supported the repatriation of freed slaves to the African nation. There were more than four million slaves in the southern United States, and Lincoln viewed resettlement in Liberia, or similar colonies, as a potentially positive option for freed slaves. After his assassination in 1865, the idea, not popular with Congress or the new administration, was dropped.

Once the Civil War ended in the United States, the flow of free blacks across the Atlantic from North America to Africa ended. Malaria and yellow fever had plagued the earlier settlers in Liberia, thinning their numbers and forcing some to question whether their new lives in Africa were worse than the lives as slaves they'd left behind in the United States. Liberia remained populated, however, and grew throughout the end of the nineteenth century. After achieving independence, Liberia became the only free republic in Africa, providing an example to other African colonies in the twentieth century as other colonies slowly became independent nations.

Liberia's promise in the 1820s represented different goals to different people: for white slavery supporters, Liberia meant gradualism, for abolitionists a threat to emancipation, and for freed blacks a chance at a new life, away from American society and prejudice. By the 1970s Liberia faced internal struggles, and from 1989 through 2004 the nation experienced civil war and extreme violence. In 2005 Liberia once again gained a unique place in history books by electing Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the presidency, the first democratically elected woman to lead an African nation.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Jeffrey, Julie Roy. Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the Antislavery Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Levitt, Jeremy. The Evolution of Deadly Conflict in Liberia: From 'Paternaltarianism' to State Collapse. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2005.

Mayer, Henry. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Tsesis, Alexander. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

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Liberia

Liberia

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Liberians

35 Bibliography

Republic of Liberia

CAPITAL: Monrovia

FLAG: The national flag, dating from 1847, consists of 11 horizontal stripes, alternately red (6) and white (5), with a single five-pointed white star on a square blue field 5 stripes deep in the upper left corner.

ANTHEM: All Hail, Liberia, Hail.

MONETARY UNIT: The Liberian dollar (L$) of 100 cents was linked to the U.S. dollar until January 1998, when it switched to a floating market determined rate. There are no Liberian notes. U.S. notes in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars are in circulation and are legal tender. Both U.S. and Liberian coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1 dollar are in circulation; as of 1982, a $5 Liberian coin was issued. l1 = $0.01821 (or $1 = l54.906) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: U.S. and UK weights and measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Armed Forces Day, 11 February; Decoration Day, 2nd Wednesday in March; Birthday of J. J. Roberts (first president), 15 March; Fast and Prayer Day, 2nd Friday in April; National Redemption Day, 12 April; Unification Day, 14 May; Independence Day, 26 July; Flag Day, 24 August; Thanksgiving Day, 1st Thursday in November; Anniversary of 1985 Coup Attempt, 12 November; President Tubman’s Birthday, 29 November; Christmas, 25 December. Good Friday and Easter Monday are movable religious holidays.

TIME: GMT.

1 Location and Size

Located on the west coast of Africa, Liberia has an area of about 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles), slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. It has a total land boundary length of 1,585 kilometers (985 miles) and a coastline (Atlantic Ocean) of 538 kilometers (334 miles). Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, is located on the Atlantic coast.

2 Topography

There are three distinct belts lying parallel to the coast: the low coastal belt, a rise to rolling hills, and a series of low mountains and plateaus that are less densely forested than the hilly region. The Nimba Mountains are near the Guinea frontier. The Wologizi Mountains reach a maximum

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 111,370 sq km (43,000 sq mi)

Size ranking: 101 of 194

Highest elevation: 1,380 meters (4,528 feet) at Mount Wutuvi

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Atlantic Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 3%

Permanent crops: 2%

Other: 95%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 200–510 centimeters (80–200 inches)

Average temperature in January: (Monrovia): 23–30°c (73–86°f)

Average temperature in July: (Monrovia): 22–27°c (72–81°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

of about 1,380 meters (4,528 feet) with Mount Wutuvi, the nation’s highest point. The lowest point is at sea level.

Of the six principal rivers, only the Farmington is of much commercial importance. The longest river is the Cavalla, which runs along the northeast and eastern border of the country. It has a total length of 520 kilometers (320 miles).

3 Climate

The climate is tropical with a mean temperature of 27°c (81°f). On the coast the heat is tempered by an almost constant breeze. Yearly rainfall is as high as 510 centimeters (200 inches) on the coast. Most of the rainfall occurs between late April and mid-November. Between December and March, a dust-laden wind known as the harmattan blows from the Sahara Desert.

4 Plants and Animals

Liberia has some of the greatest of Africa’s evergreen forests. There are about 235 species of trees. The bombex (cotton tree), the oil palm, and the kola tree are common. The wild rubber tree (Funtumia elastica) is indigenous, but the cultivated Hevea brasiliensis is the source of Liberia’s commercial rubber. A variety of coffee peculiar to Liberia, Coffea liberica, was formerly common but has given way to the preferred Coffea robusta. Fruit trees include citrus varieties, the alligator apple, papaya, mango, and avocado. Pineapples grow wild. Among the cultivated plants are cassava, cotton, cacao, indigo, and upland rice.

Elephant and buffalo, once common in Liberia, have largely disappeared, but several species of antelope are found in the interior. Wild pigs and porcupines exist in sparsely settled areas and several members of the leopard group are also found. Most of the 15 species of snakes are venomous. Termites build lofty nests throughout the country. In some areas the tsetse fly is found and driver ants and mosquitoes are common. Among the birds are the hornbill, wild guinea fowl, cattle egret (cowbird), flamingo, woodpecker, and weaver.

5 Environment

Commercial logging, firewood cutting, and a government land-clearing program have threatened primary forestland. Forests currently account for less than 40% of Liberia’s land. Hunting and loss of habitat have decimated wildlife along the coastal plain, and there are no longer any large herds of big game in the interior.

The Mano and Saint John rivers are becoming increasingly polluted from the dumping of iron ore tailings, as are the coastal waters from oil residue and the dumping of untreated sewage and waste water. In 2006, threatened species included 20 types of mammal, 11 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 29 species of fish, and 103 species of plants. The Jentink’s duiker and Liberian mongoose are threatened species in Liberia.

6 Population

The 2005 population was reported to be 3.2 million. A population of 5.8 million is projected for the year 2025. The population density in 2005 was about 34 per square kilometer (88 per square mile). Monrovia, the capital, had an estimated population of 572,000 in the same year.

7 Migration

The Liberian civil war caused a great amount of migration in the early 1990s. In 1999, Liberia was host to 90,000 refugees from Sierra Leone. In 2004, there were 498,566 internally displaced persons. The same year, about 335,500 Liberians were refugees in other countries. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was zero migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

Liberians of African tribal descent make up about 95% of the population. They represent about 28 ethnic groups, each with its own language. The main tribes are divided into three language groups: the Mande people in the north and far west, the Kru tribes (including the Krahn) in the east and southeast, and the Mel in the northwest. About 2.5% of the population is Americo-Liberian (also called Amerafricans). They are descendants of immigrants from the United States who had been slaves. Another 2.5% are Congo People, descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who were slaves.

9 Languages

English is the official language, but only a minority of the people (about 20%) can speak or write it. The tribal people use their own languages. Of these, Vai, Bassa, and Loma can be written and are used in correspondence by these tribes.

10 Religions

The early settlers, freed American slaves, brought with them the culture and religion of the slaveryera southern United States. Their descendants are generally adherents of the principal Protestant denominations, including Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, and Pentecostals. It has been estimated that about 40% of the population practice Christianity or in combination with traditional indigenous religions.

About 20% of the population practice Islam. About 40% of the population practice traditional indigenous religions exclusively. There is also a small Baha’i community.

11 Transportation

In 2002, there were an estimated 10,600 kilometers (6,586 miles) of public roads, of which only about 657 kilometers (408 miles) were paved. In 2003, there were 12,000 registered passenger autos and 35,950 commercial vehicles.

In 2004, Liberia’s railways consisted of 490 kilometers (304 miles) of track. Rail services were all owned by mining companies and used for transportation of iron ore from mines to the ports of Buchanan and Monrovia. These two deepwater ports handle more than 98% of all cargo. Many foreign-owned ships are registered in Liberia because of low fees and lenient labor laws. In 2005, the country’s merchant fleet had 1,465 vessels. In 2004, there were an estimated 53 airports, of which only 2 had paved runways in 2005.

12 History

It is believed that many of the peoples of Liberia migrated there from the north and east between the 12th and 16th centuries ad. Portuguese explorers first visited the coast in 1461 and Europeans traded with coastal tribes during the next three centuries.

Modern Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed black slaves from the United States. They were sent to Africa with the support of the American Colonization Society, a private organization whose purpose was to colonize Africa with freed American slaves. The first settlement was near where the present capital city, Monrovia, is located.

In 1847, the Republic of Liberia was established under a constitution modeled after that of the United States. Black emigration from the

United States to Liberia continued until the close of the U.S. Civil War (1861–65). Although they recognized Liberia, various European governments pushed the new country out of areas it had lawfully acquired by purchase or exploration. Pressure on Liberia’s borders continued well into the 20th century. Added to these dangers was Liberia’s precarious economic position. The depression of the 1930s brought Liberia to the verge of bankruptcy. In the 1930s, Liberia’s political sovereignty also was severely threatened by a scandal involving high government officials. These officials shipped Liberian laborers to the Spanish island of Fernando Póo, under conditions that resembled slave trading.

The establishment of a United States air base in Liberia during World War II (1939–45) and the building of an artificial harbor at Monrovia stimulated the country’s development. William V. S. Tubman, elected president in 1944 and reelected for five additional terms, sought to unify the descendants of the original American ex-slaves and the tribal peoples of the interior. Upon Tubman’s death in 1971, Vice President William R. Tolbert Jr. succeeded to the presidency. Having been elected without opposition

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: January 2006

Birthplace: Monrovia, Liberia

Birthdate: 29 October 1938

Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Madison Business College in Madison, Wisconsin; degree in economics from the University of Colorado; master’s of public administration from Harvard University

Spouse: Widow

Children: Four sons, six grandchildren

Of interest: She is the world’s first elected black female president, and is known as the “Iron Lady”.

in October 1975, Tolbert was inaugurated for an eight-year term in January 1976.

Doe Takes Power Tolbert and at least 26 supporters were killed in the fighting during a military coup (forced takeover) on 12 April 1980; 13 officials were publicly executed 10 days later. The People’s Redemption Council (PRC), formed to rule the country, was led by Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, who became head of state. The constitution was suspended, but a return to civilian rule was promised for 1985. In the elections held on 15 October 1985, Doe was elected president with 51% of the vote. Foreign observers declared that the elections were rigged and most of the opposition candidates who were elected refused to take their seats.

Since late December 1989, Liberia has fallen into chaos. Insurgents (people who revolt against authority) led by Charles Taylor began a campaign to overthrow the Doe regime. Thousands of civilians were massacred by gunmen on both sides. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes. By June 1990, Doe was besieged in Monrovia. In an effort to stop the killing, a regional peacekeeping force, known as ECOMOG (the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group), entered the country and installed an interim government. Most of the ECOMOG force was supplied by Nigeria. However, on 9 September 1990, rebel forces shot their way into ECOMOG’s headquarters and captured Doe, videotaping his torture and execution. On two occasions since entering the country, the ECOMOG forces prevented Charles Taylor’s forces from capturing the capital city of Monrovia.

The interim government was able to establish authority over most of Monrovia, but the rest of Liberia was in the hands of various factions. Despite three major peace agreements since 1990, fighting continued. Finally, in August 1995, all sides agreed to a cease-fire and set up a council of state to govern the country until elections could be held. The cease-fire only held until the year’s end, when fighting resumed. In early 1996, roving gangs of heavily armed teenagers besieged Monrovia with random shootings. International relief organizations became the targets of looting, since seven years of war had left the country empty of anything worth stealing.

Liberia’s four main militias approved a peace plan on 8 May 1996. In August 1996, West African leaders put together a new cease-fire agreement between the warring factions and selected an interim government. Elections were finally held in July 1997 and were overseen by ECOMOG forces. ECOMOG’s presence in Liberia was an important factor in ending the civil war that had killed more than 150,000 people over seven years. Charles Taylor, the man who had initially started the uprising, was elected with 66% of the vote and in 1999 presided over the burning of a huge stockpile of weapons.

By May 2000, much of Liberia was still in ruins, but international donors had made some progress in aiding the country. Unfortunately, the peace was short-lived. Fighting broke out again in 2000, leading to a declaration of a state of emergency on 8 February 2002. Taylor lifted the emergency in September 2002, but by February/March 2003, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) had made gains deep into territory previously held by government troops. The two sides met in Bamako in March 2003 and peace talks were scheduled to continue. Heavy fighting continued in July, however, with the rebels battling for control of Monrovia. The United Nations pledged to provide peacekeepers and, in August, Nigerian peacekeeping troops arrived. Charles Taylor left the country after handing over power to Moses Blah and rebels signed a peace accord in Ghana that provided for an interim government, known as the National Transition Government of Liberia, to be led by Gyude Bryant. Peacekeeping troops under the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) came to keep the peace while the transition was underway.

In the October 2005 elections, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected as president. When taking office in January 2006, she became the first woman to be head of state in Africa.

13 Government

Under the constitution effective as of 1986, Liberia is a republic modeled after the United States. Its constitution provides for a president and vice president elected jointly by universal vote for a six-year term with a limit of two consecutive terms. The legislature is divided into a 26-member senate and a 64-member house of representatives.

Liberia is divided into 13 counties, 2 territories, and the federal district of Monrovia. Counties are subdivided into districts headed by commissioners. There are also paramount, clan, and town chiefs.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

14 Political Parties

Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) gained influence since his election to the presidency in 1997 until his downfall in 2003. In 2005, the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL), the Congress for Democratic Change, the Liberia Party, the Unity Party (UP), and the Alliance for Peace and Democracy also held seats in the national assembly.

15 Judicial System

Most cases originate in magistrates’ courts and may be taken for appeal to one of 10 circuit courts or to the highest court. More serious cases originate in the circuit courts. Traditional courts are presided over by tribal chiefs. The 1986 constitution provides for the establishment of a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and four associate justices.

16 Armed Forces

As of 2005, active armed forces numbered between 11,000 and 14,000, including militias supportive of the government. Plans for a reorganized military include an army, navy, and air force. The defense budget in 2005 was us$1 million.

17 Economy

Liberia’s economy, which is primarily agricultural, is in turmoil as a result of financial mismanagement and the civil war which has divided the country into two economic zones (one centered in and around the major urban centers, the other in the countryside). Even prior to the civil war, however, Liberia faced serious financial problems. In 1988, the World Bank closed its offices in Monrovia. In March of 1990, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) threatened to expel Liberia for nonpayment of its debt. Unofficial statistics placed unemployment in 1999 at 85% of the population.

The civil war has left most of Liberia’s transportation and communication networks in shambles. Businessmen and financial resources have left the country, and continuing turmoil has prevented normal economic life. The remaining economic assets were plundered or destroyed by different fighting factions. In addition, former president Charles Taylor’s support for rebels fighting in Sierra Leone negatively impacted the climate for foreign investment.

18 Income

Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 was us$2.6 billion, or about us$700 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 10%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 15%. In 2005, foreign aid receipts amounted to us$107 million, about 28.3% of the gross national income (GNI).

19 Industry

Before the civil war, Liberia’s industrial sector was dominated by processing plants associated with its key agricultural outputs: rubber, palm oil, and lumber. Liberia also produced soft drinks, cement, plastics, shoes, recycled steel, and refined petroleum products.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

From 1990 to 1996, faction leaders and traders exploited the industrial wealth of Liberia. They used forced labor and stolen goods and fuel. The method of manufacture often harmed the environment or the ability to produce in the future. Profits from these enterprises were used to buy more weapons. Increased fighting in 2003 worsened the poor industrial climate. In 2004, industry accounted for about 5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

20 Labor

As of 2000, approximately 70% of workers were engaged in agriculture, with 22% in services and 8% in industry. As of 2003, there was only a gradual economic recovery since the civil war, with an estimated 85% of the labor force unemployed.

In 2002, there were a total of 30 functioning unions with 60,000 members, most of whom

were unemployed. There are minimum working ages, minimum wages, and worker safety and health standards, but none of these are enforced. Child labor laws are similarly not enforced, especially in rural areas. Most people engage in any work available regardless of wages or conditions.

21 Agriculture

Only about 3% of the total land area is arable. Estimated production of field crops in 2003 included 490,000 tons of cassava, 255,000 tons of sugarcane, and 110,000 tons of rice. The major areas for producing rubber, rice, coffee, cocoa, vegetables, and fruit lie outside of Monrovia. Rubber is the leading cash crop, with production in 2004 estimated at 115,000 tons.

The principal export crops produced by small farmers are coffee, oil palm nuts, sugarcane, and fruits. Estimated production in 2004 was 3,200 tons of coffee, 42,000 tons of palm oil, and 11,000 tons of palm kernels. Banana production came to 110,000 tons and plantain production was at 42,000 tons.

22 Domesticated Animals

The limited number of goats and sheep does not supply an adequate amount of protein for the Liberian diet, but poultry farming and marketing of eggs are increasing. In 2005, there were an estimated 5.3 million chickens in the country. Liberia also had an estimated 220,000 goats, 210,000 sheep, 130,000 pigs, and 36,000 cattle.

23 Fishing

The fishing industry is dominated by the oceangoing trawlers of the Mesurado Fishing Company. The company also maintains a domestic distribution system that supplies a substantial amount of fish to the interior areas of the country. The total Liberian catch in 2003 was estimated at 11,314 tons.

24 Forestry

An estimated 31% of Liberia is covered by forest, but its use is largely confined to production of lumber for local needs. National forests constitute about 18% of the land area. In 2000, Liberia had 119,000 hectares (294,000 acres) of

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade de.cit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

forest plantations. There were five major reforestation areas. About 235 timber species grow in Liberia, of which 90 are potentially marketable, but natural stands of a single species are not common.

The timber cut in 2004 yielded 5.9 million cubic meters (208.7 million cubic feet) of roundwood, of which 94% was burned as fuel. Forest product exports in 2004 were valued at us$97.7 million.

25 Mining

In 2004, mineral production in Liberia consisted mainly of diamonds, hydraulic cement, and gold. Estimated production of gold in 2004 was 20 kilograms (44 pounds) and diamond production was about 10,000 carats. Hydraulic cement production was at 40,000 metric tons.

Liberia’s undeveloped resources included nickel, platinum, and uranium. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on diamond exports from Liberia, because the country may be involved in the civil unrest in Sierra Leone.

26 Foreign Trade

Liberia had a history of trade surpluses before the war. In 1998, exports were led by diamonds, followed by iron ore sales, rubber, and timber. Imports were led by mineral fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and rice and other foods. In 2004, rubber accounted for us$93.4 million of exports, followed by cocoa at us$3.5 million in exports.

27 Energy and Power

The capacity of the country’s electric generating plants was 330,000 kilowatts in 2002. Liberia’s total production that year was 489 million kilowatt hours. Liberia has no domestic petroleum resources. The civil war has caused severe fuel distribution problems and shortages.

28 Social Development

A social insurance and social assistance program was implemented in 1972. The current program includes pensions, work injury benefits, and welfare funds. Many programs, however, have been disrupted by the war.

An estimated 10% of those who fought in the civil war were under 15 years of age. Massacres of civilians were carried out by all the major fighting factions. Many children were wounded, killed, orphaned, or abandoned.

Despite the fact that the new president of the country is a woman, discrimination against

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

Indicator Liberia Low-income countries High-income countries United States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$900 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate3.0% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land34 803032
Life expectancy in years: male42 587675
female43 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people<0.05 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)n.a. 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)58% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people25 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 peoplen.a. 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n.a. 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.14 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

women is still a problem in the country. Women married under civil law have inheritance and property rights, but women married under tribal laws are considered the property of their husbands. Female genital mutilation is practiced by some ethnic groups. Ethnic discrimination is prohibited by law, but citizenship, and the land and business ownership privileges that come with it, is only available to blacks.

29 Health

In 2006, average life expectancy was estimated at 42 years. The same year, the infant mortality rate was estimated at 161 deaths for 1,000 live births. As of 2005, there were fewer than .05 physicians per 1,000 people. Only about 39% of the population have access to health care services.

The Liberian staple diet of rice or cassava (manioc) is deficient in protein and children in particular suffer because of this. The major causes of death are malaria and gastrointestinal disease, attributable in part to poor sanitation. As of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was estimated at 100,000. Deaths from AIDS in 2003 were estimated at 7,200.

The typical dwelling of the tribal people in the Liberian interior is the rondavel, a circular, one-room, mud-and-wattle, thatch-roofed hut, windowless and with a single low door. These rondavels are being replaced by large rectangular huts, also of mud and wattle, subdivided into two or more rooms and equipped with windows. Many of the older corrugated-iron structures in Monrovia have also been replaced with more modern dwellings.

The 1998–2000 National Reconstruction Program placed housing issues as a priority for government consideration. This was expected to be followed by the formulation of a five-year plan (2001–05) which also focused on reconstruction and new construction of adequate housing.

31 Education

Education is compulsory from ages 6 to 16. In 2001, about 70% of all age-eligible students were enrolled in primary school and 18% of age-eligible students were enrolled in secondary school. It is estimated that only about 21% of all students complete their primary education.

There are three institutions of higher learning: the University of Liberia in Monrovia (established in 1862); Cuttington University College at Monrovia; and an engineering school, the William V. S. Tubman College of Technology, founded at Monrovia in 1978. In 2001, about 44,000 students were enrolled in higher education programs. As of 2006, the adult literacy rate was estimated at about 58% (males, 72.3%; females, 39.3%).

32 Media

In 2003, there were an estimated one mainline phone and one mobile phone in use for every 1,000 people. The first national television station was opened early in 1964. As of 2005, there were five FM radio stations and three local television stations. In 2000, there were about 25 televisions for every 1,000 people. In 2003, there were 274 radios for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were about 1,000 Internet subscribers nationwide.

As of 2005, there were at least five daily newspapers, including The Inquirer, The News, and The Analyst. The New Liberian, published daily except Wednesday, is the official government newspaper.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Continued civil unrest has had an adverse effect on tourism. Several hotels in or near Monrovia are suitable for tourists, and several missionary organizations accommodate visitors in the interior.

34 Famous Liberians

Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1809–1876) was Liberia’s first and later its sixth president (1848– 56, 1872–76). The national heroine is Matilda Newport, who helped to repel an attack on the first struggling settlement. Among white Americans who went to Liberia to assist the early black settlers were Jehudi Ashmun (1794–1828) and Ralph Randolph Gurley (1797–1872). William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman (1895–1971) was president of Liberia from 1944 until 1971. William Richard Tolbert Jr. (1913–1980) succeeded Tubman as president. He was killed in the 1980 coup led by Samuel Kanyon Doe (1951–1990), who became commander in chief. Doe was in turn tortured and killed in 1990 by rebels loyal to Charles G. Taylor (1948–), the leader of the faction that gained control during the civil war. Taylor was elected president in 1997 for a six-year, renewable term. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (1938–) became the first elected female president of an African country in 2005.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Dunn, D. Elwood. Historical Dictionary of Liberia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2001.

Levy, Patricia. Liberia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999.

Reef, Catherine. This Our Dark Country: The American Settlers of Liberia. New York: Clarion Books, 2002.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/liberia/index.stm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/af/ci/li/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. www.embassyofliberia.org/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Liberia

Liberia

Compiled from the September 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Liberia

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 111,369 sq. km. (43,000 sq. mi.). Slightly larger than Ohio.

Cities: Capital—Monrovia (est. 1,000,000). Principal towns—Buchanan (est. 300,000), Ganta (est. 290,000), Gbarnga (est. 150,000), Kakata (est. 100,000), Harbel (est. 136,000).

Terrain: Three areas—Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa’s rain forest.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Liberian(s).

Population: (2004) 3.4 million.

Annual growth rate: (2004) 2.4%.

Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20%, Bassa 16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.

Religions: Christian 40%, Muslim 20%, animist 40%.

Languages: English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.

Education: Literacy (2003)—20%.

Health: Life expectancy (2003)—47 years.

Work force: Agriculture—70%; industry—15%; services—2%. Unemployment is 80% in the formal sector.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.

Constitution: January 6, 1986.

Political parties: 30 registered political parties

Economy

GDP: (IMF 2005 est.) $548.4million.

Real GDP growth rate: (2004) 2.0%.

Per capita GDP: (2005) $119.4.

Consumer Price Index: (2004) 7.0%.

Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables.

Industry: Types—agriculture, iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.

Trade: (2004) Exports—$103.8 million: rubber 93%; cocoa 3.5%. Major markets—Germany, Poland, U.S., Greece. Imports—$268.1 million: mineral fuels and lubricants; food and live animals; machinery and transport equipment; manufactured goods; pharmaceuticals; and tobacco.

PEOPLE

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia’s indigenous population. 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 are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia’s business community. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent; also, land ownership is restricted by law to citizens.

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 14-year civil war (1989-2003) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.

HISTORY

Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461 and named the area Grain Coast because of the abundance of grains of Malegueta Pepper. 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, which means “land of the free,” was founded by free African-Americans and freed slaves from the United States in 1820. An initial group of 86 immigrants, who came to be called Americo-Liberians, first arrived in Liberia and established a settlement in Christopolis (now Monrovia, named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820. Thousands of freed American slaves and free African-Americans arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847. The drive to resettle freed slaves in Africa was promoted by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization of white clergymen, abolitionists, and slave owners founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister. Between 1821 and 1867 the ACS resettled some 10,000 African-Americans and several thousand Africans from interdicted slave ships; it governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847.

In Liberia’s early years, the AmericoLiberian settlers periodically encountered stiff and sometimes violent opposition from indigenous Africans, who were excluded from citizenship in the new Republic until 1904. At the same time, British and French colonial expansionists encroached upon Liberia, taking over much of its territory. Politically, the country was a one-party state ruled by the True Whig Party (TWP). Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who was born and raised in America, was Liberia’s first President. The style of government and constitution was fashioned on that of the United States, and the AmericoLiberian elite monopolized political power and restricted the voting rights of the indigenous population. The True Whig Party dominated all sectors of Liberia from independence in 1847 until April 12, 1980, when indigenous Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe (from the Krahn ethnic group) seized power in a coup d’etat. Doe’s forces executed President William R. Tolbert and several officials of his government, mostly of Americo-Liberian descent. One hundred and thirty-three years of Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC).

Over time, the Doe government began promoting members of Doe’s Krahn ethnic group, who soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This raised ethnic tension and caused frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.

After the October 1985 elections, characterized by widespread fraud, Doe solidified his control. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living further deteriorated. On November 12, 1985, former Army Commanding Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa almost succeeded in toppling the government of Samuel Doe. The Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa’s attack and executed him in Monrovia. Doe’s Krahn-dominated forces carried out reprisals against Mano and Gio civilians suspected of supporting Quiwonkpa.

Despite Doe’s poor human rights record and questionable democratic credentials, he retained close relations with Washington. A staunch U.S. ally, Doe met twice with President Ronald Reagan and enjoyed considerable U.S. financial support.

On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe’s former procurement chief, Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of many Liberians and reached the outskirts of Monrovia within six months.

From 1989 to 1996 one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars ensued, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and displacing a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened in 1990 and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson—formerly a member of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)—formed the break-away Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson’s forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990. Taking refuge in Sierra Leone and other neighboring countries, former AFL soldiers founded the new insurgent United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), fighting back Taylor’s NPFL.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990, headed by Dr. Amos C. Sawyer. Taylor (along with other Liberian factions) refused to work with the interim government and continued fighting. After more than a dozen peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government. A hasty disarmament and demobilization of warring factions was followed by special elections on July 19, 1997. Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerged victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.

For the next six years, the Taylor government did not improve the lives of Liberians. Unemployment and illiteracy stood above 75%, and little investment was made in the country’s infrastructure. Liberia is still trying to recover from the ravages of war; until today, pipe-borne water and electricity are unavailable, and schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure remain derelict. Rather than work to improve the lives of Liberians, Taylor supported the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. Taylor’s misrule led to the resumption of armed rebellion from among Taylor’s former adversaries. By 2003, armed groups called “Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy” (LURD) and “Movement for Democracy in Liberia” (MODEL), largely representing elements of the former ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions that fought Taylor during Liberia’s previous civil war (1989-1996), were challenging Taylor and his increasingly fragmented supporters on the outskirts of Monrovia.

On June 4, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS facilitated peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the LURD and MODEL rebel groups. On the same day, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press statement announcing the opening of a sealed March 7, 2003 indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for “bearing the greatest responsibility” for atrocities in Sierra Leone since November 1996.

In July 2003 the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a ceasefire that all sides failed to respect; bitter fighting reached downtown Monrovia in July and August 2003, creating a massive humanitarian disaster.

On August 11, 2003, under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. This move paved the way for the deployment by ECOWAS of what became a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). On August 18, leaders from the Liberian Government, the rebels, political parties, and civil society signed a comprehensive peace agreement that laid the framework for constructing a 2-year National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), headed by businessman Gyude Bryant.

The UN took over security in Liberia in October 2003, subsuming ECOMIL into a force that grew to its present size of over 15,000. The October 11, 2005 presidential and legislative elections and the subsequent November 8, 2005 presidential run-off were the most free, fair, and peaceful elections in Liberia’s history. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defeated international soccer star George Weah 59.4% to 40.6% to become Africa’s first democratically elected female president.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Liberia has a bicameral legislature consisting of 66 representatives and 30 senators. Historically, the executive branch heavily influences the legislature and judicial system, the latter being largely dysfunctional for now.

There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia. Locally, political power emanates from traditional chiefs (town, clan, or paramount chiefs), mayors, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. Superintendents appointed by the president govern the counties. There are 15 counties in Liberia.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 11/15/2006

President: Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF

Vice President: Joseph BOAKAI

Min. of Agriculture: J. Christopher TOE

Min. of Commerce & Industry: Olubanke KING-AKERELE

Min. of Education: Joseph KORTO

Min. of Finance: Antoinette SAYEH

Min. of Foreign Affairs: George WALLACE

Min. of Gender Development: Varbah GAYFLOR

Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Walter GWENINGALE

Min. of Information, Culture, & Tourism: Lawrence BROPLEH

Min. of Internal Affairs: Ambulai JOHNSON

Min. of Justice: Frances JOHNSON-MORRIS

Min. of Labor: Samuel Kofi WOODS

Min. of Land, Mines, & Energy: Eugene SHANNON

Min. of National Defense: Brownie SAMUKAI

Min. of Planning & Economic Affairs: Toga G. MCINTOSH

Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Jackson E. DOE

Min. of Public Works (Acting): Luseni DONZO

Min. of Rural Development: E. C. B. JONES

Min. of Transport: Jeremiah SULUNETH

Min. of Youth & Sport: Jamesetta HOWARD-WOLOKOLLIE

Min. of State for Financial & Economic Affairs: Morris SAYTUMAH

Min. of State for Legislative Affairs & Legal Counsel: David MENYONGAR

Min. of State for Presidential Affairs (Acting): Willis KNUCKLES

Governor, National Bank: John Mills JONES

Ambassador to the US: Charles MINOR

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Nathaniel BARNES

Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 202-723-0437.

ECONOMY

The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia’s export earnings. Following the coup d’etat of 1980, the country’s economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia’s foreign debt amounts to about $3.5 billion.

The 1989-2003 civil war had a devastating effect on the country’s economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businesses left the country. Iron ore production has stopped completely, and Liberia cannot profit from timber and diamond exports due to UN sanctions. Its few earnings come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program.

As the second-largest maritime licenser in the world—with more than 1,800 vessels registered under its flag, including 35% of the world’s tanker fleet—Liberia earns some $14 million annually from the flag registry. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia’s Atlantic Coast.

Liberia’s business sector is largely controlled by foreigners, mainly of Lebanese and Indian descent. There also are limited numbers of Chinese engaged in agriculture. There also are significant numbers of West Africans engaged in cross-border trade.

Liberia is a member of ECOWAS. With Guinea and Sierra Leone, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) for development and the promotion of regional economic integration. The MRU became all but defunct because of the Liberian civil war, which spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was some revival of MRU political and security cooperation discussions in 2002.

With a new, democratically elected government in place since January 2006, Liberia seeks to reconstruct its shattered economy. The Governance and Economic Management Program (GEMAP), which started under the 2003-2006 transitional government, is designed to help the Liberian Government raise and spend revenues in an efficient, transparent way. Success under GEMAP and solid economic performance should result in Liberia being able to attract investment and begin rebuilding its economy.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and China.

Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.

U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Liberia date back to the 1820s when the first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States. As early as 1819, Congress appropriated $100,000 for the establishment of Liberia (and reset-tlement of freemen and freed slaves from North America) by the American Colonization Society, led by such statesmen as Francis Scott Key, George Washington’s nephew Bush-rod, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and presidents Monroe, Adams, and Jackson. The United States, which officially recognized Liberia in 1862, shared particularly close relations with Liberia during the Cold War. The outbreak of civil war in Liberia and the long dominance of Charles Taylor soured bilateral relations. However, Liberia now counts the United States as its strongest supporter in its democratization and reconstruction efforts. In fiscal years 2004 and 2005, the U.S. contributed over $880 million, including more than $520 million to support the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Another $90 million has gone for assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons. The U.S. is committing another $270 million for fiscal year 2006, making a total of some $1.16 billion for fiscal years 2004-06.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MONROVIA (E) Address: 111 United Nations Drive; Phone: 011-231-77-054-826; Fax: 011-231 226-148/226-827; Workweek: M-F, 8:00a.m.–5:00p.m.

AMB:Donald E. Booth
AMB OMS:Terri L. Tedford
DCM:Louis Mazel
POL:Silvia Eiriz
CON:John P. Marietti
MGT:Michael L. Bajek
AGR:Robert D. Simpson
AID:Wilbur Thomas
CON/POL/ECO:Bindi Patel
DAO:James Toomey
DEA:Sam Gaye (resident in Lagos)
ECO:Alfreda Meyers
ECO/COM:Matt B. Chessen
FAA:Ronald L. Montgemery (res. in Dakar)
FIN:Vacant
FMO:James Barber
GSO:Patricia A Miller
ICASS Chair:Alfreda E. Meyers
IMO:John C. Adams
IRS:Kathy J. Beck (resident in Paris)
LEGATT:Alvie Price (Freetown)
OMS:Sarah Canterbury
PAO:Meg Riggs
RSO:Peter Velazquez
State ICASS:Alfreda E. Meyers

Last Updated: 1/26/2007

February 23, 2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : February 23, 2007

Country Description: Liberia is a western African country that has suffered from years of instability and conflict. Since 2003, when deposed former President Charles Taylor went into exile, substantial progress has been made in the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons and the reintegration of former combatants. Reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure is ongoing. Respect for human rights and the rule of law has improved. Economic development and the elimination of corruption remain challenging. In October 2005, Liberians went to the polls and elected a representative government led by former World Bank economist Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The new government was inaugurated in January 2006. Expectations are high for the future, but by most measures Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and noticeable change will take time. Tourism facilities are adequate in the capital, Monrovia, but virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. The official language of Liberia is English.

Exit/Entry Requirements: A passport and a visa are required for entry, as is evidence of a yellow fever vacci-nation. Immigration officials at the airport may authorize permits for a 48-hour stay only. Those wishing to stay longer must go to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) on Broad Street between Center and Gurley Streets in downtown Monrovia. The BIN issues permits for stays up to three months for a $100 fee. This is sometimes problematic, and obtaining visas before arriving in the country is strongly recommended. There is a $25 airport tax on departing passengers. For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees and airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, web site www.embassyofliberia.org. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling in Liberia. Americans who travel to or reside in Liberia should realize that Liberia’s security forces are in the process of being rebuilt. The UN Mission (UNMIL) is mandated to ensure the safety and security of Liberia. Americans who travel must realize that the UN Police’s (UNPOL) role is to serve as advisors to Liberian National Police. UNPOL does not have the authority to arrest or detain, and its members are unarmed.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when walking around, especially at night. Travel outside of Monrovia after dark is strongly discouraged. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Crime in Liberia is rated critical and is exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment in the country. Theft, assault, sexual crimes, and murder are problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins occur. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection. Despite deployment of peacekeeping forces, criminal activity and occasional looting by criminal elements continue to be reported in urban and rural areas.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. An increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating in Liberia should be carefully checked out before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. There is also an increase in Liberian/American Internet relationships, where there are eventual requests for financial assistance under fraudulent pretenses.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while in Liberia, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Hospitals and medical facilities are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing even basic services. Emergency services comparable to those in the U.S. or Europe are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and unsafe for transfusion. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates, and generally unavailable in most areas. As there is neither an effective garbage removal service nor a functioning sewer system, the level of sanitation throughout the country is very poor, which increases the potential for disease. Upper respiratory infections and diarrhea are common, as well as the more serious diseases typhoid and malaria. All travelers to Liberia must be vaccinated against typhoid and should carry a supply of all prescription medication, plus anti-malaria medication, adequate for their entire stay.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Medical evacuation insurance is strongly recommended.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Potholes and poor road surfaces are common, making safe driving extremely challenging. Cars, trucks, and taxis are often overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Drivers overtake on the right as well as the left. Many vehicles operate with thread-bare tires, and blowouts are frequent. Public taxis are poorly maintained. Intersections must be approached with caution. The absence of public streetlights makes pedestrians walking in the city streets and those walking on country roads difficult to see at night. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.

Travelers should expect delays at UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war, neglect, or the heavy annual rains, which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, Sierra Leonean, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Five international carriers currently service Liberia’s Roberts International Airport, which is located 42 miles outside Monrovia. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should arrange for an expediter and/or driver through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

Special Circumstances: The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia, and there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, provided one follows the specific regulations on how such transfers must be done. Sums in excess of US$10,000 must be reported at the port of entry and no more than US$7,500 in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing US$5,000 over-the-counter cash wire transfers per month. Traveler’s checks and wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees. ATMs are unavailable and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.

Photographing military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, or police or military officers are liable to confiscate the camera.

Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not always on a 24-hour basis. There is no working landline telephone system in Liberia. Several cell phone companies provide service in Monrovia and some areas outside the capital. The postal system is slow and unreliable. Commercial air courier service is available through DHL, UPS, Federal Express, and other companies.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. If arrested, U.S. citizens should ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy. Americans should carry a photocopy of their U.S. passport with them at all times. The consular section of the U.S. Embassy cannot give legal assistance but can provide a list of Liberian attorneys if one is required. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Liberia are encouraged to visit the State Department’s travel registration website to register with the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Liberia. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia; telephone 231-77-054-826; fax 231-77-010-370; web site http://Monrovia.usembassy.gov. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia may address letters to the Consular Section, 8800 Monrovia Place, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800, or send emails to [email protected]

International Adoption : October 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: The Consular Section of the Embassy thoroughly investigates every adoption case to verify the adoptive child’s orphan bona fides. As these investigations can take some time, adoptive parents are encouraged to ensure that the investigation has been completed before making travel arrangements for the child to depart Liberia.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoption are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met.

Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris,
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
Ashmun Street
(Opposite College of West Africa)
Monrovia, Liberia
Cellphone: +231 6 558851 (Direct)
Special Assistant: +231 6 520140
(Onesimus Bawon)
Secretary: +231 6 566106
(Jartu Johnson)

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements for adoptive parents. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residency Requirements: None

Time Frame: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court’s processing of adoptions. The adoption process, including formal relinquishment by the parent(s) if necessary, generally takes 3 to 4 weeks.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of attorneys and a list of approved adoption agencies which may be obtained on request.

Adoption Fees: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Liberia are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees are normally less than $10 USD. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but the adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney.

Adoption Procedures: Most adoptive parents normally work with an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Liberia prior to initiating the adoption process. The organization in Liberia must be registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

A petition for adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence and martial status of the petitioners. The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners’ desire to adopt the child and the child’s change of name, should also be contained in the petition.

The court will also require written consent by the biological parents. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased or if a legal guardian has been appointed by the court. During the proceedings, the biological parents may withdraw consent, which must be permitted by the court. Consent is irrevocable after the final order of adoption.

Upon receipt of a petition for adoption, the Court schedules a hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. The petitioners or their legal representative, the parent, parents, or guardian(s) of the child and the child are required to attend the hearing, though the court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause. This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are public, and held in open court. The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered. In addition, since October of 2004, the Liberian Ministry of Health has required adoptive families to obtain a letter from the Ministry of Health approving the adoption of a specific child. This is in addition to obtaining a statement of relinquishment from the guardian or caretaker of the child being adopted and an adoption decree from the Liberian Court. The letter from the Ministry is issued only after a social worker has investigated the case thoroughly and concluded that adoption is in the best interest of the child, and the Minister or one of his deputies has reviewed all of the legal paperwork necessary to process an adoption in Liberia. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Documentary Requirements:

  • Petition for adoption;
  • Written consent of the biological parent(s) to the adoption acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace). While a letter of consent is all that is required by Liberian Courts, a formal letter of relinquishment, in which the parent(s) or guardian(s) irrevocably relinquish their rights, is required by U.S. immigration law in order to classify an orphan as an immediate relative for purposes of immigration, and this letter can be used to meet the requirements of Liberian law.)
  • Other documents required by Liberian courts in adoption cases include normal identity documentation, such as a passport and birth certificate. Prospective adoptive parents will also need these documents to apply for the immigrant visa at the Embassy.

Embassy of Liberia:
5201 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437
Fax: (202) 723-0436
Email: [email protected]

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in Liberia:
111 U.N. Drive
Mamba Point
Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: 231-077-207-326
Fax: 231-770-010-370

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Liberia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Liberia. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

Travel Warning : March 30, 2006

This Travel Warning updates and supersedes the Travel Warning of November 4, 2005.

The Department of State continues to urge American citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Liberia. Notwithstanding the UN’s deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers and 1,100 police advisors nationwide, the overall security situation remains unpredictable. There was no major civil unrest during the elections held on October 11 and November 8, or during the inauguration of the new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on January 16. However, there remains an undercurrent of political and social tension and economic hardship that could result in sporadic violence and instability.

Owing to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, street demonstrations, and any gathering of security forces. By most measures, Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and the nationwide unemployment rate is very high. Foreigners, including Americans, are high-profile targets for robbery. Americans should report any threats or suspicious activity to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and monitor the local media for developments that may affect their safety and security.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution in traveling. Traveling alone or after dark is strongly discouraged. Poor road conditions, especially during the rainy season, and limited telecommunications limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens outside the Monrovia area. American employees at the U.S. Embassy have a strict 2:00 a.m. curfew, are strongly encouraged to not go out alone, but to use the buddy system, and may travel outside Monrovia only under pre-approved conditions.

Americans who remain in or travel to Liberia despite this Warning should register with the Embassy’s Consular Section through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency and provide updated security information. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy, which is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia; tel. (231) 226-370; fax (231) 226-148. American citizen services are Monday—Thursday 3:00 to 5:00 and Friday 8:00—2:00 and 3:00 to 5:00.

For additional information, consult the Department of State’s Consular Information Sheet for Liberia, on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions in Liberia at 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from all other countries.

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Liberia

Liberia

Type of Government

The oldest republic in Africa, Liberia is a constitutional republic modeled on the United States. The Liberian president serves as both the head of state and the head of government. The bicameral (two-house) legislature, called the National Assembly, consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Superintendents govern Liberia’s fifteen counties.

Background

Liberia is located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa and is bordered by Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, and Côte d’Ivoire to the east. Its capital and largest port is Monrovia.

Liberia was settled in the early nineteenth century by the American Colonization Society, which aimed to relocate freed African-American slaves to West Africa. In 1821 U.S. government officials and society members reached an agreement with local African chiefs—by force, according to some accounts—giving the Americans possession of the area around Cape Mesurado. The first freed slaves arrived at Providence Island in 1822, and over the next twenty years more than fifteen thousand African-Americans arrived in the colony. These settlers became known as Americo-Liberians.

Initially, Liberia was administered by an appointed (white) U.S. governor. The colony’s first black governor was the Virginia-born Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1809–1876), under whom the colony expanded considerably. By the 1840s the American Colonization Society was pushing Liberia toward self-governance, and so Roberts declared the colony an independent republic in 1847 and became its first president. Shortly thereafter, he helped draw up a constitution that was based on the U.S. Constitution.

Government Structure

The president serves as both the head of state and head of government. The president is directly elected by popular vote, serves a six-year term, and can run for reelection. Executive functions are carried out through a cabinet of ministers who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The legislature, called the National Assembly, is bicameral (consists of two chambers). The Senate, or upper house, has thirty members (two from each county) who serve nine-year terms. Senators are elected by a simple majority. The House of Representatives, the lower house, consists of sixty-four members who represent the counties in proportion to their population. Each county must have at least two representatives. House members are also elected by a simple majority and serve six-year terms.

Liberia has a dual legal system in which Anglo-American law applies to the “modern sector” and customary tribal law applies to the indigenous communities, which are given some latitude to dispense justice among themselves. At the national level, the Supreme Court is the ultimate judicial authority. Lower federal courts include the Courts of First Instance (appeals court), Courts of Record (magistrate court), and justices of the peace.

At the local level, Liberia is divided into fifteen administrative counties, each headed by a superintendent appointed by the president. Even though the superintendent is the official representative of the national government, local mayors and tribal chiefs hold great political power in the counties.

Political Parties and Factions

From the founding of the republic until 1980, Liberia had only one legally recognized political party, the True Whig Party (also known as the Liberian Whig Party). This party represented the interests of the Americo-Liberians. Other political parties were legalized in 1984.

A modified constitution enacted in 1986 calls for a multiparty system—that is, a system in which a number of political parties (or coalitions of parties) compete for control of government. In 2005 parties holding seats in the National Assembly included the Congress for Democratic Change, the Liberty Party, the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia, the Unity Party, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, and the National Patriotic Party.

Major Events

From the beginning of the republic, Liberia was plagued by economic instability, often relying on foreign assistance to meet its financial needs and to deal with its burdensome debt. In 1909 the United States convened a commission to reform Liberia’s economy, giving the nation a $1.7 million loan, as well as logistical assistance in organizing a customs service and police force. The stability these measures brought, however, was destroyed by World War I (1914–1918). In 1926 the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company acquired one million acres of land in Liberia (which is rich in natural rubber) in exchange for a loan, which the country used to again stabilize its economy. Liberia became a key provider of rubber to the Allies during World War II (1939–1945); the wealth that was amassed during the war allowed the nation to build roads, airports, and harbors.

During the twenty-seven-year tenure of President William Tubman (1895–1971)—the longest in the republic’s history—Liberia made great social and economic progress, including the enactment of voting and property rights for women and the extension of direct participation in government to all tribespeople. The latter reform was particularly important, as it was intended to improve a long-standing divide between the Americo-Liberians, who controlled Liberian politics, and the native Africans, who made up nearly 80 percent of the population.

William R. Tolbert Jr. (1913–1980) succeeded Tubman as president, governing until 1980, when he was assassinated in a coup d’état led by Samuel K. Doe (1951–1990). An African Liberian, Doe opposed the traditional political dominance of the Americo-Liberians. As both head of state and head of the People’s Redemption Council, Doe implemented a military dictatorship, putting down political opposition by censoring the press and outlawing rival parties. In 1984 he suspended the nation’s constitution; a new constitution, which remains in effect today, was adopted in 1986. Doe’s brutal and antidemocratic style of government ultimately led to his own assassination by rebel forces in 1990, touching off more than a decade of civil war.

During the 1990s and early 2000s Liberia experienced two civil wars that devastated the country economically and politically. The First Liberian Civil War (1989–1997) pitted the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, led by Charles G. Taylor (1948–), against the Independent National Patriotic Front, led by Prince Yormie Johnson (1952–), but broadened to include many other factions during the eight-year conflict. During the war an interim government led by Amos Sawyer (1945–) ruled from 1990 to 1994. A truce was reached in 1997 and elections were held later that year, giving Taylor the presidency. Unrest continued to foment, however, throughout the late 1990s.

During the Second Liberian Civil War (2001–2003), Taylor’s government forces clashed with rebel factions, primarily the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy in the north and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia in the south. The conflict was ended in 2003 by the intervention of U.S. and United Nations peacekeeping troops, and Taylor was forced to leave the country.

Twenty-First Century

Following more than a decade of civil war, Liberian factions struck a peace agreement in late 2003, establishing the National Transitional Government led by Charles Gyude Bryant (1949–) and supported by United Nations peacekeeping forces. This interim government, which included a National Transitional Assembly comprising representatives of the rebel factions, ruled for two years until democratic elections were held in 2005. In 2006 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (1938–) took office as president, the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa.

Dunn, D. Ellwood, Amos J. Beyan, and Carl Patrick Burrowes. Historical Dictionary of Liberia . 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

Liebenow, J. Gus. Liberia: The Quest for Democracy . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Sawyer, Amos. Beyond Plunder: Toward Democratic Governance in Liberia . Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2005.

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Liberia

Liberia

  • Area: 43,000 sq mi (111,370 sq km) / World Rank: 103
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres, in Western Africa, bordering Guinea to the north, Côte d'Ivoire to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southwest, and Sierra Leone to the northwest.
  • Coordinates: 6°30′N, 9°30′W
  • Borders: 985 mi (1,585 km) / Guinea, 350 mi (563 km); Côte d'Ivoire, 445 mi (716 km); Sierra Leone, 190 mi (306 km)
  • Coastline: 360 mi (579 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 200 NM
  • Highest Point: Mt. Wutivi, 4,528 ft (1,380 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 170 mi (274 km) NNE-SSW; 341 mi (548 km) ESE-WNW
  • Longest River: Cavalla, 320 mi (520 km)
  • Natural Hazards: Dust storms due to harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara
  • Population: 3,225,837 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank:
  • Capital City: Monrovia, northwestern Liberia
  • Largest City: Monrovia, 1,413,000 (2000 est.)

OVERVIEW

Liberia, Africa's oldest republic, is located at the western edge of the continent, on the Atlantic coast between Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. Starting from a coastal plain that is 25 mi (40 km) wide, the terrain gradually rises through two more major geographical regions: a belt of forested hills, and beyond it an upland region of plateaus and low mountains that reach their highest elevations at several places hear the northern border as they approach the Guinea Highlands.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

There are scattered mountain ranges in Liberia's upland plateau region, including the Putu Range in the southeast, the Bong Range near the center of the country, and the Wologizi and Nimba ranges in the north. The highest point in the country, Mt. Wutivi in the Wologizi Range, rises to 4,528 ft (1,380 m).

Plateaus

Beyond Liberia's coastal plain and forested hills lies a rolling plateau broken abruptly by low mountains constituting spurs of the Guinea Highlands. This belt of high ground, which extends over the Liberian border into Guinea, forms part of a major watershed between streams that flow across Liberia to the Atlantic Ocean and the great Niger River basin on the northeast. Ranging in elevation from 1,000 ft (305 m) to over 4,000 ft (1,219 m) in the high northern uplands, Liberia's inland plateau region is the country's largest geographical division.

Hills and Badlands

Between the coastal plain and the interior plateau is a band of heavily wooded, hilly country about 20 mi (32 km) wide, with elevations of between 200 and 500 ft (60 to 150 m).

INLAND WATERWAYS

Rivers

Most of Liberia's rivers flow in roughly parallel courses from the interior plateau to the ocean. Several, including the Lofa, the St. Paul, and the St. John, rise in the Guinea Highlands north of the border with Guinea. The Mano and Morro rivers to the west form parts of the border with Sierra Leone, while to the east the Cavalla River, rising in the Nimba Mountains and flowing south and southeast, forms more than half of the border with Côte d'Ivoire. The St. Paul River forms part of the border with Guinea. The Cestos River flows out of Côte d'Ivoire and nearly bisects Liberia. However, even with so many rivers, navigation is severely limited by rapids, waterfalls, and other barriers.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

Liberia is bordered on the west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean. Since the country is only a few degrees north of the equator, it is also near the dividing point between the North Atlantic and South Atlantic oceans. The surf is normally heavy all along the coast but is worst at the height of the rainy season. The tidal range is moderate.

The Coast and Beaches

The coastal region, a belt of gently rolling low plains extending 20 to 30 mi (32 to 48 km) inland, is broken along the shore by river estuaries, tidal creeks, and swamps, as well as a few prominent, rocky capes and promontories. In the northwest, not far from the border with Sierra Leone, Cape Mount rises steeply from the sea to an elevation of over 1,000 ft (305 m), overlooking a broad tidal lagoon. Cape Mesurado, the site of Monrovia, and the lagoon that lies behind it are similar features on a smaller scale. Farther to the southeast, several other fairly prominent headlands break the monotony of the low shoreline. Its southeast point on the border with Côte d'Ivoire is marked by Cape Palmas. The rather straight, sandy shoreline is only slightly indented by the mouths of rivers that are so obstructed by shifting bars, submerged rocks, and sandpits that they provide no natural harbors.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Liberia has a hot, humid tropical climate with little seasonal variation, although temperatures are cooler in the interior highlands than along the coast. The mean temperature is 81°F (27°C). The tropical heat is tempered by ocean breezes, and also by the dry desert wind called the harmattan, which blows in December, often bringing sandstorms with it.

Rainfall

Most rain falls during the rainy season between April and November. Rainfall varies from about 70 in (178 cm) in the northern uplands to 200 in (510 cm) on the coast.

Forests and Jungles

Extensive mangrove, pandanus, and palm thickets are found near the coastal estuaries of Liberia's rivers. Other coastal vegetation includes rattan, oil, and coconut. Raffia palm and ferns thrive in the drier parts of the coast.

Both evergreen and deciduous rainforest covers most of the interior with more than 200 tree species. Hardwoods include teak, mahogany, camwood, and red ironwood. Of the remaining tree species, rubber and coffee are especially important to the country's economy.

Counties – Liberia
1999 POPULATION ESTIMATES
Name Population Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Bong 299,825 3,127 8,099 Gbarnga
Grand Bassa 215,338 3,382 8,759 Buchanan
Grand Cape Mount 120,141 2,250 5,827 Robertsport
Grand Gedeh 94,497 6,575 17,029 Zwedru
Grand Kru* 39,062     Barclayville
Lofa 351,492 7,475 19,360 Voinjama
Margibi 219,417 1,260 3,263 Kakata
Maryland* 71,977     Harper
Montserrado 843,783 1,058 2,740 Bensonville
Nimba 338,887 4,650 12,043 Saniquillie
Sinoe 79,241 3,959 10,254 Greenville
Territories
Bomi 114,316 755 1,955 Tubmanburg
Rivercess 38,167 1,693 4,385 Rivercess City
*Grand Kru was formerly part of Maryland; total Maryland territory prior to the split was 2,066 sq mi/5,351 sq km.
SOURCE : United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordinating Office in Liberia. As cited by Johan van der Heyden. Geohive. http://www.geohive.com (accessed June 2002).

HUMAN POPULATION

The capital city of Monrovia is the country's political, economic, and cultural hub. The city and its environs—especially the area between Monrovia and Harbel—constitute by far the most densely populated part of Liberia. In fact, it is the only large city in the entire country and is home to almost half of Liberia's population. Some of the upland regions are nearly uninhabited. The overall population density of the country is 78.6 people per square mile (30 people per sq km).

NATURAL RESOURCES

Liberia's plentiful rainfall and warm, tropical climate make its agricultural production its number one resource. Bananas, cocoa, rubber, rice, coffee, and sugarcane are among its many products grown and exported. Its mountains are an important source of valuable natural resources including iron ore, gold, and diamonds. The hilly forested country between the coastal plain and the interior plateau provides an excellent source of timber.

FURTHER READINGS

Daniels, Anthony. Monrovia Mon Amour: A Visit to Liberia. London: John Murray, 1992.

Huband, Mark. The Liberian Civil War. Portland, Ore.: F. Cass, 1998.

Zemser, Amy Bronwen. Beyond the Mango Tree. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

GEO-FACT

Liberia's coast was traditionally referred to as the Grain Coast, a reference to the "Grains of Paradise," or malagueta peppers, that initially attracted European traders.

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Liberia

Liberia

At a Glance

Official Name: The Republic of Liberia

Continent: Africa

Area: 37,189 square miles (96,320 sq km)

Population: 3,225,837

Capital City: Monrovia

Largest City: Monrovia (421,058)

Unit of Money: Liberian dollar

Major Languages: English

Literacy: 38%

Land Use: 1% arable, 3% permanent crops, 59% meadows, 18% forest, 19% other

Natural Resources: Iron ore, timber, diamonds

Government: Republic

Defense: 37 million

The Place

Liberia is on Africa's west coast. A 360-mile-(579-km) long coastline fronts the Atlantic Ocean. This lowland area has sandy beaches with lagoons and mangrove swamps.

East of the lowlands, a strip of low hills extends from north to south. Further inland, the land rises to about 2,000 feet (600 m) in elevation. This area includes the Bomi Hills and the Bong Range. At higher elevations, the region has dense evergreen and deciduous forests. Some tree species include mahogany, camwood, whismore, and red ironwood. The valleys are grassy with scattered trees. The country's highest peak is Mount Nimba at 4,540 feet (1,380 m) at Guest House Hill.

In the east, one of Liberia's most important rivers—the Cavalla—forms the country's border with the Cote d'Ivoire. Other rivers that cross the country from east to west are the St. Paul, the Cestos, and the St. John.

The People

The vast majority of Liberians are black Africans, and can be divided into two main groups. Native Africans have ancestors who have lived in the country for hundreds of years. Americo-Liberians are descendents of African Americans from the United States who returned to Africa in the 1800s. The native Africans account for about 95% of the population. They can be divided into 16 different ethnic groups, such as the Kpelle in central Liberia and the Bassa who inhabit the coast. Some smaller groups include the Gio, Kru, Mandingo, and Krahn. Each ethnic group has its own customs, languages, and territory. Americo-Liberians make up the remaining 5% of the population and live mostly in coastal towns.

A little less than half of Liberians live in urban areas. In cities, most people live in small houses and have electricity. In rural areas, people live in small villages without electricity or running water. Life expectancy is 60 years.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

Compiled from the October 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
Republic of Liberia


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 111,369 sq. km. (43,000 sq. mi.). Slightly larger than Ohio.

Cities: Capital—Monrovia (est. 750,000). Principal towns—Buchanan (est. 300, 000), Ganta (est. 290,000), Gbarnga (est. 150,000), Kakata (est. 100,000), Harbel (est. 136,000).

Terrain: Three areas—Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa's rain forest.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Liberian(s).

Population: (2001 est.) 3,239,000.

Annual growth rate: (2001 est.) 3.1%.

Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20%, Bassa 16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.

Religions: Christian 30%, Muslim 10%, animist 60%.

Languages: English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.

Education: Literacy—15%.

Health: Life expectancy—51.4 years.

Work force: Agriculture—70%; industry—15%; services—2%.

Unemployment: 70% in the formal sector.


Government

Type: Republic but currently under strong presidency.

Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.

Constitution: January 6, 1986.

Political parties: 13 political parties took part in presidential elections on July 19, 1997 that saw former rebel leader Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) emerge as president. There are now 18 political parties.


Economy

GDP: (2002)$562 million.

GDP growth rate: 3.3%.

Per capita GNP: (2002) $188.

Annual inflation rate: 14%.

Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn and vegetables.

Industry: Types—iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$147 million: agriculture 80%, mining 20%. Major markets—France, China, Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia, Scandinavia, U.S. Imports—$173 million: petroleum products, rice, chemicals, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, machinery, clothing, beverages, and tobacco.




PEOPLE

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. 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. Because of the civil war and its accompanying problem of insecurity, the number of Westerners in Liberia is low and confined largely to Monrovia and its immediate surroundings. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent.


Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 7-year civil war (1989-1996) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.


HISTORY

Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461 and named the area Grain Coast because of the abundance of grains of Malegueta Pepper.


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 early 1800s.

Liberia, which means "land of the free," was founded by freed slaves from the United States in 1820. These freed slaves, called Americo-Liberians, first arrived in Liberia and established a settlement in Christopolis now Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820. This group of 86 immigrants formed the nucleus of the settler population of what became known as the Republic of Liberia.


Thousands of freed slaves from America soon arrived during the proceeding years leading toward the formation of more settlements culminating into a declaration of independence on July 26, 1847 of the Republic of Liberia. The idea of resettling free slaves in Africa was nurtured by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization that governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847. The new Republic of Liberia adopted American styles of life and established thriving trade links with other West Africans.


The formation of the Republic of Liberia was not an altogether easy task. The settlers periodically encountered stiff opposition from African tribes whom they met upon arrival, usually resulting in bloody battles. On the other hand, the newly independent Liberia was encroached upon by colonial expansionists who forcefully took over much of the original territory of independent Liberia.


Liberia's history until 1980 was largely peaceful. For 133 years after independence, the Republic of Liberia was a one-party state ruled by the Americo-Liberian dominated True Whig Party (TWP). Joseph Jenkins Roberts who was born and raised in America became Liberia's first president. The style of government and constitution was fashioned on that of the United States. The True Whig Party dominated all sectors of Liberia from independence until April 12, 1980 when indigenous Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, from the Krahn ethnic group, seized power in a coup d'état. Doe's forces executed President William R. Tolbert and several officials of his government mostly of Americo-Liberian descent. As a result, 133 years of Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People's Redemption Council (PRC).


Doe's government increasingly adopted an ethnic outlook as members of his Krahn ethnic group soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This caused a heightened level of ethnic tension leading to frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.


Political parties remained banned until 1984. Elections were held on October 15, 1985, in which Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) was declared winner. The elections were characterized by widespread fraud and rigging. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living which had been rising in the 1970s declined drastically. On November 12, 1985, former Army Commanding Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa invaded Liberia by way of neighboring Sierra Leone and almost succeeded in toppling the government of Samuel Doe. Members of the Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa's attack and executed him in Monrovia.


On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe's former procurement chief, Charles Taylor invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of Liberians because of the repressive nature of Samuel Doe and his government. Barely 6 months after the rebels first at tacked, they had reached the outskirts of Monrovia.


The Liberian Civil war which was one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson, who had been a member of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) but broke away because of policy differences, formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990 and Dr. Amos C. Sawyer became President. Taylor refused to work with the interim government and continued war. By 1992, several warring factions had emerged in the Liberian civil war, all of which were absorbed in the new transitional government. After several peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government.


After considerable progress in negotiations conducted by the United States, United Nations, Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), disarmament and demobilization of warring factions were hastily carried out and special elections were held on July 19, 1997 with Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerging victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.


For the next 6 years, the Taylor government did not improve the lives of Liberians. Unemployment and illiteracy stood above 75%, and little investment was made in the country's infrastructure. Rather than work to improve the lives of Liberians, Taylor supported the bloody Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, fomenting unrest and brutal excesses in the region, and leading to the resumption of armed rebellion from among Taylor's former adversaries.


Liberia is still trying to recover from the ravages of war. Six years after the war, pipe-borne water and electricity are still unavailable, and schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure remain derelict. On June 4 in Accra, Ghana, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) facilitated the inauguration of peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the rebel groups, "Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy" (LURD) and, "Movement for Democracy in Liberia" (MODEL). LURD and MODEL largely represent elements of the former ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions that fought Taylor during Liberia's previous civil war. That same day, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press statement announcing the opening of a sealed March 7 indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for "bearing the greatest responsibility" for atrocities in Sierra Leone since November 1996. By July 17, the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a cease-fire that envisioned a comprehensive peace agreement within 30 days. The three combatants subsequently broke that cease-fire repeatedly, which resulted in bitter fighting that eventually reached downtown Monrovia.

On August 11, under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. This move paved the way for the deployment by ECOWAS of what became a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). Since then, the United States has provided limited direct military support and $26 million in logistical assistance to ECOMIL and another $40 million in humanitarian assistance to Liberia. On August 18, leaders from the Liberian Government, the rebels, political parties, and civil society signed a comprehensive peace agreement that laid the framework for constructing a 2-year National Transitional Government of Liberia, effective October 14. On August 21, they selected businessman Gyude Bryant as Chair and Wesley Johnson as Vice Chair of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). Under the terms of the agreement the LURD, MODEL, and Government of Liberia each select 12 members of the 76-member Legislative Assembly (LA). The NTGL was inducted on October 14 and will serve until January 2006, when the winners of the scheduled October 2005 presidential and congressional elections take office.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Each of Liberia's 18 political parties and each of Liberia's 15 counties select one member, while civil society selects 7 members. On September 19, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1509, which establishes a peacekeeping operation under Chapter VII authority. In keeping with the UN Secretary General's recommendations, it calls for a force of up to 15,000 peacekeepers, with 250 military observers and 160 staff officers, a robust police component of up to 1,115, and a significant civilian component and support staff.


Liberia has a bicameral legislature which consists of 64 representatives and 26 senators. The legislature, which was set up on a proportional representation basis after the 1997 special election, is dominated by President Taylor's National Patriotic Party. The executive branch heavily influences the legislature. The judicial system is functional but extensively manipulated by the executive branch of government.


There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia. The basic unit of local government is the Town Chief. There are clan chiefs, paramount chiefs, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. The counties are governed by superintendents appointed by the president. There are 15 counties in Liberia.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 11/18/03


Chairman: Bryant, Gyude Vice Chairman: Johnson, Wesley Min. of Agriculture: Kammie, George Min. of Commerce & Industry: Wulu,

Samuel Min. of Education: Kandakai, Evelyn Min. of Finance: Kamara, Lusine Min. of Foreign Affairs: Nimley, Thomas

Yaya Min. of Gender Development: Gayflor,

Vaba Min. of Health & Social Welfare:

Coleman, Peter Min. of Information, Culture, & Tourism: Min. of Internal Affairs: Morias, H. Dan Min. of Justice: Janneh, Kabineh Min. of Labor: Supuwood, Laveli Min. of Land, Mines, & Energy: Mulbah,

Willie Min. of National Defense: Chea, Daniel Min. of National Security: Min. of Planning & Economic Affairs:

Herbert, Christian Min. of Posts & Telecommunications:

Nagbe, Eugene Lenn Min. of Public Works: Min. of Rural Development: Jones, E. C. B Min. of Transport: Kanneh, Vamba Min. of Youth & Sport: Dixon-Barnes,

Wheatonia Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Doe,

Jackson Governor, National Bank: Saleeby, Elias Ambassador to the US: Bull, William Permanent Representative to the UN, New

York: Kawah, Lamine



Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 - 16th Street, NW, Washington DC.




ECONOMY

The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia's export earnings. Following the coup d'état of 1980, the country's economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia's foreign debt amounts to more than $3 billion.

The 1989-1996 civil war had a devastating effect on the country's economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businessmen left the country. Iron ore production has stopped completely, and Liberia depends heavily on timber and rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Relatively few foreign investors have returned to the country since the end of the civil war due to the depressed business climate and continuing instability. Timber and rubber are Liberia's main export items since the end of the war. Liberia earns more than $85 million and more than $57 million annually from timber and rubber exports, respectively. Alluvial diamond and gold mining activities also account for some economic activity.


Being the second-largest maritime licenser in the world with more than 1,800 vessels registered under its flag, including 35% of the world's tanker fleet, Liberia earned more than $13 million from its maritime program in 2002. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia's Atlantic Coast.


Liberia's business sector is largely controlled by foreigners mainly of Lebanese and Indian descent. There also are limited numbers of Chinese engaged in agriculture. The largest timber concession, Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC) is Indonesian owned. There also are significant numbers of West Africans engaged in cross-border trade.


Liberia is a member of ECOWAS. With Guinea and Sierra Leone, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) for development and the promotion of regional economic integration. The MRU became all but defunct because of the Liberian civil war which spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was some revival of MRU political and security cooperation discussions in 2002.


Historically, Liberia has relied heavily on foreign assistance, particularly from the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, China, and Romania. But because of the corrupt nature of the Liberian Government and its disregard for human rights, foreign assistance to Liberia has declined drastically. Taiwan and Libya are currently the largest donors of direct financial aid to the Liberian Government. But significant amounts of aid continue to come in from Western countries through international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations, avoiding direct aid to the government.


The United Nations imposed sanctions on Liberia in May 2001 for its support to the brutal rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in neighboring Sierra Leone.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and Taiwan. Liberia accuses Guinea of backing rebels who have fought the Liberian Government to a standstill in the north. Fighting and looting on both sides of the Liberian-Ivoirian border has been fomented between members of the respective Krahn and Guere ethnic groups with their Gio and Yacouba neighbors.


Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.


U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Liberia date back to the 1820s when the first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States. U.S.-Liberia relations, which have been very cordial since independence, are today strained. The United States had been Liberia's closest ally, but a 7-year civil war (1989-1996), regional stability, gross human rights abuses, and good governance problems have led to the souring of relations between both countries. The United States imposed a travel ban on senior Liberian Government officials in 2001 because of the government's support to the RUF.


During the 1980s, the United States donated hundreds of millions of dollars toward the development of Liberia. The United States also donated hundreds of tons of rice (staple of Liberians) through its PL-480 Program. At the moment, the United States is the largest donor of relief aid to Liberia. But this assistance is channeled through the United Nations and other international aid and relief agencies working in the country.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Monrovia (E), 111 United Nations Dr., P.O. Box 10-0098, Mamba Point, Direct-In-Dialing Tel [231] 226-370-380, Secure Fax/STU Fax 226-151; Front Office Fax 226-146; Embassy Fax 226-148; USAID Fax 226-152; Internet: Last name first and middle initial.

AMB: John W. Blaney
AMB OMS: Susan Hamric
DCM: [Vacant]
POL/ECO: Douglas B. Kent
CON: Glenn Carey
MGT: Thomas A. Lyman
RSO: Edward L. Collins
PAO: Christina A. Porche
AID: Edward Birgells
IMO: Anbess Keffelew
IMS: William Hamer
DAO: [Vacant]
RMO: Dr. Charles Rosenfarb (res. Abidjan)
FAA: Edward Jones (res. Dakar)
COM: Rebecca Balogh (res. Abidjan)
AGR: Bruce J. Zanin (res. Abidjan)
A/IRS: Marlene Sartipi (res. Paris)
DEA: Andre Kellum (res. Lagos)


Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
January 22, 2003


Country Description: Liberia is a western African country that is suffering from continuing instability and war. An elected government was installed in August 1997, but little 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. By most measures, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent. The capital is Monrovia. The official language is English.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. There is a US $40 airport tax on departing passengers. For persons who are traveling from countries that do not have a Liberian embassy or consulate, an airport entry visa may be obtained, but the Liberian Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization must authorize the visa in advance of arrival. Further information on entry requirements for Liberia can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, website: http://www.liberiaemb.org/. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Liberian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Liberian citizens. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.


Safety and Security: The ability of Liberia's security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is open to question. Actions of the security forces themselves at times threaten travelers. Given the war in Liberia and the war in nearby Cote d'Ivoire, American citizens should consider carefully the importance of their travel to Liberia and weigh their personal safety. Americans who must travel to Liberia should check with the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section before undertaking travel. Travelers should avoid travel to the northwestern counties of Liberia due to recent security incidents and armed dissident activity.


Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. In addition, due to recent animosities among security forces, U.S. citizens should avoid any gathering of such forces.


Crime: Monrovia's crime rate is high. Theft and assault are major problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find the best available local medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Business Fraud: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.


Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is a request for an American to pretend to be the next-of-kin to a recently deceased Liberian who left a fortune unclaimed in a Liberian bank. This variation generally includes requests for lawyers' fees and money to pay taxes to withdraw the money. Another common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Liberia. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appears to be a legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is commonsense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Liberia should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Advance Fee Business Scams, available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Hospitals and medical facilities are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing basic services. Emergency services comparable to those in the global north are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and not safe for transfusion. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates and generally unavailable in most areas.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or auto-fax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Chlorquine resistant P. falciparum malaria is a severe form of the disease that is found in many parts of western Africa, including Liberia. Because travelers to Liberia are at high risk for contracting malaria they should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam), doxycycline, or Malarone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarials, please see the CDC Travelers' Health website at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Unsafe (and very limited)
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Very Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to nonexistent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor to nonexistent


Road travel can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are common. There are no operating traffic lights in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that highspeed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed. All drivers should also remain in their vehicles at the roadside with headlights turned off until any such convoy passes. It would be advisable to wait at least ten minutes after the convoy passes since convoy stragglers often drive at high speed in order to catch up with the group.

Although it is possible to travel overland to and from Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Guinea, travelers should expect frequent delays at armed government security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war or neglect or by the heavy annual rains which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivoirian, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed by war.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.


Air Travel: As there is no direct air service between the U.S. and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. At this time, three international carriers operate flights to and from Liberia.


For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.


All international commercial air service to Monrovia now arrives at Roberts International Airport (RIA), located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana. Most airlines do not meet the standards of punctuality, security, or service found in the global north. Luggage and passengers undergo inspection prior to boarding. Departing flights from Liberia are typically overbooked. Local carriers do not always follow published routings or schedules. At this time, an armed paramilitary security force provides airport security. Conditions at the airport upon arrival and departure are crowded and chaotic. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should attempt to arrange for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


Consular Access: The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (please see Registration/Embassy Location section below).

Currency Regulations: The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia. The U.S. dollar and the Liberian dollar are exchanged freely, and the rate in recent months has been 50-55 Liberian dollars to one U.S. dollar. There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of Liberia, but regulations issued in November 2001 prescribe how such transfers can take place. Sums in excess of $10,000 (US) must be reported at the port of entry and no more than $7,500 (US) in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts, travelers checks or similar financial instruments. Individuals without a Liberian bank account are limited to no more than two outgoing $5,000 (US) over-the-counter (cash) wire transfers per month. The use of travelers checks is subject to substantial fees, and few commercial establishments accept travelers checks. ATMs are unavailable, and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia. Wire transfers through Western Union and some banks are available, but they are subject to substantial fees.


Photography Restrictions: Taking photographs of military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should refrain from taking pictures of any sites or activities, including official motorcades or security personnel, that might be considered sensitive. Police and military officers are liable to confiscate any camera. Travelers would be well advised not to take photographs, movies or videos in any public place.


Infrastructure: Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia. They are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not on a 24-hour basis. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone service is common.

Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues or telephone (202) 736-7000.


Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Liberia at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia, tel. (231) 226-370, fax (231) 226-148. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy may address letters to the Consular Section, Monrovia Place, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800.


Due to the security situation, the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide direct Consular assistance to U.S. citizens outside of the Monrovia area is severely limited. The lack of a working nationwide telephone system or reliable means of communication complicates efforts to establish or maintain contact in the capital city or communicate at all with any one in the rural areas.


Travel Warning
January 7, 2004


This Travel Warning is being issued to update security information on Liberia. The Department of State continues to urge American citizens to defer non-essential travel. This supersedes the Travel Warning of September 30, 2003.


There is no effective police force in Liberia at this time, and UNMIL peacekeepers likely will not be fully deployed for several more months. On December 7, 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) began its disarmament program, through which armed combatants exchange their weapons for payment.

The influx of personnel to that site resulted in increased incidents of armed robbery in the area of the weapons collection zone.


The disarmament program is expected to continue for many months, at multiple sites throughout the country. For the immediate future, more occurrences of localized violence are possible, particularly in and around disarmament sites.


Although the Department of State lifted the Ordered Departure status for non-emergency employees of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia in September 2003, the Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Liberia. The US Embassy has imposed restrictions on travel outside Monrovia by personnel due to security concerns. Private Americans who remain in or travel to Liberia despite this Warning should avoid travel into the interior of the country. The situation in Monrovia and other areas outside the zones of conflict remains unpredictable, and resident Americans are urged to exercise caution in their activities. Airlines continue limited flights into and out of Monrovia, although this may change periodically.

Despite successful peace talks and deployment of ECOMIL forces earlier in 2003, low-intensity fighting between rebel and government forces continues to flare up in the countryside. Due to the fighting, principal roads to Sierra Leone and Guinea, and from Monrovia to western Liberia, are often closed. Travel over many roads has become prohibitively dangerous. There is also a high threat of violent crime in Monrovia and elsewhere.


The security situation in general, both government and rebel roadblocks, and the lack of reliable communications systems in Liberia limit the Embassy's ability to provide assistance to U.S. citizens outside the Monrovia area.


U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution in traveling. Travel anywhere after dark is strongly discouraged. Owing to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, street demonstrations, and any gathering of security forces. Americans should report any threats or suspicious activity to the Embassy in Monrovia and monitor the local media for developments that may affect their safety and security.

The U.S. Embassy in Liberia may temporarily close to the public from time to time to review its security posture. Americans who remain in Liberia despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Liberia at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia, telephone (231) 226-370, fax (231) 226-148. Travelers should also consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Liberia and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain

up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States or Canada, and 317-472-2328 from overseas.

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Liberia

Liberia

The beginnings of Liberia as a modern state are rooted in American circumstances that led to a back-to-Africa movement among a relatively small number of African-Americans, and which was supported by white American sponsors. With multiple motives, some far from charitable, the American Colonization Society launched the Liberian experiment in the early years of the nineteenth century. Liberia's initial purpose was to serve as a beachhead for the redemption of Africa from its perceived state of degradation. The agencies of this redeeming work were to be, in order of importance, the white man, the westernized black man, and then at the bottom of the heap, the non-westernized African peoples. Much of what became public policy in early Liberia rested on this hierarchical vision of human civilization. Liberia labored under this vision through the rest of the nineteenth century and into the early decades of the twentieth century.

The Rise of President Doe

A paradigm shift occurred at the end of World War II, when Liberia's supporters and its citizens moved from a commitment to their founding mission of civilizing and Christianizing the peoples of Africa and adopted in its place a philosophy of natural rights and its offshoot of democratic governance and respect for fundamental human rights. In a real sense Liberia was in the throes of this shift when the coup d'état of 1980 occurred.

Immediately prior to the coup, during the administration of President William R. Tolbert (1971–1980), a national reform movement was initiated. Tolbert had clear reformist proclivities, but he was not a strong political leader. Challenging Tolbert were several politically progressive groups, notably the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). They were perceived as legitimate alternatives to the regime then in power.

There were many confrontations between advocates of change and those who wished to preserve the status quo before the fateful challenge occurred. Then the government announced the possibility of an increase in the price of rice, the country's staple food. The PAL demanded that the price of rice be left unchanged and signaled that, unless the government acceded to its demands, it would call for a mass rally to press its case. When the government replied that the price increase was only under discussion, and refused to grant PAL the necessary demonstration permit, PAL defiantly called for the rally anyway.

An unprecedented clash ensued between a throng of demonstrators and the government's security forces on April 14, 1979. Many of the demonstrators were killed, scores were maimed, and millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed or damaged. The demonstrators were expressing widespread disgust and anger with the entire political system, and voiced their dissatisfaction with the president, who symbolized that system.

The government attempted to put down the dissidents, but its efforts failed because the society was perilously divided, especially within the nation's security forces. The police were prepared to carry out government orders, but military personnel refused to fire into the demonstrators, pointing out that their own children and kinsmen might be in the crowd. Abandoned and insecure, the Tolbert administration sought and received military assistance from President Sekou Touré of Guinea. When Guinean military forces arrived in Liberia, the Liberian military and a great many Liberian civilians were deeply offended.

On April 12, 1980, seventeen enlisted men in the Liberian Army led an attack on the President's mansion under the leadership of Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe. They assassinated President Tolbert and overthrew his government, creating a new governing body, the People's Redemption Council (PRC), and Doe assumed the interim presidency.

The coupmakers' declaration of intent upon seizing power convinced most observers that the new government would implement progressive policies. They released all political prisoners and invited key figures in the opposition to help them form a new government. A progressive political agenda was announced, and it appeared that Doe and his followers were about to impose significant changes on the country by fiat. Accompanying the expression of intent, however, was a pattern of behavior that belied the stated progressive aims. Military personnel and other regime figures quickly adopted opulent lifestyles, lording it over their subordinates. More ominous still, the new regime began singling out individuals and families that they deemed associates of the deposed Tolbert administration. This development became clearer when, in the weeks following the coup, the PRC suddenly and publicly executed thirteen senior officials of the old regime. The executions touched off an international chorus of outrage and condemnation for this gross violation of rights, as did the apparent targeting of dissident Liberians for execution or persecution.

Regardless of internal and international outcries, these persecutions and secret executions continued. Soon, deadly conflicts sprang up within the PRC itself, as personality differences led to political purges. Several senior PRC members were executed on President Doe's orders. Eventually, Doe found himself in conflict with Commanding General Thomas Quiwonkpa, a popular soldier and a senior member of the PRC. After several bloody encounters between the Doe and Quiwonkpa factions, Quiwonkpa was forced to flee the country.

Fall of the Doe Regime

In 1985 two major events transpired. The first was a purported democratic election. When the people voted against Doe's military regime, the government illegally intervened in the process and reversed the outcome, declaring Doe the winner. The second event was Quiwonkpa's reappearence in Monrovia on November 12, 1985. Upon his return to Liberia, he attempted to lead a coup against Doe and install the candidate who was popularly believed to have won the election. Quiwonkpa's coup attempt failed. Incensed, President Doe carried out a rash of retaliatory killings. Estimates as to the number executed during this period range from 500 to as many as 3,000. The victims were largely drawn from the police, military, and security personnel of Nimba county, which was the home region of Quiwonkpa. The many who were killed were buried in mass graves in Nimba.

The Western media soon created a shorthand for understanding the gathering conflict, blaming the violence as arising from an ethnicity-based conflict between the Krahn (Doe's people) and his Mandingo supporters versus the Dhan and Mano peoples of Nimba County. This was only partially true, however. Doe was in fact lashing out at all opponents, real and imagined, regardless of their ethnic background. As a result, his presidency devolved into a reign of terror.

Doe was inaugurated President of Liberia in January 1986. He soon found it difficult to rule, however. The violence that followed the elections, coupled, in a curious way, with the events that immediately followed his own coup of 1980, engendered covert protest that eventually became open acts of rebellion. By the start of 1989, Liberia became increasingly unsafe.

A fallout in Africa at the end of the cold war was the emergence of the warlord insurgencies threatening to destabilize national governments. On Christmas Eve of 1989, the insurgent leader, Charles Taylor, announced to the Liberian and international media that he was heading an insurgency under the banner of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). His goal was to bring down the Doe regime and end the reign of terror. He set himself the goal of completing the unfinished work of Thomas Quiwonkpa.

Taylor's rebels advanced from the border between Liberia and neighboring Ivory Coast. As they penetrated Nimba County, Doe responded by initiating a scorched earth policy, sending his soldiers to raze whole villages and kill everything that moved. This tactic quickly galvanized the people, first in Nimba County, then in the nation as a whole. As the insurgency gathered momentum, the brutality on both sides was unparalleled in the history of Liberia. The violence was not limited to a clash between armies; tens of thousands of civilians died, and countless others were maimed or otherwise injured by the war.

The extreme violence early in the civil war was a consequence of problems at three levels. First was the inter-ethnic hostility that existed between Doe's Krahn and Mandingo supporters and the remnants of Quiwonkpa's Dahn and Mano followers, who now rallied behind Charles Taylor. Second, the Liberian population was, and is, comprised of a great many other ethnicities, distinguished by language and culture, so no true sense of shared national identity could be called upon to mitigate the violence. Finally, Liberia suffered from international neglect after the Cold War ended and Africa ceased to be viewed as strategically important to the United States, its traditional ally. The result for the Liberian people was that more than 200,000 of Liberia's 2.6 million people were killed, another 800,000 became internally displaced persons, and more than 700,000 fled abroad to live as refugees.

As the rebel groups approached Monrovia in early 1990 and engaged Doe's Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the slaughter increased. Some 2,000 Dhan and Mano, mostly women and children, sought refuge at the International Red Cross station in the main Lutheran Church compound in Monrovia. Although the Red Cross insignia were clearly visible, AFL death squads invaded the refuge on the night of July 29, 1990, and massacred the more than 600 people who sheltered there. In the days that followed, the death squads roamed the streets of Monrovia and its environs, attacking any civilians suspected of being sympathetic to the rebels or lukewarm toward Doe's regime.

By mid-1990 Doe's control of the country was limited to the area around the presidential palace. Prince Johnson, leader of the breakaway Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPF), risked a meeting with Doe at the Barclay Training Center (a military barracks) in Monrovia on August 18, 1990. Doe suggested that Johnson join him in a "native solidarity" alliance against Taylor, who was accused of representing "settler" interests (meaning the interests of descendents of the African Americans who came to the region in the nineteenth century). Johnson declined the offer of alliance and returned to his base on the outskirts of Monrovia.

A few days after this meeting, Doe led a foray into territory held by Johnson's forces in order to visit the leaders of the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), a peacekeeping force that the economic community of West African states (ECOWAS) has created in an effort to help resolve African conflicts. During this foray, however, Doe's entourage was attacked, most were killed, and Doe himself was captured. Badly injured and bleeding from serious leg wounds, he was taken to Prince Johnson's compound. There he was tortured and then left to bleed to death, the whole gruesome episode captured by Johnson's video camera. On September 10, 1990, he died and his naked body was placed on public display.

Taylor's Rise to Power

With Doe's death, the struggle for power intensified. The rival factions headed by Taylor and Johnson now faced a third challenger: a civilian Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU). This entity was the creation of an ECOWAS-sponsored summit meeting held in the Gambia, where the leaders of Liberia's neighbors in West Africa sought ways to end the conflict. Professor Amos Sawyer, a Liberian national, was chosen the head of the IGNU by a representative body of Liberian political and civil leaders.

Two years later, the conflict still raged on. Taylor attempted to seize Monrovia, in October 1992. His self-styled "Operation Octopus" was a bloody military showdown in which he pitted an army of children (their ages ranged from 8 to 15) against the professional soldiers of ECOMOG. Thousands were slain, including five American nuns serving homeless Liberian children. Taylor's coup attempt failed.

By 1996 a coalition government composed of former rebel leaders and civilians had been put in place, but endemic distrust led to a second showdown in Monrovia. Three members of the ruling Council of State, Charles Taylor of the NPFL, Alhaji Kromah of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia, and Wilton Sankawolo, the civilian chair of the Council, attempted to arrest another government minister, Roosevelt Johnson, for allegations of murder. Seven weeks of fighting ensued and, once again, thousands of Liberians—mostly civilians—were killed. This phase of the civil war ended when regional and international peace facilitators decided to hold new elections, in which warlords were permitted to participate. Taylor, according to some observers, won the vote, but other election observers have suggested that many who voted for him did so only out of fear. Taylor promised peace, but he was unable to establish legitimacy for his presidency at either the domestic or international level.

In fact, just as Liberia appeared to be settling down, neighboring Sierra Leone erupted into war, with the May 25, 1997, overthrow of that country's elected government. Taylor had undergone guerilla insurgency training in Libya in the late 1980s alongside Foday Sankoh and other West African dissidents. An informal pact was made between Taylor and Sankoh that they would remain in solidarity as they embarked upon violently changing the political order in the subregion. Sankoh fought with Taylor's NPFL, and when in 1991 Sankoh's RUF appeared on the Sierra Leone scene, a close relationship characterized their leaders. Thus, when the 1997 coup brought Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) into power, however briefly, Taylor was prepared to recognize Sankoh's claim to legitimacy and assist his Sierra Leonian ally.

The destabilizing effects of Taylor's support of the RUF were not only felt in Sierra Leone, but throughout much of West Africa. This led the United Nations to order an investigation. The resulting UN Security Council Panel of Experts Report implicated the President of Liberia in the exploitation of Sierra Leone's diamond mines through his ties with the RUF, and of using a portion of the proceeds to keep the RUF supplied with arms. The charges were clearly documented, but Taylor stoutly denied them. Despite his denials, in May 2001 the UN Security Council imposed punitive sanctions on Liberia.

The End of Taylor's Regime

In 2002 the war in Sierra Leone was largely contained, due to massive international intervention, and democratic elections were held. Sankoh's RUF, now transformed into the Revolutionary United Party (RUP), was roundly defeated. For his part in supporting the RUF, Taylor's government in Liberia was now internationally viewed as a pariah regime. Taylor's troubles, however, had begun three years earlier, when a group of Liberians formed a rebel group called Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). LURD's stated objective was Taylor's removal from power because of his atrocious human rights record and the impunity that generally characterized his leadership.

LURD stepped up its attacks in early 2003, and a new rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), made its appearance in March. MODEL quickly gained ascendancy in the southern part of the country, whereas LURD's power was concentrated in the north. In March, LURD's forces opened several fronts, advancing to within a few miles of Monrovia. Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced during the fighting. On June 4 of the same year, Taylor was indicted by the UN sponsored Special Court in Sierra Leone for his complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from his activities in that country. U.S. President George W. Bush publicly called on Taylor to resign and leave the country, thus increasing the pressure on Taylor's regime.

On July 17, a LURD offensive into the capital resulted in hundreds more killed and displaced persons. International intervention finally produced a respite, as international facilitators set up peace talks in Ghana. Taylor bowed to the pressures on August 11, when he handed power over to his vice president and accepted exile in Nigeria. The peace talks concluded on August 18, and on August 21 a new leader, Gyude Bryant, was chosen to chair an interim government. To maintain the peace, the UN Security Council sent 15,000 peacekeeping troops and set up a rescue operation to help deal with the aftermath of two decades of bloody civil wars.

SEE ALSO Peacekeeping; Sierra Leone

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adebajo, Adekeye (2002). Building Peace In West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Adebajo, Adekeye (2002). Liberia's Civil War, Nigeria, ECOMOG, and Regional Security in West Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Dunn, D. Elwood (1999). "The Civil War in Liberia." In Civil Wars In Africa: Roots and Resolution, ed. A. Taisier and R. Matthews. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

International Crisis Group (2003). "Tackling Liberia: The Eye of the Regional Storm." Africa Report (April 30) 62: p. 49.

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (1986). Liberia, A Promise Betrayed: A Report on Human Rights. New York: The Lawyers Committee.

Reno, William (2001). Warlord Politics and African States. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Daniel Elwood Dunn

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Liberia

Liberia

POPULATION 3,288,198
CHRISTIAN (LUTHERAN, BAPTIST, EPISCOPALIAN, PRESBYTERIAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC, UNITED METHODIST, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL [AME], AME ZION) 40 percent
AFRICAN TRADITIONAL BELIEFS 40 percent
MUSLIM 20 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Liberia in West Africa borders the North Atlantic Ocean, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Originally called the Grain Coast and subsequently the Slave Coast, the country has a population that is ninety-five percent from indigenous groups, including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, De, Mande, Mandingo, and Bella. The remaining 5 percent is almost evenly split between Americo-Liberians (descendants of former American slaves) and Congo people (descendants of former Caribbean slaves).

Liberia has the closest historical ties to the United States of all the African nation states. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, American freed slaves wanted to return to West Africa, their presumed homeland, and white Americans wanted to secure that return. In 1822 the American Colonization Society (established in 1816 by Robert Finley) sent the ship Elizabeth with three white agents and 88 black emigrants to West Africa. After a number of setbacks, including the death of all three whites and 22 emigrants from Yellow Fever, the party established a settlement at Mesurado Bay, naming it Perseverance. The settlers brought Christianity with them and treated the indigenous population and their traditional religion with contempt. Islam, which arrived four centuries earlier, was already well established among the Mandingo and Vai peoples in northern Liberia and was not challenged by the settlers.

Although less than 5 percent of the total population, the Americo-Liberians secured Liberian independence from the United States in 1847 and granted the first black governorship to Joseph Jenkins Roberts (an illegitimate son of Thomas Jefferson; Jefferson is said to have sent him to Liberia to keep him out of the public eye). The capital city, Monrovia, was named after President Monroe of the United States.

Liberian politics have been tumultuous since the later twentieth century. In the 1970s Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe (from the Krahn tribe) came to power in a coup. In 1989 Charles Taylor led a rebellion against Doe. Taylor's national patriotic front executed Doe and overran the countryside before the rebels split into factions. Taylor, a Christian, became president in 1997, but international pressure forced him to leave office in 2003. The United Nations has given the new government, headed by Chairman Gyude Bryant, two years to rebuild Liberia.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

The Liberian constitution, drafted in 1944, recognizes religious freedom as a fundamental right and prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Moreover, no leader of a religious organization may hold political office. The constitution reserves the right, however, to deny any religious practice that may threaten public safety, health, morals, or the freedoms of others. Religious groups, except indigenous religions, must register with the government and provide a statement of purpose. No complaints have been issued about the process, which all agree is quick and fair.

Historically relations between Americo-Liberian Christians, Muslims, and indigenous peoples have been uneasy. Laws have benefited the ruling elite, who have looked down on even converted indigenous people. Despite the ban on state religion, public ceremonies always open with prayers and hymns, most often Christian, but sometimes Muslim. Muslims complain that the Sunday closing law is discriminatory and that the government does not allot jobs fairly to them. Some Christians criticized the Taylor government for sponsoring over 100 pilgrims to Mecca. Muslim-Christian tensions are highest in the northern areas where most Muslims live. Taylor's government waged war against insurgents there, most of whom are Mandingo Muslims. The Mandingos accused Taylor of human rights abuses in his campaign.

Problems in southeastern Liberia center on frequent reports of ritual murders and cannibalism by members of some indigenous religious groups. The Catholic Church has opposed government policies, and the government tried to shut down the Catholic radio station on charges of illegal operation. Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to improve relations by organizing an interfaith council to bring together leaders from every religion in Liberia.

Major Religions

CHRISTIANITY

AFRICAN TRADITIONAL BELIEFS

CHRISTIANITY

DATE OF ORIGIN 1822 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 1.3 million

HISTORY

Christianity arrived in Liberia in 1822 with the freed slaves from America and the Caribbean. The original Americo-Liberian emigrants considered Christianity a mark of civilization and saw African indigenous religions ("paganism") as shameful; more importantly, they believed that the perseverance of traditional religion prevented European countries and the United States from respecting Liberia. The conversion to Christianity and Western values of the people in the hinterland was a prime goal of the elite rulers in Monrovia and other cities, who began their work by establishing a network of schools. The government encouraged both local and foreign missionaries, who spread various versions of the religion.

The superior attitude of the Americo-Liberians, who mocked indigenous culture and regarded it as worthless, often retarded the mission. The Americo-Liberians wanted the privileges associated with white Americans, and they practiced the racism they had suffered in the United States against the indigenous population in Liberia. To protect their distinctive identity, the settlers erected social and economic barriers, institutionalizing segregation. Indigenous people could not sit next to them at church, and Christian Africans had to enter Americo-Liberian homes through the back door. Liberia's first three constitutions restricted the rights of Africans, who had to prove they were civilized and owned property to become full citizens.

In the early twentieth century Liberian William Wadé Harris began spreading an African version of Christianity throughout West Africa. Harri'ss great success in Liberia was in large part a reaction against the segregationist policies of Americo-Liberians.

Over the years African-American missionaries and white missionaries from Europe and the United States have established Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopalian missions. In the 1950s Mormons from America entered the mission field. The Church of the Lord (the Aladura movement) also has a number of churches of various sizes that promote large, ecstatic gatherings for communal worship.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Born in the Liberian hinterlands, William Wadé Harris (c. 1860–1929) founded the Harrist movement and was unquestionably the most successful Christian missionary in Africa. His goal was to make Christianity African. At the onset of his work, most Catholic and Protestant missionaries dismissed Harris. In 1913–14 he went into areas of Liberia where no missionary had gone before, baptizing over 100,000 Africans within an eighteen-month period. Influenced by Edward Blyden, who came to Liberia from the Virgin Islands and decried Western imperialism, including the missions, Harris believed that only a British Protectorate in Liberia could save the country. He used violence, threats, and magic to attempt to bring Glebo chiefs into a plot to bring Blyden to power. After the coup failed, Harris left Liberia and traveled throughout West Africa, using any means he could to bring about conversions, with great success.

Current Christian leaders in Liberia include Michael Kpakala Francis, who became archbishop of Monrovia in 1977, and Bishop Sumowood Harris of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who took on the presidency of the Liberian Council of Churches in 2003.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

The Harrist Church of William Wadé Harris was a unique local religious movement that unified a number of ethnic groups in their religious practices. The Ten Commandments were their religious law, Sunday was their day of worship, and the institution of the church was their place of worship. The Bible was the only sacred book and the cross the basic symbol. Baptism signified a break with fetishes and other objects and practices Harris felt were based on superstition. He continued to allow animal sacrifice and traditional song and dance for prayer.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Churches, chapels, and other Christian houses of prayer exist throughout Liberia. Many of William Wade Harris's churches still dot the landscape. Many newer churches are built along his church's simple lines to fit into the African landscape.

WHAT IS SACRED?

The usual Christian symbols are found in Liberia's Christian churches: crucifixes, crosses, statues of Jesus and saints, and other symbols according to denomination. The Bible is sacred, and Sunday is generally the day of worship.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Liberian Christians celebrate the various Christian holidays—including Christmas, New Year's, various saint's days, and other Christian feasts—according to Christian denomination. The Catholic Church celebrates All Saint's Day, the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, and other holy days.

MODE OF DRESS

Christians tend to dress in Western-style clothing or an adapted African style: long shirts and loose fitting trousers.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Liberian Christians have no special dietary practices except to abstain from eating meat during Lent.

RITUALS

Liberian Christians use the same seven sacraments as other Christians, often adding traditional African elements to the sacramental rituals, including singing and dancing. The Harrists routinely use African forms of worship, including aspects of Sande and Poro rituals. For them traditional singing and dancing take the place of Protestant services. Roman Catholics and High Church Episcopalians offer the Sacrifice of the Liturgy (the Mass). Others follow various Protestant services that feature Bible reading and sermons.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Christians in Liberia celebrate the usual Christian rites of passage. Baptism, confirmation, marriage, funerals, and other sacramental rituals mark life-stage changes.

MEMBERSHIP

In Liberia Christianity actively seeks new members. Indigenous, African-American, and European Christian missionaries often travel to remote places, translate the Bible into indigenous languages, and seek to understand the daily lives of the people. Missionaries produce radio programs or run radio stations, build schools and hospitals, and conduct other welfare activities, often in remote rural areas. Christian schools have long been an integral part of increasing the denomination's numbers and influence.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Sharing is part of African traditional morality, and Liberian Christianity has built on this foundation. Christians preach the need to help the poor and other members of their communities. Christian schools have long traditions in the country that are integral parts of spreading their churche's faiths. A number of religions and missionary groups have radio stations that promote social justice. ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), a Sudan Interior Mission International (now Society of International Ministries) station, once broadcast from Liberia to all of West Africa. Their studios were destroyed in 1990 during the civil war. The station has resumed broadcasts but only within Liberia.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Most Liberian Christians oppose both abortion and birth control, and many oppose divorce, believing in the permanence of marriage. In theory Liberian men head their families and expect obedience from their wives and children, although in practice, especially among farmers, married couples tend to form partnerships that strengthen family ties, dividing labor between them. Children are taught by their families to respect elders and to follow their proverbs.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Because Christians are in power in Liberia, much of the economy is slanted toward Christian development, and Christians can obtain better jobs than non-Christians. Much of the opposition to the government, including armed opposition, has come from Muslim centers and draws on Muslim resentment of the Christian-controlled government.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

In Liberia a person who has any "white blood" at all is regarded as white, and anyone who eats, dresses, and talks like someone from Europe is called a European. A person who is black in the United States may be white in Liberia and may attain privileges no African Liberian is granted. This cultural racism has caused much pain within the Christian community.

Christianity has been somewhat more open in Liberia to women's participation in a variety of arenas than in many other African countries. Christian women are more likely to hold political office and to advance in the modern economy than are Muslim or traditional women.

CULTURAL IMPACT

The original Liberian Christians sought to imitate American and, later, European models of behavior and aesthetics. Liberian churches were built to look like those in the United States. Music and manners were European in style. Education followed American models: There were American-style colleges, newspapers, and cotillions. Constant contact with American missionaries and educators, many of them African-American, encouraged this attitude. American currency is still the official currency of Liberia.

AFRICAN TRADITIONAL BELIEFS

DATE OF ORIGIN 1500 b.c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 1.3 million

HISTORY

The basic outlines of Liberian traditional religion were present in West Africa from about 1500 b.c.e. The Sky God religion seems to have originated in eastern Africa and spread rapidly to the West. The indigenous religion that developed in Liberia centers on a god who is somewhat removed from his creation and aided in his work by subordinate spirits in charge of various aspects of the creation. The religion is taught through proverbs and other verbal devices. Followers recognize little, if any, separation between religion and other aspects of life. Estimates of the number of adherents vary greatly (from 20 percent to 70 percent of the population), because many Christians and Muslims still practice some forms of traditional rituals.

Many Liberian traditional groups have secret societies with religious as well as social, political, legal, and educational functions. These societies deal with particular aspects of religion, such as medicine and controlling snakes, lightning, and witches. Those who wish to be members must undergo a particular initiation ritual and must keep secret the way in which the society works. The men's Poro and women's Sande secret societies are the most widespread. The Poro and the Sande combine religious and political power, settling local disputes and regulating markets and other aspects of daily life.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Liberian traditional religion has no prominent historical figures. Clan members fill positions of authority within traditional communities.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Because it is an oral tradition, Liberian indigenous religion has no written documents, and the myths that provide a religious basis for traditional social life have no authors. As religious practitioners the Kpelle have shamans of both sexes, some associated with the Poro and Sande secret societies, some connected with specific medicine societies, and some who are independent. The first two mainly conduct rituals, while members of the third category (as well as some from the second) are healers. There are also diviners who analyze and solve problems.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Almost every village has its own traditional shrines, which combine African traditional elements with Christian or Islamic elements.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Liberian traditional religion reveres ancestral spirits, cows, chickens, rivers, trees, and other aspects of the natural world. Twins are sacred throughout Liberia. The Mande believe in nyama, a sacred power that animates the world and is present in all natural objects. Nyama is a kind of super soul that controls the forces of nature.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

In addition to the national Islamic and Christian holidays, different ethnic groups celebrate their own farming occasions, market days, naming festivities for newborns, initiation periods for young men and women, and family holidays.

MODE OF DRESS

Traditional Liberians dress in either African or Western-style dress. During rituals certain religious practitioners dress according to the needs of their duties. Members of the Poro and Sande secret societies, for example, wear traditional dress and masks.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Liberian food taboos that have religious underpinnings help preserve species and maintain ecological relationships. The religion of certain ethnic groups forbids them to eat panthers. Some may not eat certain plants because of the group's relationship to the spirit or god associated with the plant. Respect for these taboos contributes to the health of the overall community.

Traditionalists usually eat beef only ceremonially. These cows are not milked and are used mainly for bride prices and sacrifices.

RITUALS

Kpelle rituals focus on God, the ancestors, and forest spirits. Members of the Poro and Sande secret societies are prominent in these rituals, wearing masks to represent the spirits. Diviners sometimes prescribe ritual sacrifices, to occur at such places as cross-roads.

During initiation into the Poro or Sande secret societies, after initiates have been separated from the community for some time, a major coming-out ritual is performed. Members reenter society and are introduced in their new guises.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Liberian traditional secret societies initiate young people between the ages of seven and twenty into full ritual membership. The Poro and Sande educate these adolescents as proper adults and society members. Masked figures carry out both male and female initiation. The initiation takes about three years. Clitoridectomy and labiadectomy are integral parts of female initiation.

MEMBERSHIP

Liberian traditional religion takes its members from local villages, where people are born into the religion and pass through various steps into full membership. Traditionalists often combine their practice with aspects of Islam or Christianity, sometimes both. Adherents of traditional religion in Liberia do not proselytize.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Traditional Liberian views of justice promote reconciliation, healing breaches, and bringing people together. Someone caught in the act of stealing or adultery might be punished immediately, but the general practice is to find ways to forget old breaches of the law and bring people together.

Religion in traditional communities seeks to give each person his or her due while stabilizing the ethnic group and its component kinship groups. Private individuals and their kin groups might bring legal actions; authorities seek to restore social relationships. Diviners help restore justice by discovering the witch or other antisocial agent who wittingly or otherwise spoiled a relationship. Compensation and ritual feasting, supported by religion, play a prominent role in the healing process.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Liberian traditional society is based on polygynous marriage and the patrilineal-patrilocal family: Descent groups are traced through the father's line and residence is based on those descent principles. Most traditional Liberian groups prefer marriage through bride price, in which the groom's family compensates the bride's family for the loss of the woman's work and children. The Poro and Sande societies work to keep marriages together and maintain social stability in families. Liberians in general have a taboo prohibiting sexual intercourse during the entire time a woman is breast-feeding. This institutionalized abstinence helps create space between children.

POLITICAL IMPACT

The Poro and Sande religious societies found throughout Liberia exert both traditional and modern political power. Besides regulating activities and solving disputes within local groups, they support or oppose national policies from these local bases.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

Like other non-Christians in Liberia, traditional peoples feel that the Christians who have controlled the government since Liberia's founding discriminate against them. They also believe that government-supported efforts to convert them to Christianity violate their religious freedom. Many have supported rebels against the current government. The Liberian government looks on the traditionalist secret societies as sources for spreading discontent and rebellion.

CULTURAL IMPACT

African traditional religion in Liberia influences many Christians and Muslims. The old beliefs appeal to many Africans, as do their moral teachings. New religious movements in Liberia have incorporated traditional belief in their doctrines. Liberian universities are teaching traditional religion as a respected course of study. Traditional teachings have influenced people not only in Liberia but also in Europe and America as people rethink Christianity.

Other Religions

Liberia is home to about 658,000 Muslims. Islam came to the Mandingo area of northern Liberia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and has remained strong in that area. Mosques, Islamic crescents, turrets, and other Muslim symbols (such as pieces of the Koran worn on the forehead to ward off evil spirits) are common in the region.

Liberian Muslims celebrate Ramadan, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and other Islamic holidays common throughout the world. Many Liberian Muslim men wear long, flowing robes and turbans or other head coverings; women wear modest dress and are kept relatively sheltered (when wealth permits) and subordinate to men. As elsewhere, Liberian Muslims fast during Ramadan, refrain from eating pork, and only eat meat from ritually slaughtered animals. They are enjoined to make the pilgrimage to Mecca; to keep the Islamic rites of passage, including the naming rituals and the purification of women after childbirth; and to give 10 percent of their wealth to the poor. Muslim men may marry up to five wives; divorce is common.

The Vai ethnic group has become Islamic but retains its ties with traditional peoples and rites. A group that has suffered from strong competition between country and clan chiefs, the Vai have not gained in political unity through adopting Islam.

Throughout the history of the Liberian state, Muslims have been subjected to discrimination and contempt. Opposition to the Christian president Charles Taylor, strong in Muslim areas, coalesced in a group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development.

Frank A. Salamone

See Also Vol. 1: African Traditional Beliefs, Christianity, Islam

Bibliography

Creevey, Lucy, and Barbara Callaway. The Heritage of Islam: Women, Religion, and Politics in West Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1994.

Gershoni, Yekutiel. Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1985.

Glazier, Stephen D., ed. Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999.

Gorman, G.E., and Roger Homan, eds. The Sociology of Religion: A Bibliographical Survey. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986. Johnson, Robert. Why Blacks Left America for Africa: Interviews with Black Repatriates, 1971–1999. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1999.

Karp, Ivan, and Charles S. Bird, eds. Explorations in African Systems of Thought. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980.

Matthews, Donald H. Honoring the Ancestors: An African Cultural Interpretation of Black Religion and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press U.S., 1998.

Olson, James S. The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1996.

Parrinder, Geoffrey. African Traditional Religion. London: Hutchinson's University Library, 1954.

Staudenraus, P.J. The American Colonization Society: The African Colonization Movement, 1816–1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Liberia


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 111,369 sq. km. (43,000 sq. mi.). Slightly larger than Ohio.

Cities: Capital—Monrovia (est. 750,000). Principal towns—Buchanan (est. 300,000), Ganta (est. 290,000), Gbarnga (est. 150,000), Kakata (est. 100,000), Harbel (est. 136,000).

Terrain: Three areas—Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa's rain forest.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Liberian(s).

Population: (2001 est.) 3.3 million.

Annual growth rate: (2001 est.) 2.7%.

Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20%, Bassa 16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.

Religions: Christian 30%, Muslim 10%, animist 60%.

Languages: English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.

Education: Literacy—15%.

Health: Life expectancy—47 years.

Work force: Agriculture—70%; industry—15%; services—2%.

Unemployment: 70% in the formal sector.

Government

Type: Republic; currently under a national transitional government.

Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.

Constitution: January 6, 1986.

Political parties: 13 political parties took part in presidential elections on July 19, 1997 that saw former rebel leader Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) emerge as President. There are now 18 political parties.

Economy

GDP: (2002) $206.9 million.

GDP growth rate: 3.3%.

Per capita GNP: (2002) $188.

Annual inflation rate: 14%.

Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables.

Industry: Types—iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$147 million: agriculture 80%, mining 20%. Major markets—France, China, Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia, Scandinavia, U.S. Imports—$173 million: petroleum products, rice, chemicals, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, machinery, clothing, beverages, and tobacco.


PEOPLE

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. 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 are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. Because of the 1989-1996 civil war and its accompanying problem of insecurity, the number of Westerners in Liberia is low and confined largely to Monrovia and its immediate surroundings. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent.

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 7-year civil war (1989-1996) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.


HISTORY

Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461 and named the area Grain Coast because of the abundance of grains of Malegueta Pepper. 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, which means "land of the free," was founded by freed slaves from the United States in 1820. These freed slaves, called Americo-Liberians, first arrived in Liberia and established a settlement in Christopolis now Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820. This group of 86 immigrants formed the nucleus of the settler population of what became known as the Republic of Liberia.

Thousands of freed slaves from America soon arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence on July 26, 1847 of the Republic of Liberia. The idea of resettling free slaves in Africa was nurtured by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization that governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847. The new Republic of Liberia adopted American styles of life and established thriving trade links with other West Africans.

The formation of the Republic of Liberia was not an altogether easy task. The settlers periodically encountered stiff opposition from African tribes whom they met upon arrival, usually resulting in bloody battles. On the other hand, the newly independent Liberia was encroached upon by colonial expansionists who forcibly took over much of the original territory of independent Liberia.

Liberia's history until 1980 was largely peaceful. For 133 years after independence, the Republic of Liberia was a one-party state ruled by the Americo-Liberian-dominated True Whig Party (TWP). Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who was born and raised in America, became Liberia's first President. The style of government and constitution was fashioned on that of the United States. The True Whig Party dominated all sectors of Liberia from independence until April 12, 1980, when indigenous Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe—from the Krahn ethnic group—seized power in a coup d'etat. Doe's forces executed President William R. Tolbert and several officials of his government, mostly of Americo-Liberian descent. As a result, 133 years of Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People's Redemption Council (PRC).

Doe's government increasingly adopted an ethnic outlook as members of his Krahn ethnic group soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This caused a heightened level of ethnic tension, leading to frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.

Political parties remained banned until 1984. Elections were held on October 15, 1985, in which Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) was declared winner. The elections were characterized by widespread fraud and rigging. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living, which had been rising in the 1970s, declined drastically. On November 12, 1985, former Army Commanding Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa invaded Liberia by way of neighboring Sierra Leone and almost succeeded in toppling the government of Samuel Doe. Members of the Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa's attack and executed him in Monrovia.

On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe's former procurement chief, Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of Liberians because of the repressive nature of Samuel Doe and his government. Barely 6 months after the rebels first attacked, they had reached the outskirts of Monrovia.

The 1989-1996 Liberian civil war, which was one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson—who had been a member of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) but broke away because of policy differencesformed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990, and Dr. Amos C. Sawyer became President. Taylor refused to work with the interim government and continued fighting. By 1992, several warring factions had emerged in the Liberian civil war, all of which were absorbed in the new transitional government. After several peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government.

After considerable progress in negotiations conducted by the United States, United Nations, Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), and ECOWAS, disarmament and demobilization of warring factions were hastily carried out. Special elections were held on July 19, 1997,

with Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerging victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.

For the next 6 years, the Taylor government did not improve the lives of Liberians. Unemployment and illiteracy stood above 75%, and little investment was made in the country's infrastructure. Liberia is still trying to recover from the ravages of war; six years after the war, pipe-borne water and electricity were still unavailable, and schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure remained derelict. Rather than work to improve the lives of Liberians, Taylor supported the bloody Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, fomenting unrest and brutal excesses in the region, and leading to the resumption of armed rebellion from among Taylor's former adversaries.

On June 4, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS facilitated the inauguration of peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the rebel groups called "Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy" (LURD) and "Movement for Democracy in Liberia" (MODEL). LURD and MODEL largely represent elements of the former ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions that fought Taylor during Liberia's previous civil war (1989-1996). Also on June 4, 2003, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press statement announcing the opening of a sealed March 7 indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for "bearing the greatest responsibility" for atrocities in Sierra Leone since November 1996. By July 17, 2003 the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a cease-fire that envisioned a comprehensive peace agreement within 30 days. The three combatants subsequently broke that cease-fire repeatedly, which resulted in bitter fighting that eventually reached downtown Monrovia.

On August 11, 2003 under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. This move paved the way for the deployment by ECOWAS of what became a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). Since then, the United States has provided limited direct military support and $26 million in logistical assistance to ECOMIL and another $40 million in humanitarian assistance to Liberia. On August 18, leaders from the Liberian Government, the rebels, political parties, and civil society signed a comprehensive peace agreement that laid the framework for constructing a 2-year National Transitional Government of Liberia, effective October 14. On August 21, they selected businessman Gyude Bryant as Chair and Wesley Johnson as Vice Chair of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). Under the terms of the agreement the LURD, MODEL, and Government of Liberia each selected 12 members of the 76-member Legislative Assembly (LA). The NTGL was inducted on October 14, 2003 and will serve until January 2006, when the winners of the scheduled October 2005 presidential and congressional elections take office.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Liberia is currently under a transitional government that took office in October 2003 and that will serve until January 2006. The transitional government includes a chair and vice chair and a 76-member Legislative Assembly.

On September 19, 2003 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1509, which establishes a peacekeeping operation under Chapter VII authority. In keeping with the UN Secretary General's recommendations, it called for a force of 15,000 peacekeepers, with 250 military observers and 160 staff officers, a robust police component of up to 1,115, and a significant civilian component and support staff. By June 2004, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) had deployed over 14,000 peacekeepers and 760 police, and had ostensibly disarmed most of the former combatants.

Historically, Liberia has had a bicameral legislature which consists of 64 representatives and 26 senators. The legislature, which was set up on a proportional representation basis after the 1997 special election, was dominated by President Taylor's National Patriotic Party. The executive branch heavily influences the legislature. The judicial system is functional but extensively manipulated by the executive branch of government.

There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia. The basic unit of local government is the town chief. There are clan chiefs, paramount chiefs, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. The counties are governed by superintendents appointed by the president. There are 15 counties in Liberia.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 11/18/03

Chairman: Bryant , Gyude
Vice Chairman: Johnson , Wesley
Min. of Agriculture: Kammie , George
Min. of Commerce & Industry: Wulu , Samuel
Min. of Education: Kandakai , Evelyn
Min. of Finance: Kamara , Lusine
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Nimley , Thomas Yaya
Min. of Gender Development: Gayflor , Vaba
Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Coleman , Peter
Min. of Information, Culture, & Tourism:
Min. of Internal Affairs: Morias , H. Dan
Min. of Justice: Janneh , Kabineh
Min. of Labor: Supuwood , Laveli
Min. of Land, Mines, & Energy: Mulbah , Willie
Min. of National Defense: Chea , Daniel
Min. of National Security:
Min. of Planning & Economic Affairs: Herbert , Christian
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Nagbe , Eugene Lenn
Min. of Public Works:
Min. of Rural Development: Jones , E. C. B
Min. of Transport: Kanneh , Vamba
Min. of Youth & Sport: Dixon-Barnes , Wheatonia
Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Doe , Jackson
Governor, National Bank: Saleeby , Elias
Ambassador to the US: Bull , William
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Kawah , Lamine

Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC.


ECONOMY

The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia's export earnings. Following the coup d'etat of 1980, the country's economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia's foreign debt amounts to more than $3 billion.

The 1989-1996 civil war had a devastating effect on the country's economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businessmen left the country. Iron ore production has stopped completely, and Liberia depends heavily on timber and rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Relatively few foreign investors have returned to the country since the end of the civil war due to the depressed business climate and continuing instability. Timber and rubber are Liberia's main export items since the end of the war. Liberia earns more than $85 million and more than $57 million annually from timber and rubber exports, respectively. Alluvial diamond and gold mining activities also account for some economic activity.

Being the second-largest maritime licenser in the world—with more than 1,800 vessels registered under its flag, including 35% of the world's tanker fleet—Liberia earned more than $13 million from its maritime program in 2002. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia's Atlantic Coast.

Liberia's business sector is largely controlled by foreigners, mainly of Lebanese and Indian descent. There also are limited numbers of Chinese engaged in agriculture. The largest timber concession, Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC) is Indonesianowned. There also are significant numbers of West Africans engaged in cross-border trade.

Liberia is a member of ECOWAS. With Guinea and Sierra Leone, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) for development and the promotion of regional economic integration. The MRU became all but defunct because of the Liberian civil war, which spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was some revival of MRU political and security cooperation discussions in 2002.

Historically, Liberia has relied heavily on foreign assistance, particularly from the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, China, and Romania. But because of the corrupt nature of the Liberian Government and its disregard for human rights, foreign assistance to Liberia has declined drastically. Taiwan and Libya are currently the largest donors of direct financial aid to the Liberian Government. But significant amounts of aid continue to come in from Western countries through international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations, avoiding direct aid to the government.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Liberia in May 2001 for its support to the brutal rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in neighboring Sierra Leone. The UN renewed these sanctions in 2002 and 2003. In December 2003, the UN renewed these sanctions for one year, until the transitional government can establish greater sovereignty and fiscal transparency.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and Taiwan. Liberia accuses Guinea of backing rebels who have fought the Liberian Government to a standstill in the north. Fighting and looting on both sides of the Liberian-Ivoirian border has been fomented between members of the respective Krahn and Guere ethnic groups with their Gio and Yacouba neighbors.

Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.


U.S.-LIBERIA RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Liberia date back to the 1820s when the first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States. U.S.-Liberia relations, which have been very cordial since independence, are today strained. The United States had been Liberia's closest ally, but a 7-year civil war (1989-1996), regional stability, gross human rights abuses, and good governance problems have led to the souring of relations between the two countries. The United States imposed a travel ban on senior Liberian Government officials in 2001 because of the government's support to the RUF.

During the 1980s, the United States donated hundreds of millions of dollars toward the development of Liberia. The United States also donated hundreds of tons of rice (a staple of Liberians) through its PL-480 Program. At the moment, the United States is the largest donor of relief aid to Liberia. But this assistance is channeled through the United Nations and other international aid and relief agencies working in the country.

On February 5-6, 2004 in New York, the United States co-hosted an international reconstruction conference on Liberia. Donors pledged over $522 million in total assistance. The United States is contributing $200 million for critical humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration, community revitalization, policing, independent media, rule of law, social services, agriculture, and reform of the judicial system, military, police, financial, and forest sectors. The United States also has contributed $245 million for the establishment of UNMIL.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MONROVIA (E) Address: 111 United Nations Drive; Phone: 011-231 226-370; Fax: 011-231 226-148/226-827; Workweek: M–F, 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m.

AMB:John W. Blaney
AMB OMS:Susan Hamric
DCM:Duane E. Sams
POL:Douglas Kent
COM:Rebecca Balogh (resident in Abidjan)
CON:William D. Douglass
MGT:John L. Thomas
AGR:Bruce Zanin (resident in Abidjan)
AID:Edward W. Birgells
DAO:Rayan E. McMullen
DEA:Andre Kellum (resident in Lagos)
ECO/COM:Vacant
FAA:Ronald L. Montgemery (res. in Dakar)
FIN:Vacant
FMO:Vacant
GSO:vacant
ICASS Chair:Edward W. Birgells
IMO:Anbes Keffelew
IRS:Marlene Sartipi (resident in Paris)
PAO:Christina A. Porche
RSO:Norman C. Lisenbee
Last Updated: 10/1/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 12, 2004

Country Description: Liberia is a western African country that has suffered from years of instability and conflict. Finally, in August 2003, negotiations among warring parties led to the departure of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and a national government of transition came into power in October 2003. The transitional government's authority is mainly limited to those areas patrolled by United Nations military contingents. These areas have expanded recently beyond the capital city of Monrovia and its surrounding areas to include many out-lying counties, though are generally limited to the regional centers (county capitals) and most border crossings. Much progress remains to be 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. By most measures, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent. The capital is Monrovia. The official language is English.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Immigration officials at the airport may authorize permits for a 48-hour stay only. Those wishing to stay longer must go to the Central Bureau of Immigration on Broad Street between Center and Gurley Streets in downtown Monrovia. The Central Bureau issues permits for stays up to three months; there is a $25 fee. There is a $25 airport tax on departing passengers. For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees and airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, website: http://www.liberian-connection.com/embassy.htm. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Liberia and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Liberia web site at www.liberiaemb.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Liberia. Americans who travel to or remain in Liberia despite this advice should avoid travel to the interior of the country. The ability of Liberia's security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is uncertain. Disarmament of rebel groups throughout much of Liberia is ongoing. Actions of the local security forces (and former members of the security forces) also at times threaten travelers. Members of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provide limited security around Monrovia and the main population centers. UNMIL's future after the elections in 2005 is uncertain. Given the conflict in Liberia and in nearby Cote d'Ivoire, American citizens should consider carefully the importance of their travel to Liberia and weigh their personal safety. Americans who must go to Liberia should check with the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section before undertaking travel and should avoid going to rural areas of Liberia due to security incidents and armed dissident activity.

U.S. citizens still in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when traveling. Travel anywhere after dark is strongly discouraged. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. In addition, due to recent animosities among security forces, U.S. citizens should avoid any gathering of such forces.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information of safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

Crime: Monrovia's crime rate is rated critical and is exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment in the country. Theft, assault, and murder are major problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find the best available local medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. The scenarios are varied: an American must pretend to be the next-of-kin to a recently deceased Liberian who left a fortune unclaimed in a Liberian bank, a person claiming to be related to present or former political leaders needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash, or even a business deal that appears to be legitimate. The requests are usually for the payment of advance fees, attorneys' fees, or down payments on contracts. The final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is to get any money possible and to gain information about the American's bank account. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Liberia should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Advance Fee Business Scams, available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Their staff can assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds can be transferred. While the investigation and prosecution of crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/brochure_victim_assistance.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Hospitals and medical facilities are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing basic services. Emergency services comparable to those in the global north are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and not safe for transfusion. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates and generally unavailable in most areas.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are common. There are no operating traffic lights in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed. All drivers must remain in their vehicles at the roadside with headlights turned off until any such convoy passes. It would be advisable to wait at least ten minutes after the convoy passes since convoy stragglers often drive at high speed in order to catch up with the group.

Despite successful peace talks and deployment of peacekeeping forces, criminal activity and occasional looting of villages by ex-combatants continues to flare up in the countryside. Principal roads to the neighboring countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Guinea are often closed due to tensions between factions or due to attempts to abate arms smuggling. Travel over many roads has become prohibitively dangerous. Travelers should expect frequent delays at armed government or UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war or neglect or by the heavy annual rains which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Not assessed: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Currently three international carriers operate flights to and from Liberia, servicing the Roberts International Airport located 35 miles outside Monrovia, and an armed paramilitary security force provides airport security. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should attempt to arrange for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

Special Circumstances: The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below). Americans should carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times.

The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia, and there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, provided one follows the specific regulations on how such transfers can take place. Sums in excess of $10,000 (US) must be reported at the port of entry and no more than $7,500 (US) in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing $5,000 (US) over-the counter cash wire transfers per month. Traveler's checks and wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees, ATMs are unavailable, and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.

Photographing military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, or police and military officers are liable to confiscate the camera. Travelers are advised not to take photographs, movies or videos in any public place.

Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not on a 24-hour basis. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone service is common. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Liberia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Liberia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia, tel. (231) 226-370, fax (231) 226-148. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy may address letters to the Consular Section, 8800 Monrovia Place, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800.

Due to the security situation, the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide direct Consular assistance to U.S. citizens outside of the Monrovia area is severely limited. The lack of a working nationwide telephone system or reliable means of communication complicates efforts to establish or maintain contact in the capital city or communicate at all with anyone in the rural areas. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia may temporarily close for general business from time to time to review its security posture.

Travel Warning

July 30, 2004

This Travel Warning is being issued to update security information on Liberia. The Department of State continues to urge American citizens to defer non-essential travel. This supersedes the Travel Warning of January 7, 2004.

There is no effective police force in Liberia at this time, and UNMIL peacekeepers likely will not be fully deployed for several more months. On December 7, 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) began its disarmament program, through which armed combatants exchange their weapons for payment. The influx of personnel to that site resulted in increased incidents of armed robbery in the area of the weapons collection zone. Subsequent disarmament exchanges have gone more smoothly, but the potential for volatility remains.

The disarmament program is expected to continue for many months, at multiple sites throughout the country. For the immediate future, more occurrences of localized violence are possible, particularly in and around disarmament sites.

Although the Department of State lifted the Ordered Departure status for non-emergency employees of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia in September 2003, the Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Liberia. The US Embassy has imposed restrictions on travel outside Monrovia by personnel due to security concerns. Private Americans who remain in or travel to Liberia despite this Warning should avoid travel into the interior of the country. The situation in Monrovia and other areas outside the zones of conflict remains unpredictable, and resident Americans are urged to exercise caution in their activities. Airlines continue limited flights into and out of Monrovia, although this may change periodically.

The frequency of armed clashes between factions has dropped steeply since the end of the 2003 conflict. Sustained fighting has not occurred for some time. However, despite successful peace talks and deployment of ECOMIL forces earlier in 2003 and UNMIL forces in October, low-intensity fighting between various armed factions could flare up in the countryside unpredictably. Due to the fighting, principal roads to Sierra Leone and Guinea, and from Monrovia to western Liberia, are sometimes closed. Travel over many roads has become prohibitively dangerous. There is also a growing threat of violent crime in Monrovia and elsewhere.

The security situation in general, both government and rebel roadblocks, and the lack of reliable communications systems in Liberia limit the Embassy's ability to provide assistance to U.S. citizens outside the Monrovia area.

U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution in traveling. Travel anywhere after dark is strongly discouraged. Owing to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, street demonstrations, and any gathering of security forces. Americans should report any threats or suspicious activity to the Embassy in Monrovia and monitor the local media for developments that may affect their safety and security.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

The Liberian Ministry of Health has informed the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia that effective October 15, 2004, adoptive families must obtain a letter from the Ministry of Health approving the adoption of a specific child. This is in addition to obtaining a Relinquishment (guardian or caretaker of child being adopted) and Adoption Decree (Liberian Court). The U.S. Embassy is seeking clarification as to whether or not adoption cases that began in good faith prior to October 15 will be grandfathered. This site will be updated as more information becomes available.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Liberian orphans adopted abroad – 3, IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Liberian orphans adopted in the U.S.—0

FY-1997: IR-3 Visas—29,
IR-4 Visas – 5
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas—6,
IR-4 Visas – 1
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas—14,
IR-4 Visas – 0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas—21,
IR-4 Visas—4

Liberian Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoptions are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met.

Liberian Adoption Procedures: All adoptive parents recently go through an adoption agency in the U.S. prior to going through the adoption process. A petition for the adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The court will also require written consent by the biological parents. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased, or if a legal guardian has been appointed. The biological parents, during the proceedings, may withdraw consent. However, the court must permit the withdrawal of consent. Consent is irrevocable after the final order of adoption.

Following the filing of the petition, the court serves notice on all interested parties and orders an investigation by an investigator, who is appointed by the court. Upon receipt of the investigation, the Court schedules the hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. The petitioners and children are required to attend the hearing. The court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause. This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are confidential and held in closed court. The court must be satisfied that the "moral and temporal interests" of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered. The court can process the adoption as fast as they want.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. Any minor child present within Liberia may be adopted. The place of birth and residence are irrelevant of the adoptive parent.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of qualified attorneys. The Embassy does not maintain a list of adoption agencies and can not recommend the services of any private attorney or adoption agency.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Liberia.

Liberian Documentary Requirements:

  • Petition for adoption
  • Written consent of the biological parents acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace)

There are no documents required within the laws concerning adoption. Normal paperwork such as a passport, and birth certificate may be needed as required by the court in a case-by-case basis. The parents will also need these documents required for the IV process.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: A Liberian child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details.

Liberian Embassy (and Consulates) in the United States:
Embassy of the Republic of Liberia
5303 Colorado Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437

Liberia also has a consulate in New York, New York.

U.S. EMBASSY LIBERIA:
Street Address
U.S. Embassy Liberia
111 United Nations Drive
Mamba Point
Monrovia, Liberia

Mailing Address
U.S. Embassy Monrovia
Consular Section
U.S. Department of State
8800 Monrovia Place
Washington, DC 20521-8800
Tel: (231) 226-370 ext. 1490

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Liberia may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, telephone (202) 736-7000 with specific questions.

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Liberia

LIBERIA

The establishment of the American colony of Liberia in 1822 marked the culmination of five decades of argument about whether whites and blacks could live together in a free society. Debate had begun in 1773, when the Reverend Samuel Hopkins of Newport, Rhode Island, a vigorous opponent of slavery, proposed an ambitious plan to send freed slaves as missionaries to Africa. While he won the support of some New England African Americans keen to emigrate, Hopkins trained only two would-be Evangelicals before the Revolutionary War intervened and the plan had to be abandoned.

It was not until the 1810s, when the number of freed blacks topped 200,000, that many Americans, both black and white, again paused to consider the future of this problematic population in a slaveholding society. This time, many groups saw advantages in the emigration of these blacks to Africa. White missionaries and antislavery activists such as Samuel Mills and the Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, as well as free black New Englanders such as Paul Cuffee, saw black emigration as an opportunity to elevate an oppressed segment of the American population while also bringing Christianity and enlightenment to the "Dark Continent." Some southern slaveholders supported emigration schemes to remove the divisive influence of free black communities and thereby prevent slave rebellions.

Drawing on bipartisan support for the plan from political leaders including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Henry Clay, and John Randolph, leaders from all three communities came together in 1816 to form the American Colonization Society (ACS). In 1819, after lobbying from the ACS, President James Monroe backed a law facilitating the resettlement of free blacks in West Africa. The following January the ship Elizabeth sailed from New York with eighty-six African American men, women, and children and several government agents on board. This first expedition ended in failure, with the colonists unable to find fresh water and soon being forced to evacuate to the nearest British settlement. A second and third group departed America for Africa in 1821 and 1822 to settle a permanent colony on land purchased from the local inhabitants of Cape Mesurado, west of Grand Bassa. The colonists named their first mainland settlement Monrovia in honor of their presidential patron.

Those early years were marked by incredible hardship and internal dissension as the colony struggled to organize and provide for itself. A ragged coast and dense inland vegetation made communication with sponsors and trade with neighbors difficult, and to make things even harder, malaria ravaged the population. Only half of the 4,571 black Americans who arrived in Liberia during the first twenty-three years of settlement were still alive by an 1843 census.

Open revolts over how to run the settlement, as well as frequent disputes between settlers and the native population, continued to hinder the colony's economic independence. Yet little support was forthcoming from the ACS at home. By the 1840s the society had been crippled by financial mismanagement and accusations of racism from radical abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison. With the society rendered impotent, the Liberian colonists were effectively stranded.

Direct control of the colony's administration thus passed from the floundering ACS to the settlers in 1847, marking the official birth of Liberia, Africa's oldest republic. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a freedman from Virginia, was elected as the first president. Yet despite political independence, Liberia was battered by further financial insecurities and continued to rely on foreign aid until the 1950s.

See alsoAfrican Americans: Free Blacks in the North; African Americans: Free Blacks in the South; Colonization Movement .

bibliography

Clegg, Claude A., III. The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Miller, Floyd J. The Search for a Black Nationality: Black Emigration and Colonization, 1787–1863. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1975.

Shick, Tom W. Behold the Promised Land: A History of Afro-American Settler Society in Nineteenth-Century Liberia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

Richard J. Bell

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Liberia

Liberia

Liberia is located on the western tip of Africa. It is bordered on the east by Côte d'Ivoire, on the west by Sierra Leone, on the north by Guinea, and the south by the Atlantic Ocean. Liberia has a total land area of 69,187 square kilometers (43,000 square miles), encompassing fifteen political subdivisions called counties. Liberia as a nation was founded in the nineteenth century by the American Colonization Society as a refuge for liberated slaves from the United States.

The population was estimated at 3.4 million in July 2004. Due to two civil wars (1989–1997 and 1999–2003), about half of the population is in Monrovia, the capital city. Prior to the war, Monrovia had an estimated population of 250,000. About 1 million people are internally displaced throughout the country and about another 1 million are living abroad, including in various refugee camps in the West African belt.

Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the coastline is characterized by lagoons, mangrove swamps, and major river-deposited sandbars; the inland grassy plateau supports limited agriculture. There are also dense forests rich in various tree species.

Four major periods can be used to examine the history of Liberia: precolonial (before 1820), colonial (1820–1839), commonwealth (1839–1847), and independence (1847–present). During the precolonial era, Liberia was known as the "Grain Coast." The name was given to the area by Portuguese explorers to reflect the abundance of grain on the territory. Various indigenous ethnic groups occupied the area, each with its own political system.

When the settlers from the United States arrived at the beginning of the colonial period, their indigenous kin initially greeted them warmly. However, conflict ensued between the settlers and the various indigenous ethnic groups when it became apparent that the settlers were not interested in forging a partnership with the indigenes in the state-building project. The attitude of the settlers was conditioned by their belief that because they were repatriated from the United States, they were therefore superior to the indigenes. The settlers attempted to recreate the American Southern plantation system under which they would be the overlords and the indigenes would be the serfs. The ideological foundation for the settlers-indigenes divide was provided by a caste and class system. Under this system, social groups were defined by two theoretically distinct, but in reality overlapping, characteristics. Very often obvious caste distinctions, based on skin color and ancestral origin, coincided with differences defined by the relationship of each group to the means of production.

However, there was a major conflict among the settlers between the light-skinned and the dark-skinned settlers. The former espoused the idea of being superior to the latter on the basis of skin pigmentation; hence, the light-skinned settlers wanted to dominate the polity. There was also conflict between the settlers and the American Colonization Society, which governed Liberia from 1820 to 1837. The central issue revolved around the control of the colony. The Liberian Colony was controlled by a bureaucracy headed by the agent of the American Colonization Society, who served as the governor. The dynamics of the political system reflected a typical colonial situation in which the colonizers suppressed and dominated the colonized.

By 1837 the American Colonization Society had delegated some authority over most domestic matters to the settlers (especially the light-skinned settlers), except in judicial matters. The emergence of the light-skinned settlers as the colonial agents further fueled the conflict between them and their dark-skinned kin in the settler stock.

In 1847 the light-skinned settlers led the efforts to declare Liberia an independent and sovereign state. The indigenes, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the population, were denied citizenship under the 1847 Constitution of Liberia but were forced to pay taxes and to perform sundry public works tasks.

The post-independence period was marked by various epochal events. In 1926 the intervention of the Firestone Plantations Company as a private investor introduced wage labor and the subsequent establishment of a modern class system in the Liberian political economy (the ruling and worker classes). The "Open Door Policy" enunciated in 1944 by the regime of President William V. S. Tubman (1895–1971) spurred the influx of multinational corporations and other foreign businesses into the Liberian economy. Also during the Tubman presidency (1944–1971), the indigenes were granted citizenship, and women were granted the right to vote.

fast facts

The Sedition Law provides for the arrest of citizens charged with speaking out against the government's actions or policies, especially involving criticism of the president.

Despite its laudable pioneering efforts, the Tubman era is remembered for the suffocation of democracy as reflected, among other things, in the creation of a de facto one-party state after the purging of opposition parties and politicians in 1955. President Tubman died in office in 1971, after ruling Liberia for twenty-seven consecutive years. His vice president, William R. Tolbert (1913–1980), replaced Tubman as president. On his ascendancy, President Tolbert pledged to reform the authoritarian political system in Liberia. In this vein, he eliminated several of the dreaded security services and took measures to liberalize the political system. However, amid the rise of various reformist political interest groups, like the Movement for Justice in Africa and the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (later the Progressive People's Party, which was banned in 1980), the Tolbert regime betrayed its political liberalization agenda by taking measures to restrict political participation and criticism of the regime. For example, various draconian and antidemocratic laws such as the Sedition Law were enacted. At the core of the retreat to authoritarianism during the Tolbert era was the pressure from the oligarchs in the ruling True Whig Party, who feared that political liberalization would undermine their stranglehold on state power.

The efforts by the Tolbert regime to restrict democratic participation did not deter the fledging political reformist groups. This was reflected in the well-organized protest against the Tolbert regime on April 14, 1979, over the issue of the Liberian government's decision to increase the price of rice, Liberia's staple food. Scores of demonstrators were killed and maimed, and the leaders of various reform groups were arrested, detained, and subsequently released after intense domestic and international pressure. A year later, on April 12, 1980, seventeen noncommissioned officers overthrew the Tolbert regime and the True Whig Party oligarchy that had ruled the country for 133 years.

The military coup initially received overwhelming popular support. A new military junta, the People's Redemption Council, was established with Master-Sergeant Samuel K. Doe (1951?–1990) as chairman. Barely a year after, it became clear that the military regime was no better than the regime it deposed, as it stepped up political repression. In 1985 Doe hijacked the presidential election in which he was the loser, coercing the Special Elections Commission to declare him the winner. In 1989, after almost a decade of misrule by the military and civilianized regimes, Liberia was plunged into a civil war in 1989 that led ultimately to the capture and murder of Doe in the summer of 1990 by the forces of rebel leader Prince Johnson.

In the wake of Doe's murder, the principal rebel leader, Charles Taylor (b. 1948), claimed to be leader of Liberia. A West African peacekeeping force was sent in under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States to moderate the civil war. Amos Sawyer (b. 1945) was elected head of Interim Government of National Unity by the First Liberian National Conference, held in Banjul, Gambia in 1990. Sawyer remained in this position for four years while the forces of Charles Taylor controlled 90 percent of the country outside the capital city of Monrovia. Three other interim leaders were installed as Chairman of the Council of State between 1994 and 1997 as Liberia went through several unsuccessful agreements to end the conflict.

The civil war officially ended in 1997, with the holding of democratic elections, in which Taylor, the principal warlord and his National Patriotic Party, won a landslide victory. However, barely two years after Taylor's ascendancy to the presidency, Liberia was again embroiled in another civil war, which was started by the Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy and later joined by the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, against the Taylor regime. After the intensification of fighting within Monrovia in May 2003 and the resultant humanitarian crisis, the international community intervened and brokered a peace accord. Under the arrangement, President Taylor was forced to leave Liberia for exile, after the expiration of his term of office in August 2003. Thereafter, a broad-based transitional government consisting of representatives of the belligerents, the eighteen registered political parties, and civil society, was organized. The transitional government is mandated to govern Liberia for two years, organize democratic elections in October 2005, and turn over power to a newly elected government in January 2006.

socioeconomic conditions and quality of life

Since the Tubman era, the socioeconomic conditions and the quality of life for the majority of Liberians have been horrendous. As the consequence of two civil wars, these conditions have become worse. For example, 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The poverty rate is exacerbated by an unemployment rate of almost 76 percent. Life expectancy at birth is 47.9 years; similarly, the literacy rate for age fifteen and over is 57 percent.

the government

From 1847 to 1980, the Liberian government was based on the 1847 Constitution. Under the constitution, Liberia was a unitary republic with a presidential system of government based on the American model and a liberal democratic form of government. The constitutional order—although discriminatory against the indigenes and women—provided the legal framework for the political system. However, from 1955 to 1980, the Tubman and Tolbert regimes ignored the democratic basis of the constitution and ruled within a de facto authoritarian framework.

As a result of the 1980 military coup, a new constitution was written as part of the so-called transition to civilian rule. The new constitution ushered in the Second Republic on January 6, 1986. The 1986 Constitution remained in effect in the early 2000s, although some sections have been suspended to accommodate the special arrangements under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or Accra Peace Accord. The Accra Peace Accord provides the other legal pillar of the current National Transitional Government of Liberia. This specific type of government was adopted as part of the internationally brokered peace accord that ended Liberia's second civil war in 2003.

Since 1945 Liberia has been governed by a small ruling class that has consistently ignored the country's 1847 and 1986 liberal democratic constitutions, the formal legal bases for governance. In legal principle, the Liberian government was run by the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. In actual principle, Liberia was ruled by an imperial presidency and a ruling class consisting of state managers and an amalgam of foreign-based and local business people.

Under the 1847 and 1986 constitutions of Liberia, the legislature was given tremendous powers. However, because the members of the legislature were handpicked by the president, they were therefore subordinated to him. Hence, from 1945 to 2003, the National Legislature of Liberia was a "rubber-stamp" body that was subservient to executive dictates.

The executive branch subordinated and dominated the legislative and judicial branches from 1955 to 2003. Under a system of de facto one-party rule and authoritarianism, the presidency was deified and played the role of the suzerain. As a result, it was quite rare for the legislature to reject a proposal from the executive branch.

As for the judiciary, like the legislature, it lost its independence after the purges of 1955. From then on, the executive routinely interfered with cases and even dictated verdicts, especially in cases with political ramifications. For example, it is widely known that President Tubman directed the Supreme Court of Liberia to find Ambassador Henry B. Fahnbulleh Sr. guilty of treason in 1968 (for not displaying a miniature Liberian flag on his desk while he was serving as the ambassador to Kenya).

From 1945 to 1955, Liberia had a multiparty system, with the True Whig Party as the ruling party. The principal opposition party was the Reformation Party. However, in 1955, the Tubman regime banned all opposition political parties and made Liberia a de facto one-party state. In 1980 Liberians were stunned when the Progressive People's Party (PPP) became the first legally registered opposition party in more than two decades. But barely a month after its legal registration as an opposition party, the National Legislature of Liberia banned PPP on the charge that the party was engaging in subversive activities. When the ban on political activities was lifted by the military regime in 1984 as part of the transitional process that culminated in the holding of presidential and legislative elections in 1985, several political parties—including the National Democratic Party of Liberia, the Liberian Action Party, Liberian People's Party, United People's Party, Liberian Unification Party, and Unity Party—were organized. However, the Liberian People's Party and the United People's Party, the two most popular parties at the time, were banned from participating in the 1985 elections by the Doe regime. The Doe regime was fearful that the two political parties would have made it difficult for Doe and his National Democratic Party of Liberia to win the 1985 elections.

Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia was the ruling party from 1986 to 1989. In 1997 several new political parties—All Liberian Coalition Party, Liberian


National Union, Progressive People's Party, Labor Party, People's Democratic Party, Free Democratic Party, National Reformation Party, Reformation Alliance Party, and the Liberian Equal Rights Party—were organized as part of the post–civil war transitional process. Also, the True Whig Party reemerged after being banned during the Doe regime. In 2002 the New Democratic Alternative for Liberia Movement (The New DEAL Movement) became Liberia's eighteenth registered political party. The New DEAL Movement is unique because it is Liberia's first and only social democratic political party. Ideologically, the other seventeen political parties can be classified as conservative, moderate, and liberal.

Several independent interest groups made their debut on the Liberian political stage in the 1970s as a result of the Tolbert regime's policy of political liberalization. The Movement for Justice in Africa and the Progressive Alliance of Liberia were the two major national reform groups. Also, there were student, youth, and worker groups that transcended the boundaries of the sectional agendas of their constituencies and were active in national politics. For example, the Student Unification Party, the principal party at the University of Liberia during the 1970s and 1980s (except 1981), was very active in national parties. The Student Unification Party and the University of Liberia Students Union routinely addressed various national issues and served as societal watchdogs.

The 1990s saw the proliferation of non-governmental organizations concerned with various issues, including human rights, civic education, gender equality, and basic human needs. The proliferation of interest groups was precipitated by the first civil war, especially the imperatives to address an assortment of issues. The burgeoning increase in the number of interest groups continues in the early 2000s.

In 1952 Liberia had multiparty elections. However, following the 1955 purges, noncompetitive elections were held under the direction and control of the ruling True Whig Party through 1980. The candidates for legislative and municipal offices were handpicked by the president and the barons of the ruling True Whig Party. In 1985 multiparty elections were held, but President Doe perpetrated fraud and declared himself the winner of the presidential elections. During the 1997 special elections, thirteen political parties contested. The National Patriotic party of Charles Taylor won the elections by more than 75 percent of the votes. Citizens' participation in the 1985 and 1997 elections was quite high.

From the Tubman to the Taylor regime, political repression was the foundation of the authoritarian political systems established by the ruling presidents. Freedom of speech was suppressed, and those who dared criticize the government were harassed, imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile, and murdered. Particularly during the Doe and Taylor regimes, political disappearances and deaths were common. The Doe regime used the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Taylor regime employed the Anti-Terrorist Unit as death squads. In its yearly assessment of human rights in the world, Freedom House has routinely classified Liberia as "not free."

bibliography

Burrowes, Carl P. Who Rules Liberia? A Reconsideration of the Settler Ruling Class Thesis. Chicago: Monograph, 1982.

Freedom House. "Liberia." Freedom in the World 2004. New York: Freedom House, 2004. <http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2004/countryratings/liberia.htm>.

"Liberia." CIA World Factbook 2004. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2004. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/li.html>.

"Liberia." In Nations of the World: A Political, Economic and Business Handbook. Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2005.

Schemmel, B. "Liberia." Rulers. <http://rulers.org/rull.html#liberia>.

United Nations Development Programme. Socio-Economic Conditions in Liberia. New York: United Nations Development Programme, 2003.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. "Liberia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2004. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27948.htm>.

George Klay Kieh Jr.

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http://apastyle.apa.org/

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