Africa

Liberia country profile

  • 30 June 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Liberia

Liberia is Africa's oldest republic, but it became known in the 1990s for its long-running, ruinous civil war and its role in a rebellion in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Although founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is mostly inhabited by indigenous Africans, with the slaves' descendants comprising 5% of the population.

Around 250,000 people were killed in Liberia's civil war and many thousands more fled the fighting.

Big programmes are under way to address the shortage of electricity and running water. Corruption is rife and unemployment and illiteracy are endemic.

FACTS

Republic of Liberia

Capital: Monrovia

  • Population 4.2 million

  • Area 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq miles)

  • Languages English, 29 African languages belonging to the Mande, Kwa or Mel linguistic groups

  • Major religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 56 years (men), 59 years (women)

  • Currency Liberian dollar

Getty Images

LEADER

President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Image copyright Getty Images

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa's first female president in 2005, two years after the end of a brutal 14-year conflict.

She was re-elected in November 2011 in a poll marred by a low turn-out and a boycott by her main rival, Winston Tubman.

Critics accuse her of having little to show for her first term, but supporters say she deserves praise for ensuring stability in the country.

She was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2011 for what the prize committee said were her efforts to secure peace, promote economic and social development and strengthen the position of women.

Born in 1938, she is a widowed mother-of-four.

MEDIA

Image copyright Glenna Gordon
Image caption Liberia has a spectacular coastline, as adventurous surfers are beginning to discover

Years of civil war left Liberia's media with the task of rebuilding. Many outlets still rely on financial support from politicians or international donors.

Large fines imposed in libel cases have encouraged self-censorship despite the enacting of West Africa's first freedom of information law in 2010, reports US-based Freedom House.

TIMELINE

Some key events in Liberia's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President William Tubman, centre, served from 1944 until his death in 1971. He introduced numerous reforms, including the vote for women

1847 - Constitution modelled on that of the US is drawn up, and Liberia becomes independent.

1917 - Liberia declares war on Germany, giving the Allies a base in West Africa.

1926 - Rubber production becomes backbone of Liberia's economy after Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company opens rubber plantation on land granted by government.

1936 - Forced-labour practices abolished.

1943 - William Tubman elected president.

1958 - Racial discrimination outlawed.

1980 - Master Sergeant Samuel Doe carries out military coup ousting and publicly executing President William Tolbert and 13 of his aides.

1985 - Doe wins presidential election one year after his regime allowed return of political parties following pressure from the United States and other creditors.

1989-2003 - Civil war. Up to 250,000 are killed, while thousands more are mutilated and raped, often by armies of drugged child soldiers led by ruthless warlords.

2005 - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes the first woman to be elected as an African head of state.

2013-2016 - Outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus sweeps through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, killing 11,300 people, mainly in Liberia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liberia experienced more than a decade of civil war

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