Republic of Liberia

Motto: "The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here"
Location of  Liberia  (dark blue) – in Africa  (light blue & dark grey) – in the African Union  (light blue)
Location of  Liberia  (dark blue)

– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)
– in the African Union  (light blue)

Location of Liberia
and largest city
6°19′N 10°48′W / 6°19′N 10°48′W / 6.317; -10.800
Official languagesEnglish
Spoken and national languages[1]
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary presidential constitutional republic
• President
George Weah
Jewel Taylor
Bhofal Chambers
Francis Korkpor, Sr.
LegislatureLegislature of Liberia
House of Representatives
Formation and Independence
• Settlement by the American Colonization Society
January 7, 1822
July 26, 1847
• Annexation of Republic of Maryland
March 18, 1857
• Recognition by the United States
February 5, 1862
November 2, 1945
January 6, 1986
• Total
111,369 km2 (43,000 sq mi) (102nd)
• Water (%)
• 2015 estimate
4,503,000[3] (125th)
• 2008 census
3,476,608 (130th)
• Density
40.43/km2 (104.7/sq mi) (180th)
GDP (PPP)2018 estimate
• Total
$4.123 billion[4]
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
$2.335 billion[4]
• Per capita
Gini (2007)38.2[5]
HDI (2017)Increase 0.435[6]
low · 181st
CurrencyLiberian dollar (LRD)
United States dollar (USD, de facto)
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
Driving sideright
Calling code+231
ISO 3166 codeLR

Liberia (ə/ (About this soundlisten)), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east, the Atlantic Ocean to its south. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000 people.[7] English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.

Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States.[8] The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The U.S. did not recognize Liberia's independence until February 5, 1862, during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in the U.S., and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement.[9] The black settlers carried their culture and tradition with them to Liberia. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence.[9]

Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, and is Africa's first and oldest modern republic. Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn, the U.S. invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities. In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity.

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush". The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and the indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a repetition of the United States' treatment of Native Americans.[10] The Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.

Political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup in 1980 during which Tolbert was killed, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population), the displacement of many more and shrunk Liberia's economy by 90%.[11] A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President. Recovery proceeds but about 85% of the population lives below the international poverty line. Liberia's economic and political stability was threatened in the 2010s by an Ebola virus epidemic; it originated in Guinea in December 2013, entered Liberia in March 2014, and was declared officially ended on May 8, 2015.[12][13][14]


A European map of West Africa and the Grain Coast, 1736. It has the archaic mapping designation of Negroland.

The Pepper Coast, also known as the Grain Coast, has been inhabited by indigenous peoples of Africa at least as far back as the 12th century. Mende-speaking people expanded westward from the Sudan, forcing many smaller ethnic groups southward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola and Kissi were some of the earliest documented peoples in the area.[15]

This influx of these groups was compounded by the decline of the Western Sudanic Mali Empire in 1375 and the Songhai Empire in 1591. Liberia was a part of the Kingdom of Koya from 1450 to 1898. As inland regions underwent desertification, inhabitants moved to the wetter coast. These new inhabitants brought skills such as cotton spinning, cloth weaving, iron smelting, rice and sorghum cultivation, and social and political institutions from the Mali and Songhai empires.[15] Shortly after the Mane conquered the region, the Vai people of the former Mali Empire immigrated into the Grand Cape Mount County region. The ethnic Kru opposed the influx of Vai, forming an alliance with the Mane to stop further influx of Vai.[16]

People along the coast built canoes and traded with other West Africans from Cap-Vert to the Gold Coast. Arab traders entered the region from the north, and a long-established slave trade took captives to north and east Africa.

Early colonization

Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in the region. The Portuguese named the area Costa da Pimenta ("Pepper Coast") but it later came to be known as the Grain Coast, due to the abundance of melegueta pepper grains. European traders would barter commodities and goods with local people.

In the United States there was a movement to resettle free-born blacks and freed slaves who faced racial discrimination in the form of political disenfranchisement and the denial of civil, religious, and social privileges in the United States.[17] Most whites and later a small cadre of black nationalists believed that blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the U.S.[8] The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 in Washington, DC, for this purpose by a group of prominent politicians and slaveholders, but its membership grew to include mostly people who supported the abolition of slavery. Slaveholders wanted to get free people of color out of the South, where they were thought to threaten the stability of the slave societies. Some abolitionists collaborated on the relocation of free blacks, as they were discouraged by racial discrimination against them in the North and believed they would never be accepted in the larger society.[18]

In 1822, the American Colonization Society began sending black volunteers to the Pepper Coast to establish a colony for freed blacks. By 1867, the ACS (and state-related chapters) had assisted in the migration of more than 13,000 blacks to Liberia.[19] These free African-Americans and their descendants married within their community and came to identify as Americo-Liberians. Many were of mixed race and educated in American culture; they did not identify with the indigenous natives of the tribes they encountered. They intermarried largely within the colonial community, developing an ethnic group that had a cultural tradition infused with American notions of political republicanism and Protestant Christianity.[20]

Map of Liberia Colony in the 1830s, created by the ACS, and also showing Mississippi Colony and other state-sponsored colonies.

The ACS, the private organization supported by prominent American politicians such as Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, and James Monroe, believed repatriation of free African Americans was preferable to widespread emancipation of slaves.[18] Similar state-based organizations established colonies in Mississippi-in-Africa and the Republic of Maryland, which were later annexed by Liberia.

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush", They knew nothing of their cultures, languages or animist religion. Encounters with tribal Africans in the bush often developed as violent confrontations. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Because of feeling set apart and superior by their culture and education to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as an elite minority that held on to political power. It excluded the indigenous tribesmen from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a parallel of the United States' treatment of Native Americans.[10] Because of ethnocentrism and the cultural gap, the Americo-Liberians envisioned creating a western-style state to which the tribesmen should assimilate. They promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.


On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution. Based on the political principles denoted in the United States Constitution, it established the independent Republic of Liberia.[21][22] The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia's independence.[23]

The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that had been purchased by the ACS; they maintained relations with United States contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade. Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohibited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to "encourage the growth of civilized values" before such trade was allowed in the region.[21]

By 1877, the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party was the most powerful political power in the country.[24] It was made up primarily of people from the Americo-Liberian ethnic group, who maintained social, economic and political dominance well into the 20th century, repeating patterns of European colonists in other nations in Africa. Competition for office was usually contained within the party; a party nomination virtually ensured election.[24]

Pressure from the United Kingdom, which controlled Sierra Leone to the west, and France with its interests in the north and east led to a loss of Liberia's claims to extensive territories. Both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast annexed some territories.[25] Liberia struggled to attract investment in order to develop infrastructure and a larger, industrial economy.

There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans.[26] On July 16, 1892, Martha Ann Erskine Ricks met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and presented her a hand made quilt, Liberia's first diplomatic gift. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Ricks stated, "I had heard it often, from the time I was a child, how good the Queen had been to my people – to slaves – and how she wanted us to be free."[23]

20th century

Charles D. B. King, 17th President of Liberia (1920–1930), with his entourage on the steps of the Peace Palace, The Hague (the Netherlands), 1927.

American and other international interests emphasized resource extraction, with rubber production a major industry in the early 20th century.[27] In 1914 Imperial Germany accounted for three quarters of the trade of Liberia. This was a cause for concern amongst the British colonial authorities of Sierra Leone and the French colonial authorities of French Guinea and the Ivory Coast as tensions with Germany increased.[28]

First World War

In 1919 Liberia attended the Versailles Peace Conference, when the League of Nations was founded in January 1920 Liberia was one of the founding members.[29]

However, in 1929 allegations of modern slavery in Liberia led the League of Nations to establish the Christy commission. Findings included government involvement in widespread "Forced or compulsory labour", minority ethnic groups especially were exploited in a system which enriched well connected elites within Liberia.[30] As a result of the Christy report, President Charles D. B. King and Vice-president Allen N. Yancy both resigned.[31]

In the mid-20th century, Liberia gradually began to modernize with American assistance. During World War II, the United States made major infrastructure improvements to support its military efforts in Africa and Europe against the Nazis. It built the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport under the Lend-Lease program before its entry into the Second World War.[32]

After the war, President William Tubman encouraged foreign investment in the country. Liberia had the second-highest rate of economic growth in the world during the 1950s.[32]

Liberia also began to take a more active role in international affairs. It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and became a vocal critic of the South African apartheid regime.[33] Liberia also served as a proponent both of African independence from the European colonial powers and of Pan-Africanism, and helped to fund the Organisation of African Unity.[34]

A technical in Monrovia during the Second Liberian Civil War.

On April 12, 1980, a military coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Krahn ethnic group overthrew and killed President William R. Tolbert, Jr.. Doe and the other plotters later executed a majority of Tolbert's cabinet and other Americo-Liberian government officials and True Whig Party members.[35] The coup leaders formed the People's Redemption Council (PRC) to govern the country.[35] A strategic Cold War ally of the West, Doe received significant financial backing from the United States while critics condemned the PRC for corruption and political repression.[35]

After Liberia adopted a new constitution in 1985, Doe was elected president in subsequent elections, which were internationally condemned as fraudulent.[35] On November 12, 1985, a failed counter-coup was launched by Thomas Quiwonkpa, whose soldiers briefly occupied the national radio station.[36] Government repression intensified in response, as Doe's troops retaliated by executing members of the Gio and Mano ethnic groups in Nimba County.[36]

The National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, launched an insurrection in December 1989 against Doe's government with the backing of neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. This triggered the First Liberian Civil War.[37] By September 1990, Doe's forces controlled only a small area just outside the capital, and Doe was captured and executed in that month by rebel forces.[38]

The rebels soon split into various factions fighting one another. The Economic Community Monitoring Group under the Economic Community of West African States organized a military task force to intervene in the crisis.[38] From 1989 to 1996 one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars broke out, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and displacing a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries.[10] A peace deal between warring parties was reached in 1995, leading to Taylor's election as president in 1997.[38]

Under Taylor's leadership, Liberia became internationally known as a pariah state due to its use of blood diamonds and illegal timber exports to fund the Revolutionary United Front in the Sierra Leone Civil War.[39] The Second Liberian Civil War began in 1999 when Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, a rebel group based in the northwest of the country, launched an armed insurrection against Taylor.[40]


In March 2003, a second rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia, began launching attacks against Taylor from the southeast.[40] Peace talks between the factions began in Accra in June of that year, and Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity the same month.[39] By July 2003, the rebels had launched an assault on Monrovia.[41] Under heavy pressure from the international community and the domestic Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement,[42] Taylor resigned in August 2003 and went into exile in Nigeria.[43]

A peace deal was signed later that month.[44] The United Nations Mission in Liberia began arriving in September 2003 to provide security and monitor the peace accord,[45] and an interim government took power the following October.[46]

The subsequent 2005 elections were internationally regarded as the most free and fair in Liberian history.[47] Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former Minister of Finance, was elected as the first female president in Africa.[47] Upon her inauguration, Sirleaf requested the extradition of Taylor from Nigeria and transferred him to the SCSL for trial in The Hague.[48][49]

In 2006, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the causes and crimes of the civil war.[50]

Other Languages
Acèh: Liberia
адыгабзэ: Либерие
Afrikaans: Liberië
Alemannisch: Liberia
አማርኛ: ላይቤሪያ
Ænglisc: Liberia
العربية: ليبيريا
aragonés: Liberia
arpetan: Libèria
asturianu: Liberia
Avañe'ẽ: Livéria
azərbaycanca: Liberiya
تۆرکجه: لیبریا
bamanankan: Liberia
Bahasa Banjar: Liberia
Bân-lâm-gú: Liberia
башҡортса: Либерия
беларуская: Ліберыя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Лібэрыя
भोजपुरी: लाइबेरिया
Bikol Central: Libirya
български: Либерия
Boarisch: Liberia
བོད་ཡིག: ལི་བེ་རི་ཡ།
bosanski: Liberija
brezhoneg: Liberia
буряад: Либери
català: Libèria
Чӑвашла: Либери
Cebuano: Liberya
čeština: Libérie
Chavacano de Zamboanga: Liberia
chiShona: Liberia
Cymraeg: Liberia
dansk: Liberia
davvisámegiella: Liberia
Deutsch: Liberia
ދިވެހިބަސް: ލައިބީރިއާ
dolnoserbski: Liberia
डोटेली: लाइबेरिया
eesti: Libeeria
Ελληνικά: Λιβερία
español: Liberia
Esperanto: Liberio
estremeñu: Libéria
euskara: Liberia
eʋegbe: Liberia
فارسی: لیبریا
Fiji Hindi: Liberia
føroyskt: Liberia
français: Liberia
Frysk: Libearia
Fulfulde: Labiriyaa
Gaeilge: An Libéir
Gaelg: Yn Laibeer
Gagauz: Liberiya
Gàidhlig: Libèiria
galego: Liberia
Gĩkũyũ: Liberia
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Liberia
한국어: 라이베리아
Hausa: Laberiya
հայերեն: Լիբերիա
हिन्दी: लाइबेरिया
hornjoserbsce: Liberija
hrvatski: Liberija
Ido: Liberia
Igbo: Liberia
Ilokano: Liberia
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: লাইবেরিয়া
Bahasa Indonesia: Liberia
interlingua: Liberia
Interlingue: Liberia
Ирон: Либери
isiZulu: ILiberia
íslenska: Líbería
italiano: Liberia
עברית: ליבריה
Basa Jawa: Libèria
Kabɩyɛ: Liiberiya
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಲೈಬೀರಿಯ
Kapampangan: Liberia
къарачай-малкъар: Либерия
ქართული: ლიბერია
kaszëbsczi: Liberiô
қазақша: Либерия
kernowek: Liberi
Kinyarwanda: Liberiya
Kiswahili: Liberia
Kongo: Liberia
Kreyòl ayisyen: Liberya
kurdî: Lîberya
Кыргызча: Либерия
кырык мары: Либери
Ladino: Liberia
Latina: Liberia
latviešu: Libērija
Lëtzebuergesch: Liberia
lietuvių: Liberija
Ligure: Libeïa
Limburgs: Liberia
lingála: Liberia
Lingua Franca Nova: Liberia
Livvinkarjala: Liberii
Luganda: Liberiya
lumbaart: Liberia
magyar: Libéria
македонски: Либерија
Malagasy: Liberia
മലയാളം: ലൈബീരിയ
Malti: Liberja
მარგალური: ლიბერია
مصرى: ليبيريا
مازِرونی: لیبریا
Bahasa Melayu: Liberia
Baso Minangkabau: Liberia
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Liberia
монгол: Либери
Nāhuatl: Liberia
Nederlands: Liberia
Nedersaksies: Liberië
नेपाल भाषा: लाइबेरिया
日本語: リベリア
нохчийн: Либери
Nordfriisk: Libeeria
Norfuk / Pitkern: Liberia
norsk: Liberia
norsk nynorsk: Liberia
Nouormand: Libérie
Novial: Liberia
occitan: Libèria
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ଲାଇବେରିଆ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Liberiya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਲਾਈਬੇਰੀਆ
پنجابی: لائیبیریا
Papiamentu: Liberia
Patois: Laibiiria
Piemontèis: Liberia
Plattdüütsch: Liberia
polski: Liberia
português: Libéria
Qaraqalpaqsha: Liberiya
qırımtatarca: Liberiya
română: Liberia
rumantsch: Liberia
Runa Simi: Libirya
русский: Либерия
саха тыла: Либерия
संस्कृतम्: लायबीरिया
Sängö: Liberïa
sardu: Libèria
Scots: Liberie
Seeltersk: Liberia
Sesotho: Liberia
Sesotho sa Leboa: Liberia
shqip: Liberia
sicilianu: Libberia
Simple English: Liberia
SiSwati: ILibheriya
slovenčina: Libéria
slovenščina: Liberija
ślůnski: Liberyjo
Soomaaliga: Liberia
کوردی: لیبێریا
српски / srpski: Либерија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Liberija
Basa Sunda: Liberia
suomi: Liberia
svenska: Liberia
Tagalog: Liberia
தமிழ்: லைபீரியா
Taqbaylit: Liberya
татарча/tatarça: Либерия
తెలుగు: లైబీరియా
тоҷикӣ: Либерия
Türkçe: Liberya
Türkmençe: Liberiýa
удмурт: Либерия
українська: Ліберія
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: لىبېرىيە
vèneto: Liberia
vepsän kel’: Liberii
Tiếng Việt: Liberia
Volapük: Liberän
Võro: Libeeriä
文言: 利比里亞
Winaray: Liberia
Wolof: Libeeria
吴语: 利比里亚
Xitsonga: Layiberiya
ייִדיש: ליבעריע
Yorùbá: Làìbéríà
粵語: 利比利亞
Zazaki: Liberya
Zeêuws: Liberia
žemaitėška: Liberėjė
中文: 利比里亚