liberia-- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Liberia
Capital City: Monrovia
Official Currency: Liberian Dollar
Religions: Christian, Muslim, traditional religious beliefs
Official Language : English
Population: 3.49 million
0-14 years: 44.1% (male 760,989/female 758,554)
15-64 years: 53% (male 904,770/female 920,704)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 47,013/female 49,760)
The population consists of 16 ethnic groups – the Kpelle is the largest. About 5 % of the population is made up of descendants of freed slaves and American settlers. 70% of the population works in the agriculture.
Land Area: 111, 369 sq km.
Landforms: Liberia is situated in West Africa, at the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape is characterized by mostly flat coastal plains and low mountains in the northeast. The climate is equatorial. The average month temperature is no lower than 28 degrees. Liberia has 40% of West Africa's rain forest.
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mount Wuteve 1,380 m
Liberia -- History --
Portuguese explorers established contacts with Liberia as early as 1461. In 1663 the British installed trading posts there, but the Dutch destroyed these posts a year later. There were no further reports of European settlements 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 the sixth of February 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.
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 seized power. Followed the formation of the People's Redemption Council (PRC).
Over time, the Doe government began promoting members of Doe's ethnic group, who soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This raised ethnic tension. The period after the elections in 1985 saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living further deteriorated. However Doe retained close relations with Washington and enjoyed considerable U.S. financial support.
On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia. 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 neighbouring 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 breakaway Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe in 1990. In Sierra Leone and other neighbouring countries, former soldiers founded the new United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO). After more than a dozen peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government. Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerged victorious. Taylor won the election in 1997 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 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. Taylor's misrule led to a 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) were challenging Taylor and his increasingly fragmented supporters on the outskirts of Monrovia.
On June 4, 2003 in Ghana, ECOWAS facilitated peace talks among the Government of Liberia, civil society, and the LURD and MODEL rebel groups. In July 2003 the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL signed a cease-fire that all sides failed to respect; a massive humanitarian disaster was created.
On August 11, 2003, under intense U.S. and international pressure, President Taylor resigned office and departed into exile in Nigeria. 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 with an organization called United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
In 2005 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa's first democratically elected female president. The political situation has remained stable since then. 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. 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.
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 mandate of UNMIL was extended to September 2009, and a gradual draw down was to 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. The Government of Liberia won substantial donor support for its new Poverty Reduction Strategy at the June 2008 Liberia Poverty Reduction Forum in Berlin, Germany.
Liberia -- Economy --
GDP (purchasing power parity) :
$1.526 billion (2008 est.)
$1.425 billion (2007 est.)
$1.303 billion (2006 est.)
Data are in 2008 US dollars
Country comparison to the world: 192
GDP (official exchange rate) - $836 million (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate - 7.1% (2008 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 34
GDP - per capita (PPP) - $500 (2008 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 226
GDP - composition by sector:
Services: 17.7% (2002 est.)
Average annual inflation (2008): 9.0%.
Population below poverty line - 80% (2000 est.)
Electricity – production - 320 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption - 297.6 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports - 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports - 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Oil – production - 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption - 3,687 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports - 23.37 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports - 3593 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves - 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$224 million (2007)
Exports: $1.197 billion (2006)
Exports - commodities: rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee
Exports - partners: Malaysia 38.2%, US 15.9%, Poland 12.3%, Germany 9%, Belgium 6% (2008)
Imports: $7.143 billion (2006)
Imports - commodities: fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; foodstuffs
Imports - partners: South Korea 27.5%, Singapore 25.2%, Japan 11.6%, China 11.2% (2008)
Debt - external: $3.2 billion (2005 est.)
Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold, and tin.
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.
Unemployment rate – 85 %
Total: 18 years
Male: 17.9 years
Female: 18.2 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate - 2.665% (2009 est.)
Birth rate- 42.25 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Death rate- 20.73 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
Life expectancy at birth: 41.84 years
urban population: 60% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 5.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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. In 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.
The 1989-2003 civil war had a devastating effect on the country's economy. Civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around the capital, Monrovia 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. The UN Security Council terminated diamond sanctions in April 2007. Gold deposits, some of which are currently nearing production, should soon begin to contribute to government revenues and provide additional employment.
Currently, Liberia's revenues come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world; there are 2,724 vessels totalling 83.3 million gross tons registered under its flag, earning some $16 million in maritime revenue. 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 Liberian Government is working to improve the business climate, has formed a commission to deal with land tenure issues, and is reviewing tax and tariff regimes to harmonize them with neighbours in the Economic Community of West African States. The Liberian National Investment Commission reported $97 million in new investment in 2007 and has set a target of $100 million a year for future years. Investors are finding opportunities in mining, rubber, agro-forestry, light industry, and other sectors. Arcelor Mittal Steel has negotiated an agreement to invest over $1.5 billion in the mining sector, and the Liberian Government is engaged in negotiations with several other large foreign investors.
Years of conflict and mismanagement also left Liberia with a large debt burden of $3.4 billion, owed to multilateral development banks, bilateral creditors, and commercial creditors. In 2008, the United States became the first bilateral creditor to sign a bilateral agreement implementing the Paris Club's April 2008 debt treatment for Liberia. Several other bilateral creditors have pledged debt relief, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and African Development Bank have approved a formal program to clear Liberia's $1.5 billion in arrears to international financial institutions. With this support, and with technical assistance provided by Liberia's international partners, the Liberian Government seeks to make key economic reforms to attract investment and qualify for eventual debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
Liberia -- Culture --
Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality, academic institutions, cultural skills, and arts/craft works. Liberia has a long, rich history in textile arts and quilting. The free and former US slaves who emigrated to Liberia brought with them their sewing and quilting skills. The census of 1843 indicated a variety of occupations, including hatter, milliner, seamstress and tailor. Liberia hosted National Fairs in 1857 and 1858 in which prizes were awarded for various needle arts. One of the most well known Liberian quilters was Martha Ann Ricks, who presented a quilt featuring the famed Liberian coffee tree to Queen Victoria in 1892.
In modern times, Liberian presidents would present quilts as official government gifts. In the early 1990s, Kathleen Bishop documented examples of appliqued Liberian quilts. When current Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf moved into the Executive Mansion, she reportedly had a Liberian-made quilt installed in her presidential office.
The tallest man-made structure of Africa is situated in Liberia.
Liberia is one of only three nations to use primarily a non-metric system of units.
Liberia -- Political system, law and government --
Liberia has a dual system of statutory law based on Anglo-American common law for the modern sector and customary unwritten law for the native sector for exclusively rural ethnic communities. Liberia's modern sector has three equal branches of government in the constitution, though in practice the executive branch headed by the President of Liberia is the strongest of the three. The other two branches are the legislative and judicial.
Currently, no party has majority control of the legislature. Party structures remain weak, and politics continues to be personality-driven. Historically, the executive branch heavily influenced the legislature and judicial system.
The Executive branch of the government is headed by the President. Other parts of the branch are the Cabinet and the Vice President. Presidents are elected to six-year terms and can serve up to two terms in office. The President is both the head of state and the head of the government, and resides at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia.
The Legislature of Liberia is a bicameral body with an upper chamber Senate and the lower chamber House of Representatives. Each county sends two senators to the legislature for a total of 30 senators, while the 64 seats in the House are distributed among the 15 counties based on the number of registered voters, with a minimum of at least two from each county. Senators serve nine-year terms (only six-year terms for junior senators elected in 2005).
Liberia's Vice-President serves as the President of the Senate. The legislature meets in the capital city of Monrovia.
Liberia's highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice. 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.
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 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.