Liberia Country Focus

Liberia lies on the west coast of Africa. The name comes from the 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. It is one of only two sovereign countries in the world that were started by citizens and ex-Caribbean slaves of a political power as a colony for former slaves of the same political power. Liberia is a nation rich with natural resources including iron ore, gold, diamonds, natural rubber, vast forest for logging and timber harvesting, and vast agriculture land for ensuring food security.

From the start the republic of Liberia is associated with the idea of freedom. The American Colonization Society, founded in 1817, has its aim, the settlement of freed slaves in colonies where they can become self-sufficient. With that purpose in mind agents from the society visit the West African coast south from Freetown, where the British have already established just such a settlement.
In 1821 the society acquires a coastal area, Cape Montserrado, by agreement with local African rulers. The first freed slaves from America land here in 1822. Two years later the name Liberia is given to the region and the town developing on Cape Montserrado called Monrovia which was named after the US president of the day, James
Monroe. During the next twenty years further settlements are established along the coast, until in the 1840s the society concludes that the colony can now stand on its own. In 1847 it is proclaimed an independent republic.
Economically the region's rubber is of great benefit, particularly during World War II when Liberia is one of the allies' few reliable sources for this essential commodity. The export of rubber brings much improvement in the country's infrastructure, with the development of roads, airports and a deep-water harbor for Monrovia.

The war years also see the emergence in 1943 of a president who dominates Liberian political life for three decades -William Tubman, a lawyer who champions the rights of Liberia's majority of tribes’ people against a small self-perpetuating establishment of Liberians descended from the original American immigrants.

Tubman and after-1944
Tubman is elected president in 1943. He gives his country a much higher profile than before, declaring war on Germany and Japan in 1944 - and in the same year becoming one of the signatories of the declaration of the United Nations. After the war Liberia plays an active role in UN and African affairs.

Ruling with an enlightened policy of social and educational reform, Tubman remains a popular president. He is elected for seven successive terms and dies in office in 1971. Tubman's successor, William Tolbert, is killed in 1980 in a coup mounted by a master sergeant in the Liberian army, Samuel Doe. Doe introduces military rule but stands for election as president in 1985.

Doe is captured and executed in 1990 at the start of a civil war involving at least three rival groups, among which the most powerful is the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) led by Charles Taylor. For seven years the country is in turmoil, with a peacekeeping force from neighboring African nations often engaged in active war against the NPFL.

Elections are held in July 1997.
The NPFL wins a majority of the seats in both the senate and the House of Representatives. Charles Taylor becomes president with 75% of the vote. The elections are judged by international observers to have been freely and fairly held, but President Taylor puts an end to any hopes of a return to democracy; ruling by terror.

On 11th August 2003, Taylor succumbed to international pressure, handed power over to his vice president, Moses Blah, and sought asylum in Nigeria where he remained in exile and was later taken to UN special court in Sierra Leone.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Takes Power
On 8 November 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became president of the Republic of Liberia making her Africa's first woman head of state.

Liberian People

The people of Liberia hailed from a varied background. The earliest people were Mende tribes from Sierra Leone and other West African nations. There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. Americo-Liberians who are descendants of freed slaves that arrived in Liberia early in 1821 make up 2.5% of the population.
Society and Culture

The Liberian culture is expressed in music, literature, crafts, cuisine as well as heritage. The Liberian culture consists of two distinct roots, the Southern US heritage of the freed Americo-Liberian slaves and the ancient African descendants of the indigenous people and migratory tribes.
A literary tradition has existed in Liberia for a long time. Authors Bai T. Moore, E.G. Bailey, Roland T. Dempster, have all reflected on culture, tradition, modernization and pain of exile, loneliness, lost and remembrance in fiction, and nonfiction works. Liberia has her own ancient music and instruments. Drums, beaded gourd rattles called saasaa are also used in mainstream music by many Liberian musicians. Jazz, funk, soul, rap and a new music style or Liberian rap called Hipco combining rap, R&B, traditional rhymes, and joint Liberian and American influences are part of the wider Music of Liberia.
Liberia is renowned for its detailed decorative and ornate masks, large and miniature wood carvings of realistic human faces, especially famous people, scenes of everyday life and accessories often enlarged in sculptures. These are very unique to the Liberian culture.
The country-cloth-a soft hand-woven cotton textile that has natural dyes applied to produce a finished print fabric is unique to the nation’s culture. It is made in the interior of Liberia (Lofa County). Traditionally Liberian country cloth was handspun, hand dyed and hand woven cotton, done in about four inch wide strips on a simple foot treadle loom.  A standard bolt is about 36 yards long.  The weaving pieces shown to the left are carved heddle pulleys, heddles, batten and reeds, boat and spinning spindles. Often the cloth was plain white, but natural dyes like indigo and kola were used to dye the warp to create linear stripes. The weft was always left natural.
The diverse tribal ethnicities making up the population of Liberia today have all added to the richness of cultural life in the country. Christian music is popular, with hymns sung a-capella in the iconic African style. Spirituality and the region’s ancient rituals are reflected in the unusually intricate carving style. Dance is a valued heritage, with the Liberian National Culture Group giving performances both in the country and overseas based on traditional themes. The gradual integration of all Liberia’s ethnic groups has given rise to a renewed interest in its tribal culture as a reminder of the diverse roots of the new country.
Liberia is still in transition from dictatorship and civil war to democracy. Liberia's government is based on the American model of a republic with three equal branches of government, though in reality the President of Liberia has usually been the dominant force in Liberian politics. Following the dissolution of the Republican Party in 1876, the True Whig Party dominated the Liberian government until the 1980 coup; eventually creating what was effectively a one-party state.
Currently, no party has majority control of the legislature. The longest serving president in Liberian history was William Tubman, serving from 1944 until his death in 1971. The shortest term was held by James Skivring Smith, who was interim president for all of two months. However, the political process from Liberia's founding in 1847, despite widespread corruption, was very stable until the end of the First Republic in 1980.
Between 1980 and 2006, Liberia was governed by a series of military and transitional governments.
In January of 2006, the current President who is serving her second and final term was elected.
The Liberian economy had relied heavily on the mining of iron ore 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. Since the coup d'état of 1980, the country's economic growth rate has slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia.
From 2007 to 2010 through 2011, the country's external debt fell drastically.
Timber and rubber are Liberia's main export items since the end of the war. Liberia earns more than $100 million and more than $70 million annually from timber and rubber exports, respectively.
Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world behind Panama, with 3,500 vessels registered under its flag accounting for 11% of ships worldwide. This includes 35% of the world's tanker fleet. Liberia earned more than $18 million from its maritime program in 2000.
Liberia’s economy had been growing modestly, despite the global economic downturn, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects strong GDP growth through 2012.


Liberia has many beautiful beaches, expansive tropical forest reserves, plant and wildlife diversity, access to deep sea fishing, and a friendly population that is welcoming to foreign guests.                                                                                        Hotels in and out of Monrovia are suitable for tourists; Safaris are offered in the Sapo National Park and water sports are popular along the many beaches.

There are 9 banks licensed by the Central Bank of Liberia that are currently operating in the Country. Four of the 9 are Nigerians owned that are making immense contribution to the Liberian economy.
Agriculture sector is the primary livelihood source for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population. It is the most important sector of the domestic economy providing sustenance for many households.
The major crops are natural rubber, rice, cassava, bananas, palm oil and timber.
The sector plays an integral role in Liberia’s economic and social development as it contributes significantly to employment, food security, household income, poverty reduction and foreign exchange.
Historical Sites

Liberian National Museum

The National Museum of Liberia is a national museum in Monrovia, Liberia. Initially housed in the First Executive Mansion on Ashmum Street of the city which is now used as a library, it was established by an Act of the National Legislature in 1958 under the administration of Liberia's 18th President, Dr William V.S. Tubman
Lake Piso
Known as Fisherman's Lake, is an oblong tidal lagoon in Grand Cape Mount County in western Liberia, near the town of Robertsports. At an area of 103 km2 (40 sq mi), it is the largest lake in Liberia. Its name originates from a local term meaning "pigeon's hole" – a reference to the flocks of pigeons that once came to Lake Piso for water.

Providence Island

The first point of arrival for the freed slaves who founded the Republic of Liberia from the US, Providence Island is one of the country’s most important historic and cultural sites. Most of the country's cultural events are held here in memorandum of its significance to the nation.


The port city of Buchanan lies at the mouth of the St John River some 70 miles from Monrovia and is Liberia’s second-biggest conurbation. Largely isolated from the civil war conflict, it’s an interesting city to visit and has an un-adopted beach with rough seas and good surf breaks.
Notable Person
 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
The world's first elected black female president and Africa's first elected female head of state.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born on October 29, 1938, in Monrovia, Liberia. A graduate of the College of West Africa at Monrovia, she went on to receive her bachelor's degree in accounting from the Madison Business College in Madison, Wisconsin, a degree in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University.
After returning to Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as assistant minister of Finance in President William Tolbert's administration. In 1980, Tolbert was overthrown and killed by army sergeant Samuel Doe. She went into exile in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as in the United States, where she worked as an executive in the international banking community.
In1985, Johnson Sirleaf returned to Liberia and ran for a seat in the Senate, but when she spoke out against Doe's military regime, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She served a partial sentence before moving to Washington, D.C. When she returned to her native country for a third time in 1997, it was as an economist, working for the World Bank and Citibank in Africa.
After the Charles Taylor regime in 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president in 2006 becoming the first female elected head of state in Africa. In 2011, she was one of a trio of women to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Social Practices
Social practices in Liberia are both western and traditional given our origin as a nation. There are no fixed standards or practices as to how individuals are to behave in the society. But tradition and culture have shaped people’s behavior in some ways. 
In the Liberian society, women are highly respected and given high preferences. When in a gathering where there are women and men, and seats are limited, women are given those seats while men are required to stand.
Also, strangers are greeted with handshakes in society.
Traditionally, every tribe or ethnic group has its own cultural values that are indoctrinated into families, incorporated into society, social groups and so forth that have shaped people’s behavior and practices in society.
Work Practices
Labour Laws in Liberia have spell out clearly the work practices of the Country.
The constitution and labour laws have provide equal treatment in respect of wages and conditions of employment for all Liberian; Article 18 of the constitution states that all Liberian citizens are entitled to equal opportunity for work regardless of religion, ethnic background, color, creed, sex, place of origin or political affiliation. It also provides that every employee shall receive equal pay for equal work.
Working hours are from 8-5 daily (Mondays-Fridays); maximum of 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week.
For maternity, female employees have right to paid maternity leave of three months. Extensions are given in the case of certain conditions.
The Labour Law prohibits child labour- children under16 cannot be employed except with authorization from the Ministry of Labour.
Salaries, wages and allowances shall be paid in legal tender(i.e. money) in addition to any non-cash remuneration deductions are not allowed except allowed by law under section 1511.7.

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