Flag description: 11 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a white five-pointed star on a blue square in the upper hoist-side corner; the design was based on the US flag.
Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone.
Geographic coordinates: 6 30 N, 9 30 W.
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry winters with hot days and cool to cold nights; wet, cloudy summers with frequent heavy showers.
Independence: 26 July 1847.
Capital City: Monrovia.
Population: 3,164,156 (July 2000 est.)
Head of State: President Charles Ghankay TAYLOR.
Area: 111,370 sq km.
Type of Government: republic.
Currency: 1 Liberian dollar (L$) = 100 cents.
Major peoples: indigenous African tribes 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella), Americo-Liberians 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves), Congo People 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who had been slaves).
Religion: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%.
Official Language: English.
Principal Languages: English, some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence.
Major Exports: diamonds, iron ore, rubber, timber, coffee, cocoa.
History: Liberia's tribal peoples migrated to the area between the 12th and 16th centuries. The Portuguese arrived in 1461 and began a trade in ivory and pepper, and later in slaves. In 1816 the AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY was founded in the United States to resettle former slaves in Africa. In 1820 the first colonists arrived, and their successful settlement was named Monrovia (for U.S. president James Monroe) in 1824. More colonists gradually arrived and established separate colonies. In 1847 the colonies amalgamated, and Liberia became the first independent republic in black Africa.
The new nation faced a variety of problems: resistance to the government by the indigenous tribes, decline in demand for Liberia's exports, and territorial encroachment by the British, French, and Germans. Liberia was able to maintain its independence only with support from the United States. In order to restore the languishing Liberian economy, in 1926 a 99-year rubber-plantation concession was granted to the Firestone Company in exchange for a large long-term loan from the U.S. government. Following World War II, the modern port, airport, and hospitals, along with a hydroelectric station and other projects, all financed by the United States, were opened.
Liberian policies toward the United States and foreign business remained unchanged for some time after the 1980 coup. Foreign investment declined, however, and the coup aroused economic expectations Liberia's new leaders were unable to meet. Doe was elected to a 6-year term as president in elections held in 1985. The two major opposition parties were not allowed to participate, however, and there were widespread charges of electoral fraud.
The discontent climaxed in an unsuccessful coup attempt later that year. Doe, a member of the Krahn tribe, accused members of the Gio tribe of attempting to overthrow his government, and there were reports of widespread indiscriminate killing of civilians in 1990 by Liberian troops in the northern county of Nimba. A rebel National Patriotic Front, led by Charles Taylor, a former cabinet minister in the Doe regime, gathered increasing support for his effort to overthrow the government.
By late June rebel forces had captured a large part of the country, and the Doe government found itself besieged in Monrovia, the capital. Another rebel faction was led by Prince Johnson. Taylor gained control of most of the countryside, while Johnson battled Doe's armed guard in Monrovia.
In August 1990 a multinational West African force entered Liberia to try to end the bloody three-way civil war, which had caused at least 5,000 deaths (mostly among civilians as a result of tribal rivalries exacerbated by the war). Doe was killed by Johnson's forces on September 9, but the war continued.
It was estimated that half of Liberia's population had become refugees or displaced persons. The multinational force installed an interim government headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer and gradually gained control of Monrovia, but Taylor's rival government controlled the countryside, and the fighting spilled over into Sierra Leone.
Regional diplomatic efforts to arrange multiparty elections made little progress, and fighting continued through 1992 and into 1993.